Who doesn’t love a showstopping layer cake? It’s the ultimate special occasion treat. However, there’s one hiccup that even pro bakers encounter again and again when they bake up the individual layers: the cakes are domed. Now, domed cakes aren’t a bad thing—definitely not something to categorized among the most common pitfalls—but they can make stacking cakes difficult. Sure, you can trim them, but that requires a steady hand or fancy cake trimming tools. Essentially, trimming cakes can be a pain.
But our Test Kitchen relies on an inexpensive product to prevent domed cakes (and the chop that comes with them) from happening in the first place: cake strips.
What Are Cake Strips and How Do They Work?
Cake strips, sometimes called cake pan wraps, are thick fabric strips that you soak and wrap around your pans to create more level cakes. They’re also part of our Test Kitchen’s list of essential cake-baking gear.
Damp fabric seems like an odd solution to domed and cracked cakes, but it’s all scientific. See, when you bake a cake, normally, the outside of the pan gets hotter more quickly and the cake around the edges bakes faster. That means that outer edges are done while the center of the cake is still baking and rising, giving it that domed shape. The cake strips help create a more consistent temperature to create level cakes.
To use cake strips:
- Soak the strips in water and press out some of the excess.
- Wrap the strips around the outside of your filled cake pans and pop them in the oven.
- Bake as normal for perfectly level cakes.
The damp fabric helps keep the outside edge of the pan cooler, which means the entire cake is baking at a more even temperature. That even temperature helps the cake bake and rise at the same rate which means the cake comes out of the oven more level.
Why Our Test Kitchen Loves Cake Strips
I know what you’re thinking: An affordable, simple gizmo like cake strips seem too good to be true, but Taste of Home‘s Prep Kitchen Manager, Catherine Ward, assured me that these pan wraps are the real deal.
“I never bake a layer cake without these cake pan wraps,” she said. “They give you perfectly flat layers every single time.”
And baking up even layers isn’t just great for stacking, Catherine explained that having a level cake to start with can even help improve the finish of layer cakes—like our Test Kitchen’s favorite chocolate layer cake.
“When you level out a cake using a knife, you create a lot of crumbs,” Catherine said. “Those crumbs can end up in your frosting no matter how careful you are.” She explained that by avoiding trimming, you can help create more beautifully frosted cakes. Psst! Here are our tips for getting that frosting just right.
Level cakes that are easier to stack and decorate? It’s definitely worth giving these pan wraps a go—especially for less than $10. Try them out and share the results with our baking community: Bakeable.