All the tips and techniques one needs to know on how to level and layer cakes!
I am writing this post on how to level and layer cakes simply because I often see and receive a lot of queries on how to achieve leveled surface for cakes and how to slice a single layer cake into multiple even layers.
There are many factors that affect the levelness of baked cakes, some of which include the cake recipe itself, the oven heat, baking time, etc. While I am not able to comment much on these factors, I do know a number of different methods that cake decorators typically use to help achieve leveled cakes.
If you ask me, I am not very concerned about cakes that dome in the middle so long as the cake texture and taste is good. Everyone at home loves the crumbs so having the excess cut-off cake crumbs is always a happy thing in my family.
Having said that, when I do large orders, too much of these extras sometimes go to waste so I do try to keep my cakes level. Below are some of the tips and tricks I have learned in getting level cakes.
I use baking strips when baking large cakes. By large I mean cakes with a diameter of 10 inches or more. You can use these strips for smaller cakes but I find them only necessary for larger cakes. These strips are predominantly meant to help cakes bake evenly, especially larger ones. When baking large cakes, often the sides tend to get baked first but the centers take a lot longer to bake. This could result in cakes being dry on the edges due to over baking while waiting for the cake centers to get done. Using baking strips can help solve this problem.
Baking strips not only help cakes to bake evenly, they also help the cake to remain level after baking. So if you want to bake level cakes, baking strips are something you could consider. This very useful baking tool can be purchased from any cake decorating shops or you can get them online here. Follow the instructions given with the packaging to avoid any mishaps.
The ones I have require me to soak them in water for a while. And then, I remove them from the water and squeeze the excess off lightly before wrapping them around my cake tins. The strips set come with a set of pins so that just makes it easier for me to hold the strips in place while baking.
This is probably the most commonly used method in leveling and layering cakes and is probably one of the most basic methods as well. Simply use a long-serrated knife and slice off the domed top of your cakes. Though this sounds like easy to do, if you are not careful, you can end up with a cake top that is level, but slanted. This is quite common because as you cut off your cake top and if you don’t pay close attention to the height on the cake at which you are slicing, you can end up leveling off too much cake on one side and too little as you cut your way through to the other side of the cake top, vice versa. I for one, dread using this method for this very reason. And if even I need to, I will use additional help from some good old toothpicks, which I have explained in the next section on toothpicks/wooden skewers below.
The toothpicks or wooden skewers guide is basically using toothpicks or wooden skewers to guide your knife in leveling a cake. To start with, measure the height at which you want to level your cake off and mark the lines with your knife.
Next, if you are using toothpicks, poke the toothpicks horizontally at an interval of about 3 or 4 inches apart.
Start leveling your cake by placing your knife right above one of the toothpicks and turn the cake around as you start slicing it horizontally, making sure you knife remains closely above the toothpicks as you move along the sides of the cake until the cake is completely leveled.
Wooden skewers are generally longer than toothpicks and so, if you need more guide than what the toothpicks can provide, use long thin wooden skewers in place of the toothpicks and instead of poking them just slightly into the sides of your cake, you can actually poke them through until the sticks come out of the other end. In doing this, make sure the sticks come out at the exact same level you want to slice your cake. Insert a few of this through the cake before you start layering it. This way, you can use the sticks as a guide to make sure you don’t over cut any part of the cake. The only problem with this method is that you might not be able to find skewers long enough for cakes with large diameters, so you can only use it for small cakes.
Similar to the toothpicks method, start by marking the level at which you wish to layer your cake.
Using long skewers that are longer than the diameter of your cake.
Another way to help to achieve a leveled top when cutting with a knife is to use the cake tin method. With this method, you place a few cake boards of the same diameter into the cake tin and then place your cake on them. Doing this will result in your cake being higher than the rims of the cake tin. You can then use the cake tin rim as guide in leveling your cake for a leveled top.
Cake leveler is a special tool meant specifically to help with cake leveling and layering. This tool is typically designed with a handle and thin wires. The handle is to guide with the movement of the leveler and the wires are to cut the cake. You can adjust the wires to the height you want and level your cake within seconds. This is my most preferred choice of tool and method for layering and leveling cakes. Not only does it help with leveling my cake to perfection, I am also able to get consistent layers when layering my cakes. Plus this tool is inexpensive and one that would definitely be useful for both new and seasoned cake decorators.
Cooling a cake with its top facing down on a wire rack is a quick method of leveling your cake tops. Once your cakes are baked and you notice that they are domed in the center, you can simply turn them over onto a wire rack and leave the cake to cool down with the top facing down. Once cooled, turn the cake over and you will have a flat cake top, or simply leave it with the bottom side up on a cake board (to take advantage of the perfect smooth level of the cake) and decorate.
An important tip to remember when doing this is to place the cake upside down immediately after taking it out of the cake tin. It is easier to flatten the cake domed cake top when the cake is still hot rather than when it has cooled down. There is one limitation to this method though. You can only use it for cakes that are only slightly domed. If the center dome is too high, putting the cake upside down on a wire rack and result in the cake totally cracking in the center. So if you plan on using this method, please do take note of this limitation.
These are pretty much all the methods I have used and know on how to level and layer cakes. Of all these, using a cake leveler is my most preferred option. A basic cake leveler is rather inexpensive and produces perfect results all the time.
Hope this was useful.
Please leave your comments and do tell me if you have any other methods that you use or know on how to level and layer cakes.
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