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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."

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  1. Depending on height of the dome, you might be able to put the top layer of the cake bottom-side up for a flat top.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bite bite

      I did, so the top is flat. But I upended both layers, so the entire construction is a little wobbly. Both rounded on the bottom and flat on top. Had I only flipped the top layer, I would have an hourglass cake...

      1. re: sasha1

        put it bottom to bottom, and disguise with frosting
        I'm more afraid of crumb-in-frosting more than dome top

        but I've always wondered why it happens . . . .

    2. 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.

      1. 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!

        1. 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!

          1 Reply
          1. re: mocro

            a good way to improve the flavor and to mask the chemical aftertaste of box mixes is to finely grind some fresh nuts--almonds,walnuts,hazelnuts--and add to the batter, about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup per box mix. Nut allergies notwithstanding, of course.

          2. 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.

            1. There's no shame in baking cakes from a mix! It's quick, it's reliable, and they store well so you can always whip up a cake when you need one.

              Thicker cake pans will help distribute heat more evenly to prevent the dome. But you can also try lowering the oven temp by maybe 15 degrees (also, have you checked that your oven is correct?) and adding some time to the baking. This should help keep the dome from rising too much without having to buy extra equipment.

              1. I always make layer cakes and depending on what cake I make sometimes I get a dome top. What has worked for me is when I take the cake out of the pan to cool I put it upside down - dome side down - on the cooling rack. After they cool are are ready for icing both the top and bottom of the layer are flat.

                1. I feel silly asking this, as I think there must be some widely accepted standard that I'm clueless about. But, what's wrong with a domed cake? Is it just the wobbliness folks worry about, or the look?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: debbiel

                    If you are making a layer cake, it is harder to layer if the cake is domed. Also layered or not, if you plan to decorate your cake, a flat one provides a much better canvas.

                    1. re: sweetie

                      And, if you top one domed cake on another one, you get a very slopey cake, almost Alice in Wonderland like.

                    2. re: debbiel

                      My big thing with a cake that has a dome, is it dose not look professional, I want to try to make a cake that looks like you just got it from the bakery.

                      1. re: debbiel

                        There isn't anything wrong with a domed cake, some people just want cakes that look more "professional." When I'm just having friends over for dinner I like the domed look because it doesn't seem so formal and reminds me of comfort food, but if I'm catering an event or making a Southern-style 4-8 layer cake, I level off the domes because they look more professional and I don't have to worry about sliding layers and such..

                        It's funny, I used to work in a bakery, and some people would come in asking for the domed cakes and the incorporation of "flaws" in the icing because they wanted their guests to think they had made it.

                      2. A baker friend of mine recently taught me this: when you take the pans out of the oven, rap them each quickly on a countertop, and then let cool. I know, I know, it's scary and makes you feel like your cake is going to fall, but it won't, and makes your layers nice and flat.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: JasmineG

                          you're also supposed to give them a drop from a height of 3" (that's three inches) on to the counter top BEFORE you bake, to knock out air bubbles.

                        2. I've ben using Magic Cake Strips for years, and they absolutely solve the cake-dome problem. This year, for the first time, I also tried using them on a cheesecake to see it they could help with the cracking problem. I tried it twice, and both times they worked like a charm -- no cracks on the cheesecake at all. I have recently noticed that they have come out with some new Magic Cake Strips that fasten by means of velcro, which I think is a great idea. The ones I have fasten by means of an easily-lost straight pin.

                          1. If you cut the dome off the cake, one way to keep crumbs out of the frosting is to glaze the cut surfaces with a jelly first.

                            Apricot works well with almost all cake flavors. Take a 3/4 c or so of apricot jam, nuke for a few secnds to loosen, then press through a metal tea strainer.

                            Brush the glaze thinly onto sides and cut tops of cake layers, let air dry 15 minutes, then frost.

                            NO crumbs, and a tasty, yet subtle flavor element is incorporated.

                            1. I've read, and I can't vouch for this, that if you don't have MagiCake strips, you can use wet newspaper folded carefully into strips, several layers thick tied around the pans with kitchen twine. It sounds pretty messy to me, and potentially dangerous, but perhaps they don't really dry completely until the cake is baked anyway?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: amyzan

                                Amyzan, paper ignites at Fahrenheit 451, so baking at 350F would be fine.

                                1. re: TheSnowpea

                                  Phew, I knew there had to be some science behind that technique, thanks! I just hesitate to recommend something I haven't done myself.

                              2. When I was baking professionally I would cover pans with foil and bake until they set. Then remove the foil and finish baking. It seem to be a cheap fix especially for someone who bakes rarely.

                                1. The cake top develops a dome because the edges set before the center portion so the expanding batter has no where to go but up. Put your eight inch pan inside a 9 inch pan of cold water (water comes up about 3/4 of the way on edge of the 8 inch pan) and bake it. That'll reduce the tendency for the edges to set before the center and give you a flatter top.

                                  1. I took a professional baking course and following is the technique we were taught. I've been using it ever since and it's always been successful:
                                    -cut a piece of parchment paper to match the bottom of your cake pan. This can be done by placing the pan on top of the paper, tracing around the bottom of the pan with a pencil, then cutting it with scissors, following the pencil line. An easier method is to take a square of parchment papter, fold it as if you were making a paper snowflake, snip off the end to make a round shape, and then unfold;
                                    -Place the parchment circle in the bottom of your pan. There's absolutely no need to butter or grease the sides. In fact, it's important that you don't. The cake batter needs to grip onto the sides of the pan as it rises, and it's impossible if the pan is greased;
                                    -Pour batter into the pan. Rap it several times on your counter to release any air pockets;
                                    -Now for the SECRET: take the cake pan and give it a quick spinning motion on the counter a couple of times. It's important that the spinning force be quite strong so if you're afraid you're going to fling the pan off the counter, place it on your smooth (clean) floor and give it a flick. The centrifugal force will cause the batter to whip out to the edges of the pan and create a concave curve, or indent, towards the center;
                                    -Pop it in the oven and watch how the cake will bake up with a miraculously flat top. When you take it out of the oven, run a thin paring knife round the sides to prevent any cracks from forming as it cools;
                                    -Flip it out, peel off the round of parchment, and marvel at your perfectly flat layer.

                                    1. Don't use a mix, and don't use baking powder. Use instead a recipe of a foam cake without baking powder, like a genoise and and fill your pan to two thirds. Basically you'll be using egg white foam for fluffiness instead of baking powder, which keeps your cake flat while cooking.
                                      Fun fact, the batter for genoise is almost identical to souffl├ęs, only geometry does the magic