Ensure your cakes bake level (and are ready to decorate!) with these easy tips.
Lopsided cakes (that aren’t skewed on purpose) are unappealing. Tilted cakes seem less finished than the aesthetic you’re after, and they’re difficult to frost properly and stack layer cake-style. After decades of baking trials, our Test Kitchen experts have come up with a handful of tips for how to fix a lopsided sheet cake, and how to make cake bake evenly in the first place. Whether you’re baking a classic cake or showcasing a totally unique flavor combo, these strategies will walk you through everything you need to know to steer clear of tilted cakes.
5 Tips to Make Cakes Bake Evenly
With so many possible reasons for uneven cakes, there are several treatments.
- Try an alternate mixing method. If you only get lopsided cakes every now and then, it might be due to your mixing method. Next time, beat the cake batter for about a minute longer. Instead, try “reverse-creaming” the batter: Stir together the dry ingredients and the butter, then incorporate the other liquid ingredients, such as eggs and vanilla.
- Mind your temp. An overheated oven might also result in uneven baking. Check the accuracy of your oven using an oven thermometer ($15, OXO). Then make the necessary adjustments: Just reduce your baking temperature by 25 degrees if it is 25 degrees higher than the default. If the temperature is off by more than 25 degrees, it’s probably best to recalibrate your oven.
- Check your levels. If all of your cakes come out lopsided, an uneven floor level might be to blame. To test this out, fill a glass pan or bowl with water, place it on your oven’s middle rack (with the oven off), and see if the water’s top is even. If not, try adjusting the leveling legs on your oven.
- Bake cakes in a water bath. Speaking of water, baking cheesecakes in a pan of water works nicely. and Regular cakes are also available. The water acts as insulation, preventing the outer part of the cake from warming up too fast. Simply place the cake batter-filled pan inside a larger pan that’s filled partially with water. (Just make sure the water doesn’t pour over the top of the cake!)
- Try cake strips. Another option for making a cake bake evenly is to wrap it with insulation. The cake dough rises and loses moisture all at once as it bakes. After enough moisture has evaporated from the cake, it will begin to set—exactly what you want! The problem is that this occurs considerably faster at the pan’s borders than in the center. Since the outside ring of batter provides less insulation, the sides rise and set quickly, while the middle of the cake continues to rise and finally bumps up creating a domed or uneven cake. Wrap the pan with wet cake strips ($27, Walmart) to insulate the exterior section of the cake similarly to the center. Soak in water, wring them out slightly and slide around the pan. This strategy will likely lead to a longer bake time, so instead of following the recipe bake time to a “T,” follow these tips to tell when a cake is done.
How to Prevent Cake from Sinking After Baking
Cupcakes and cakes made from scratch may rise while baking and then descend once cooled. This is often caused by minor baking errors. Yet, fallen cakes are readily avoided. Here’s how it’s done:
- Check your baking powder: One reason your cake may not stay together after baking is due to expired or outdated baking powder. If you’re not frequently restocking your baking powder, be sure to check the date to make sure it’s still fresh.
- Keep an eye on the oven temperature: If your homemade or cake mix cake falls after cooling, an irregular oven temperature might be to cause. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions or contact an appliance maker to learn how to adjust your oven. High altitude might also have an impact on baking. Note that decreased air pressure (as seen at high elevations) might cause baked products containing yeast, baking powder, baking soda, egg whites, or steam to rise excessively and then collapse.
- For air-leavened cakes, such as angel food, simply whip the egg whites to soft peaks; otherwise, the batter may expand excessively. For cakes made with shortening, decrease the baking powder (start by decreasing it by ⅛ teaspoon per teaspoon called for); decrease the sugar (start by decreasing by about 1 tablespoon for each cup called for); and increase the liquid (start by increasing it 1 to 2 tablespoons for each cup called for). These calculations are based on a height of 3,000 feet above sea level. These measurements may need to be adjusted proportionally at higher elevations. To help set the batter, consider raising the oven temperature by 15oF to 25oF.
- To prevent the cake from dropping while baking a rich cake, decrease the shortening by 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup and add one egg (for a 2-layer cake).
How to Fix an Uneven Cake
If you’re wondering how to fix a lopsided sheet cake or how to fix an uneven cake of any shape once it’s already baked, use a large serrated knife to level it out. If the dome isn’t too visible, rotate your cake and place the top layer upside-down so the flat bottom is now the top, then frost and/or stack as desired.
You may eat the trimmings while you finish decorating your cake, or use them to make dazzling Geode Cake Pops or a mason jar tiny trifle.