Professional cakes always turn out beautifully even and flat on top. Home bakers often struggle to reproduce this look when their cakes come out of the oven with domed tops. Some professional bakers use a long cake knife to slice off the top of their cake layers, but this can be tricky. Baking strips are a simple, inexpensive tool that helps your cakes bake evenly in the pan. Several brands are available commercially, but you can make your own for much less.
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What Baking Strips Do
When you put a cake into a hot oven, the heat moves into the edges of the batter first, causing the sides of the cake to bake faster than the center. This gives the center of the cake more time to rise, creating a dome shape. This uneven baking can also lead to a cake that is dry on the edges or gummy in the center. Baking strips help the entire cake to bake more evenly, preventing these problems.
How Baking Strips Work
Baking strips act as an insulator around the sides of the cake pan. By adding an extra layer around the edges, the sides of the cake have as much time as the center to rise and bake. This means that both areas of the cake will be done at the same time, and will rise at the same rate, preventing both the domed shape that is so difficult for decorators to work with, and the textural problems that make eating the cake less enjoyable.
Making Homemade Baking Strips
Homemade baking strips are easy and economical to make. Cut an old towel into 2- inch wide strips. Make the strips as long as you need to wrap around your cake pan, plus a few extra inches to tie the strip together. Depending on the size of your towel, you may need to cut two or three strips to go around larger cake pans.
These homemade cake strips can be washed with other towels, and reused. When they begin to fray or become threadbare, discard them and make new ones.
Using Homemade Baking Strips
Soak your homemade baking strips in water, then wring them out. The strips should be quite damp but not dripping. The water will prevent them from burning in the oven, and will provide additional insulation for the cake.
Wrap a damp baking strip around the outside of your cake pan. Tie the edges together to secure the strip around the pan. It should be tight enough not to slip off when you transfer the pan in and out of the oven. If one strip is not long enough, tie two or more together. Tuck the ends into the baking strip so they do not dangle into your oven, causing a fire hazard. It's as easy as that.