Saturday, May 21, 2016

How to Divide Cake Batter: An Easy Tip for Even Layers

I have loved to bake cakes for as long as I can remember.

For years, however, the task of making a two-layer cake intimidated me.  It never seemed like I could get the layers to bake evenly, and my cakes were always lopsided.


A double layer cake

One summer when I was in high school, we were visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania. Various family members were coming to dinner for my grandfather's birthday. I offered to make the birthday cake, and my grandmother supplied me with a cake mix.

We had been living in Spain, and the only cakes I had ever made were from scratch. By comparison, the cake mix seemed so easy.  My cake layers (of course) were horribly uneven, but I decided it was nothing that a lot of icing couldn't fix! Using the only chocolate frosting recipe I knew, I made up a batch of frosting and smeared it between and on top of the two layers until the top appeared flat and smooth.

Later that day, to my horror, I realized that one layer had slid nearly off the other, and the whole cake was breaking into pieces. The heavy frosting had just been too much for the light and airy cake texture that the cake mix had produced.

I was mortified and begged my grandmother to let me make another cake before dinner. She saw no sense in wasting what would still be a delicious dessert, and scooped it into a 9 x13 inch pan. She told me we would serve it from the kitchen, and "no one would ever know."

My grandfather had a sense of humor. He had caught on that something was not quite right with his cake. When we started bringing plates of cake to the table he said, "But, where's my birthday cake? I want to see
my cake and blow out my candles." He kept insisting, until my grandmother stuffed a few candles in the pan of cake and (trying hard not to laugh) brought it over to him.

We all ended up laughing about it - and trading stories of our cooking mishaps. I learned that cooks don't always have to be perfect - and that maybe an over-abundance of icing is not always the best solution to improving the appearance of a cake!


Birthday cake celebration
In this picture, it's a toss-up as to whether my dad or my grandpa looks more woebegone over the state of this cake!

Lots of practice has helped. Now, I am usually able to bake a layer cake that is at least passably presentable, and sometimes even quite impressive. I know now that it is really important to divide the batter evenly between the pans when baking a cake of two or more layers.


This plate was one my grandma gave me, and I almost always use it for my layer cakes.

Even cake layers

It is possible to roughly estimate equal quantities, but it is even better to measure exactly. I have made some big messes in the past, scooping the batter first into a big measuring bowl to measure the total volume, dividing that amount by the number of layers I am baking, and then measuring out equal quantities for each pan.  This works - but takes time and produces more dishes to wash!


Last week I was baking a chocolate double-layer cake.  I was getting out the measuring cup when I suddenly realized there was a much easier way to make even layers! I used my kitchen scale, and it worked like a charm!

By the way, if you don't have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend getting one. I bought my little cuisinart model about 4 or 5 years ago, and I have used it more than I ever thought I would! This is the one I have:




Here's the trick to effortlessly dividing cake batter evenly:

1. Roughly divide the batter between the (prepared) pans that you are using.
2. Weigh each pan and use a spoon to scoop batter from the heavier ones into the lighter ones, until all weigh the same.


Use a scale to measure your batter for cake layers.


So easy! Why had I never thought of this before?



What is your favorite tip for baking cakes? 
Did you already know this trick for making even layers?

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15 comments :

  1. I've never bothered weighing my layer pans, I just have them sitting side by side as I pour in the batter and then look across the tops of them at eye level to see if they are roughly even. They usually are, I'm good at judging the amount of space between batter and top of pan. Of course these days I don't have any reason to be making layer cakes, or even cup cakes, so the pans are wrapped and stored.

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    1. I'm glad the eyeball method has worked for you. I use it sometimes too, when I am rushed, but when I really want a cake to turn out well, I measure. Unwrap those pans - life is too short to live without ANY cake ;)

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  2. Great idea Susan! My cakes are also usually lopsided. I need to buy a kitchen scale though!

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    1. My little scale is one of my most used small appliances. I find it handy for all sorts of things --- even weighing care packages to send to college!

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  3. Thanks for your email. It worked.
    I try very hard NOT to bake cakes at the moment. I am too large and himself struggles (but makes a valiant effort) to eat a cake on his own.

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    1. Let me know if it keeps being an annoyance, EC. If so, I may decide to remove it! I have to be careful when I bake too - but having a bunch of teens around to feed has helped.

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  4. I've never had problems with uneven layers (although I will keep your scale idea on my list). My problem has always been decorating or even frosting the buggers. I can't get frosting on my cakes to look even artfully arranged, let alone smooth.

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    1. Instead of struggling to make the icing look smooth, my mom taught me a trick when I was little. Use the flat side of your knife and make very shallow swirls all over the sides, and then starting from the center on the top, make big loops from center to outside edge, going around the cake until you have sort of created a flower design (see photo - it's what I did when I iced this cake). Hope that helps!

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  5. I've only recently started thinking of improving my baking skills. I won a cookbook by Maya Angelou and it has so some fabulous recipes in it. I literally bought baking powder and yeast for the first time in my life today!

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    1. Rena, once you set your mind to something, I have no doubt you can do anything. That purchase of baking powder and yeast has probably just led to you becoming the next "Julia Child"!

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  6. Ok I probably should not have read this post before breakfast here in Germany....YUMMY!! I love cake :)

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    1. Sorry for making you hungry, but I'm envious of you being in Europe, so maybe we are even!

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  7. I can't remember the last time I made a layered cake - the problem with being an empty nester is that there are only two of us eating the cake and that's not a great idea for our midlife waistlines! This is a great idea though :)

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    1. I'm going to have to find someone to bake for next year, Leanne. Or my kids better get ready for a lot of sweets when they come home on breaks!

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  8. Hi Susan, I always struggle to divide a cake, ALWAYS! but with your tips in this post of yours I think I'll do better the next time. Thanks for sharing!

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Many thanks to everyone who leaves a comment here!