Kitchen Basics: Cake Strips, The Secret to Level Cake Layers

by moderndomestic on June 16, 2010

Cake strips - a really simple solution for level cake layers.

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.

I actually like that you have to pin these on - it guarantees a tight fit around your pan.

Rose Levy Beranbaum sells a silicone cake strip – it has the advantage of being ready-to-use, no soaking required.

These silicone cakes strips run about $10.99 on Amazon.com.

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

mary June 16, 2010 at 6:51 am

This is a very helpful post! Thanks Jenna. I can’t wait for my next layer cake.

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Tammy Gordon June 16, 2010 at 8:12 am

Thanks – I had never heard of them before that Twitter discussion. Can’t wait to try them out on my next layer cake.

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Lisa June 16, 2010 at 8:17 am

I’ve always just either used a serrated knife or made a well in the center of my cake batter… this actually works 90% of the time, and i just trim with the knife if i am unsatisfied.

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moderndomestic June 16, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I actually do both – I use cake strips and I trim the top off with a serrated knife. I like that the cake layers are more even to start with, so I’m slicing away less “hump” (I also think the layers turn out thicker too, because you’re losing less cake to the uneven rise). And the layers also bake more evenly – like, the edges don’t have to become overdone so that the centers bake through. But you’re totally right – slicing off the tops also works to level cake layers.

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stephanie June 16, 2010 at 9:31 am

Thanks for writing this up. I’ve had cake strips on my “to try” list for a while but haven’t had a chance to give them a shot.

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Bonnie June 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I never knew they existed before now. Do you have to order specific sizes for Rose’s strips or are they adjustable for 8″ and 9″ pans?

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Angela@spinachtiger June 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Never heard of cake strips. Learn something new every day. I use good cake pans, and so far so good, but I do tend to slice a little before frosting.

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Dan "Cookin n Cussin" O'Brien June 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I love my cake saw for even layers. Added bonus: A nibble for the cook.

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Rebecca June 17, 2010 at 7:17 am

wow. This is all new to me. I’m definitely going to try this. My cakes look ridiculous. I have a question about the rest of that conversation you had with fellow bloggers. Do you use an independent thermometer in your oven?

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Jennifer August 14, 2010 at 9:33 am

I take old towels and cut them down to fit my various pan sizes, soak them in water, and fasten them with a safety pin. They work well and are free!

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