Preventing dome top cake
I just made a birthday cake for my son, who turned 5, and although he won't look past all the gummis and sprinkles that I decorated with per his request, I can't help but think how lopsided it was. I made a 2 layer cake from a mix (yes!) in 2 round pans, and each ended up baking into a dome shape. I was too lazy to cut the tops off, and also worried how I might frost if I did that without breaking and tearing the layers, but is there some way to prevent dome top rather than cutting it off at the end? I wouldn't think you could just pour the batter higher on the sides to compensate (like some people do with burgers) because it would settle flat before it hardened up, wouldn't it?
This is really just a curiousity - I am sure the birthday boy will love the cake, and would have been just offended if I had cut off and discarded the dome top. He got very upset when I told him I was going to discard the oreo cremes after pounding the cookies into "dirt" for the "worms."
You can buy magic strips that wrap around the pans to keep the cake level but I find it easy to cut off the bump. If you don't, as you found, two bumps make one lopsided cake. It doesn't have to be perfectly level, unless you're a perfectionist, just cut off the biggest part of the dome. Put the first layer, cut side down and frost that. Then add the second layer, also cut side down and frost. I know people who freeze it first but I've read that it can cause problems when it defrosts. If your layers are tearing, try thinning the frosting, just a little. If you wanted, you could use a thinner frosting for a crumb coat, let it harden somewhat and then frost it with frosting the right consistency.
Oh, and don't discard the dome, just let your son enjoy a preview of things to come. My kids fight over the dome.
I always recommend cutting the dome off as I find that to work more reliably than the method highlighted above (flipping the top cake so the dome faces down), but I know you mentioned you didn't want to chop off the dome, so the only thing I can recommend is to swirl the cake pan once you add the cake batter,, causing the batter to rise on the sides but not in the center. Basically, add the batter, grab the pan between your thumb and pointer/middle finger, and swirl it so the pan spins around several times. This makes the batter rise up the sides a bit while being pulled from the center, possibly preventing the dome. I had a pastry chef teach me this technique but only tried it once or twice, and never really saw a vast improvement in preventing the dome. Guess it is worth a shot, though, as it shouldn't harm your cake in any way. Good luck!
Hey, Sasha. About 5 years ago I bought Magi-Cake Strips @ Sur la Table for $5.95. They're reusable "aluminized fabric" strips that you soak in water and then wrap around your cake pan. Definitely gives you a bakery-level cake. The package also proports to help solve "uneven layers, cracked tops and dry, crusty edges."
Three cheers to you for making your own cake for your son's b'day! I always go the Duncan Hines route and while my cakes are far from perfect, it's a from-the-heart tradition my daughter looks forward to. Much more important for you to relax and enjoy these b'days than create a magazine quality moment. Have fun. It goes so fast!
I believe the dome is caused by uneven heat distribution. The magi-cake strips are great, really work. But if you are going to bake on a reg basis. I would invest in better cake pans.