In case you didn’t see it – Mary (aka The Arugula Files) baked her first layer cake last weekend – a carrot cake with cream cheese icing. But she had a problem – the sides and bottom of her cake were a little tough. After asking Twitter for help, a huge conversation erupted between Mary, me, Cookin ‘N Cussin, Shaw_Girl and domenicacooks about oven temperatures, thermometers, baking time, and cake strips. Wait – what? You don’t know what a cake strip is?
I started using cake strips last year, after getting increasingly frustrated with my domed cake layers. You know how cake layers in those cake shows always look totally flat and even, while the cakes you bake at home are usually slightly humped in the middle? That’s because the heat is penetrating your cake pans unevenly – the sides get hotter faster than the middle of the cake, and cook more quickly. The center of the cake cooks more slowly and rises higher than the sides of the cake.
Cake strips are just pieces of water-soaked cloth or silicone that you wrap around your cake pan, which allows the heat to penetrate the sides of the cake pan more slowly. The result is more even, flat, uniform cake layers. The first time I used them, I was amazed at how flat and professional my cake layers looked – it really was like magic!
There are several different types of cake strips. I use Wilton’s cloth cake strips, which you soak in water and attach with a pin. They’re sold in sets of two, and cost about $11.
Rose Levy Beranbaum sells a silicone cake strip – it has the advantage of being ready-to-use, no soaking required.
Just a note of caution – Cookin N’ Cussin has actually had problems with cake strips, which leave the edges of his cakes raw and uncooked. I definitely haven’t had this problem with them, but just look at the forums over at Real Baking With Rose and you can see that different bakers have different experiences with cake strips. My oven is small and definitely runs on the hotter side, which I think is one reason why cake strips have worked so well for me. But every oven is different, so you may have to do some tweaking to get cake strips to work for you. Still, if you’re as frustrated with domed, uneven cakes layers as I was, I think they’re worth a try.