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Baking a cake, even tops...?

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Michele4466 Nov 7, 2006 03:11 PM

May or may not be a technique issue but...looking for some input.

This weekend was my husbands birthday so since my 7 year old niece has NEVER baked a cake, I decided to bake one with her. Unfortunately, we had to use a mix for lack of time, equipment still packed away (recent move) and other reasons but next time, from scratch.

Anyway, we used 2 nine inch chef's mate cake pans... They both cooked up with the middle significantly higher than the edges... this makes frosting and stacking a bit difficult and leaves large gaps on the sides.

I have not been a serious baker and do not have a lot of experience from scratch (busy years). Now that I am in a house, about to give birth and have a nice big kitchen, I would like to perfect my skills.

Can anyone enlighten me as to what I did wrong and how to prevent it in the future. Any additional tips to help along my baking would be most appreciated as well.

TIA!

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  1. marthadumptruck Nov 7, 2006 03:19 PM

    You probably didn't do anything wrong.

    What you'll need to do in the future if making a layered cake is to slice the "bump" off the cake. It will lay nicer that way and be easier to frost.

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    1. re: marthadumptruck
      prunefeet Nov 7, 2006 03:20 PM

      Right. Use a breadknife. Some people use unwaxed dental floss, but I can't deal with that.

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      1. re: prunefeet
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        Hungry Celeste Nov 7, 2006 03:33 PM

        Yep, even the pros do this. My mother's friend worked at a bakery that specialized in celebration cakes, and we were frequent recipients of a box of "cake tops"--the sliced-off bumps. Delicious leftovers...made 'em into trifle, or just made little cake sandwiches with icing.

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        1. re: Hungry Celeste
          danna Nov 7, 2006 08:50 PM

          I call 'em "cake scrapin's" and if I manage not to inhale them all, I freeze them in a baggie and eat them with ice cream (or lemon curd, etc.) later.

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      2. re: marthadumptruck
        Michele4466 Nov 7, 2006 09:09 PM

        Thanks for everyone's "support"... I feel better than it wasn't me! :-)

        As for slicing off the bump, I can see that on the bottom layer but how does that affect the top layer, aesthetically? And also in regard to getting the frosting smooth?

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        1. re: Michele4466
          h
          Hungry Celeste Nov 7, 2006 09:11 PM

          Slice off the bumps, and put the cut sides down. This will make it easier to crumb-coat the cake...less particles running loose on the smooth surfaces.

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        allecat22 Nov 7, 2006 03:28 PM

        This will almost always happen. Whenever baking with thicker batter, like banana bread, I pour along the sides of the pan and it comes out with less of a bump on top

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        1. c
          CortneyTree Nov 7, 2006 03:36 PM

          I just finished up a cake class, and can tell you what they told me..
          The hump in the middle is caused because the pan heats up more than the oven, and the cake batter nearer the edges cooks faster than that in the middle. Now, you can just deal with that by cutting off the hump as others have suggested, which works fine, except that you lose that much of the cake. In the future, though, you can either lower the temp by 25 degrees and test the cake for doneness with the toothpick test (knowing that it will take longer to bake than the package directions). I have baked cakes at as low as 300 degrees to eliminate the bump. Another option is to buy cooling strips designed to go around the cake pan. Wilton makes some I know, I'm not sure of other brands, and you can find them in most any kitchen supply store or craft stores that have cake decorating supplies. The other members of my class swear by these strips, I myself just lowered the oven temp.

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          1. re: CortneyTree
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            mark Nov 7, 2006 06:38 PM

            good advice. my wife's a professional baker, and confirmed all the above. she also noted that how low you adjust the temp depends on the recipe, the pan material and thickness, and size. there's no rule of thumb she's aware of. she just experiments with each size/recipe, and notes the times that produce the best results.

            there's nothing wrong with cutting off the hump, but it shouldn't be necessary if the cake is properly baked.

            she also uses the strips, especially for larger cakes.

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            1. re: mark
              c
              CortneyTree Nov 7, 2006 07:39 PM

              Thanks, it's always good to have confirmation from a pro!

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            2. re: CortneyTree
              k
              Kelli2006 Nov 7, 2006 07:05 PM

              Courtney, I am a professional baker and I agree with what you said. I use the Wilton strip and also drop my temps 25 degrees. I will still have to occasionally top the cakes, but its more to even them out than to get ride of a large dome in the center. A 14" bread knife is the best tool for topping a cake.

              Alton Brown has a episode of Good-Eats about cakes and he tells people to use a 1"x2" hardwood fence pickets as a guide. It is a great tool for beginners. You use them full(2")height to top the cake and then turn them on the side(1")to split the cakes into 4 layers, so you can add extra flavors or fillings.

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              1. re: Kelli2006
                c
                CortneyTree Nov 7, 2006 07:42 PM

                Thanks Kelli, good to know I was on the right track. I too, still wind up taking a bit of the top off my cakes, but the situation is much better than it used to be now that I know the tricks! I agree, a good long serrated bread knife has always worked best for me when splitting layers--I've heard some people say they can't keep the cuts straight, but I just go slowly and rotate the cake and never seem to have problems. I'll have to remember Alton's guide next time to make sure my layers are even! Thanks for the tip!

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                1. re: CortneyTree
                  k
                  Kelli2006 Nov 7, 2006 07:50 PM

                  Courtney, I'm glad I could help. I tend to freehand my cakes, but I have been doing this for 10+ years. I still mess a few up when I try to split single 2" cakes into 3-4 layers, but there is very little that a few cake scraps and some extra ganache or frosting won't cure.

                  A cake turntable is nice to have, but most home bakers don't have the money or the need for a $100 specialized tool, and no place to store it. A lazy-susan placed on a overturned cake pan or dutch oven is a fine substitute for most home bakers.

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              2. re: CortneyTree
                Michele4466 Nov 7, 2006 09:11 PM

                A terrific suggestion, thanks so much... I am going to try it all as I plan on regular baking as I will be home alot in the next months...new baby and all. Plus lots of visitors, I am sure.

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                AGM_Cape_Cod Nov 7, 2006 04:04 PM

                I have used the strips and they work. Also what I have done in the past is to cover the cake pan with foil until it sets then take it off to finish baking. That keeps the top flat.

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                1. TorontoJo Nov 7, 2006 04:17 PM

                  The strips do work well. If you happen to be in Canada, here's one source for them:

                  http://www.ashtongreen.com/product.dhtml?pres=P106_3

                  Also, this wire cake cutter is probably the best "single use gadget" I have ever bought:

                  http://www.ashtongreen.com/product.dh...

                  It makes slicing a cake in half or thirds horizontally a breeze. I also use it for totally flattening the top of a cake.

                  Another tip -- for a cake with a totally flat top without using any of the gadgets above, just flip the top layer upside down. Frosting fills in the gaps between the layers (though it does help to trim the worst of the bump off first).

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                  1. MeffaBabe Nov 7, 2006 06:14 PM

                    I use dental floss, bread knife or thread and just cut the cake so the top is level. Much like you would do to a pepper to make it stand up.

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                    1. r
                      RiJaAr Nov 13, 2006 09:58 PM

                      best way i found to keep the cake flat is to pour the mix into the pans and then tap on the counter a few time to get out the air bubbles, also, putting the pan on a cookies sheet and wrapping a wet towel around it while baking sometimes helps. i hate cutting the bump off because it leaves a lot of crumbs that make icing it difficult

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