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Thread: Why do my cakes bake flat?

  1. #1
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    Question Why do my cakes bake flat?

    I seem to have a flat-cake curse upon me!

    I baked a devil's food cake last night. My layers look very flat compared to the picture on the book cover LOL

    The layers domed in the middle; the edges are pretty flat. I did not use straight-sided pans; could that be the problem? FWIW, the butter and baking soda were fresh, so it wasn't due to old ingredients.

    Is there a way to achieve a well-risen cake layer without using those strap things (I don't have those)?

  2. #2
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    Is your oven running hot? Are you using dark coloured pans?

    I'd try reducing the temperature 25 degrees.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Alleycat View Post
    I seem to have a flat-cake curse upon me!

    I did not use straight-sided pans; could that be the problem?

    Is there a way to achieve a well-risen cake layer without using those strap things (I don't have those)?
    Are you saying that you used a pie dish? I'm confused by what you mean that your cake pans don't have straight sides. If they weren't straight, but sloped like a pie dish, then yeah the batter is going to spread out (nothing to stop it). The straight sides enourage the batter to rise up. (Along with butter and flour on the sides, when called for.) When I say straight, I mean vertical. Perpendicular to the base of the pan.

    What are these strap things you mention?

  4. #4
    Hammster, the strap things are a piece of material that wraps around the outside of a cake pan (kind of looks like a belt). They make the cake bake fairly straight and level on top. I've never used them because baking the cake 25 degrees lower causes the same effect.

  5. #5
    Ok, thanks..

  6. #6
    If your home-baked cake has low volume or is too flat, check for these problems:

    You over- or under-measured the liquid.

    You under-mixed or extremely over-mixed the batter.

    You used too large a pan.

    You set the oven temperature too low or too high.

    Source:
    http://www.alanskitchen.com/DESSERTS.../Checklist.htm

    BTW - What are these "strap things" you mentioned?

    ETA - I've just read zwieback's explanation but I'm just not understanding how wrapping "a belt" around a cake pan could cause a cake to rise properly.
    The cardiologist's diet: - If it tastes good spit it out!

  7. #7
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    they're called cake strips (or something like that) - Wilton ande a few other brands make them. They're silver colored, you soak in water and then wrap around the pans. They help a cake bake up with a flat top. I used to use them but they can be a PITA (I stuck the pin into my finger too many times) and now that I make many cakes every week just not worth the hassel (and I now have a commerical oven so they're really not needed).

    There are cake pans with straight sides (usually commercial grade) and cake pans with slightly slanted sides so that the cake pans can be stacked inside each other. I don't think these difference in sides affects rise, the straight sides are just better for icing the sides.

    I am confused - you said your cake baked flat but isn't that what you want? usually with a cake you want to avoid a dome.

  8. #8
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by DanaSD View Post
    I am confused - you said your cake baked flat but isn't that what you want? usually with a cake you want to avoid a dome.
    Dana, she said they did bake with a dome.

  10. #10
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    When a cake domes, it's because the edges cook and set before the batter has fully risen. The middle continues to rise, creating the dome. Cake strips help because they keep the edges of the pan a little cooler than they would be otherwise, thus letting the batter at the edges rise the same amount as the middle before they set.
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  11. #11
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    This recipe does not have very thick layers maybe just over an inch so it's not a tall cake. Baking strips are great but I'd still wonder about the other things that ADM posted as potential problems.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  12. #12
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    Thank you for the insights. I'll try the 25 degree cooler trick first, as the straps sound like a pain to me.

    ADM, I find the strap thing confusing too. You have to wonder how/why anyone ever thought to tie a strap around a pan to encourage a flat cake.

    Thanks for the "how they work" explanation, funniegrrl.

    Sneezles, from the picture of the book cover (Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri), I thought the layers would be taller.

    But, we ate it tonight (it was for my stepdaughter's birthday dinner), domes and all. Still very tasty

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alleycat View Post
    But, we ate it tonight (it was for my stepdaughter's birthday dinner), domes and all. Still very tasty
    Good to hear it turned out well!!

  14. #14
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    Blazedog mentioned in another thread that if your butter gets too soft at any point, even if it's re-cooled in the fridge to firm up, it will not perform well in cake baking. Also, I know that eggs have to be added one at a time and completely incorporated before adding the next, and cakes should be baked right after mixing and filling pans for best rise. Hope that helps!
    Jill

    "Be kind to your neighbor... he knows where you live." -Brian Copeland

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by oct2189 View Post
    Blazedog mentioned in another thread that if your butter gets too soft at any point, even if it's re-cooled in the fridge to firm up, it will not perform well in cake baking.
    Having performed that act many a time I can say that it is not true.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by oct2189 View Post
    Also, I know that eggs have to be added one at a time and completely incorporated before adding the next, and cakes should be baked right after mixing and filling pans for best rise. Hope that helps!
    Some cake recipes instruct to add eggs one a time and beat thoroughly before adding the next -- and I do so. However, many do not and my cakes turn out fine when I add them all at once.

    I have at least one cake recipe which says the cake should rest 45 minutes before baking and I follow the instructions.

    Maybe it helps that I believe in Santa Claus!
    The cardiologist's diet: - If it tastes good spit it out!

  17. #17
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    I started having a problems with my baking when I switched to King Arthur All Purpose flour from Gold Medal about 2 years ago.

    It took a couple of tries to narrow it down. I use the same brands in everything (Land o'Lakes Unsalted Butter, Domino Sugars, etc.) so except for the brand of eggs and the flour, those were the only things in my recipes that changed.

    I also bought an oven thermometer to test my oven (it heats properly).

    Someone posted on another message board that KA flour is actually made from a different wheat and has a different gluten content. It explains why everything I made with it, especially cookies, came out as spreading goopy messes.

    It started with a cake I was making for a baby shower (a cake recipe I have been making since I was in high school!) was a big ploppy mess that couldn't be iced. Cookies like Martha Stewart's Lexi's Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie that I have been making for over 20 years were just spreading all over the sheet pans.

    Since I've gone back to Gold Medal, my stuff has come out perfect again. For Thanksgiving I made the two cookie recipes as my official test cookies and they came out perfect.

    I was starting to doubt my baking abilities for a while. That, and maybe senility. LOL
    Cookie baker and cake decorator

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADM View Post
    Some cake recipes instruct to add eggs one a time and beat thoroughly before adding the next -- and I do so. However, many do not and my cakes turn out fine when I add them all at once.

    I have at least one cake recipe which says the cake should rest 45 minutes before baking and I follow the instructions.
    I was speaking specifically to the Devil's Food cake recipe she was making. (Posted in her icing thread same day)
    Jill

    "Be kind to your neighbor... he knows where you live." -Brian Copeland

  19. #19

    Question Cake pan straps

    Quote Originally Posted by DanaSD View Post
    they're called cake strips (or something like that) - Wilton ande a few other brands make them. They're silver colored, you soak in water and then wrap around the pans. They help a cake bake up with a flat top. I used to use them but they can be a PITA (I stuck the pin into my finger too many times) and now that I make many cakes every week just not worth the hassel (and I now have a commerical oven so they're really not needed).

    There are cake pans with straight sides (usually commercial grade) and cake pans with slightly slanted sides so that the cake pans can be stacked inside each other. I don't think these difference in sides affects rise, the straight sides are just better for icing the sides.

    I am confused - you said your cake baked flat but isn't that what you want? usually with a cake you want to avoid a dome.
    I have used the Wilton cake pan straps. I don't know what you mean by you stuck the pin in your finger too many times. There aren't any pins in the ones I use. Unfortunately, we all do not use a commercial oven. I was very pleased with the straps. They worked well, but as my cakes were cooling, the layers de-flatted and went from a 2 1/2 " layer to a 1" layer. A huge bummer because I wanted to make a 3-4 layer cake,but the layers weren't tall enough to slice. Not sure why this happened. Am I just cursed as well? I know I have a lousy oven. It is too small to put two round cake pans side by side. But I would think if they came out of the oven, fully cooked and risen well, shouldn't they stay that way?

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