Edit: May 14th, 2015 – I have just been looking at my stats (something I don’t do as often as I probably should) and discovered this is the most-viewed post I have ever made here. I never would have imagined that any of my posts would be so popular. I am so thrilled so many have found this post, and I hope it has been helpful for you! xoxo
If you’ve ever had to bake a large cake, you might have had problems with it baking unevenly. When using larger pans (like sheet pans for example) the outside of the cake will tend to bake faster than the middle. By the time the middle is done, the edges can be very over baked and dry.
To evenly bake larger cakes, all you have to do is invest in a heating core. Click here to see the one available from Wilton.
The heating core is a small metal cone. You prepare it both inside and out the same way you do your cake pan, by coating it with some cake release, greasing and flouring it, whatever your preferred method of prepping your pans may be. Then you place the heating core, open end UP, in the middle of your cake pan BEFORE filling the pan with batter. Then add a small bit of batter to the center of the heating core as well. The heating core will heat up and help distribute more heat to the center of the cake so that it bakes more evenly than it would if you were not using a heating core.
When your cake is ready to be turned out from the pan, gently remove the heating core first. Slide the bit of cake that baked up in the heating core into the hole in the center of the cake where the core had been. Turn the cake out of the pan to cool completely then frost as usual.
There are a couple alternatives to using a heating core, should you find you need to bake a larger cake before acquiring the heating core or if you don’t bake large cakes often enough to feel it is a worthwhile investment.
Metal Flower Nails: This is what I use to bake large cakes evenly. It is by far the simplest substitute for a heating core, and if you’re into cake decorating at all you’ve probably already got some of these on hand so no additional money needs to be spent. Prep your flower nail by coating it with cake release all over. Place it in the center of the pan flat side down, so the “nail” of the flower nail is sticking up. Hold the nail in place while you pour your batter into the pan and around the flower nail. (This can be a little tricky to do on your own, you might want a helper to either hold the nail steady or to fill the pan with the batter for you.) Once the baked cake is turned out from the pan, simply lift the flower nail from the center of the cake.
Large Metal Tips: For the baby shower cake I recently made, I had to do my baking at a neighbor’s house. I forgot to grab a flower nail to place in the center of the cake. However I did have some of my decorator tips with me. I grabbed the largest tip I had with me, which was the 1A Round tip, and prepped it and treated it as a heating core, placing it wide end down in the cake pan then carefully putting some batter down inside the tip as well to bake the cake. It wound up having cake baked over it, but once I turned the cake out of the pan it was easy to lift the tip from the center of the cake and slide the cake from the middle of the tip out and pop it into the middle of the cake. It worked in a pinch, so if all else fails you can use your 1A to bake a large cake more evenly! Tip 23o might be a viable option here as well. 8B might also work in a pinch but I don’t own this one yet so don’t take my word for that one.
Metal soup or vegetable cans: If none of the above will do, soup or vegetable cans to the rescue! Pretty much any size will do. Cut both the top and bottom off the can, remove the label and wash it well. Prep it inside and out with cake release, place in the center of the cake pan, fill the pan with batter and put some in the middle to bake inside the center of the can as well. Gently hold the center of the cake in place as you remove the can after the cake has baked and cooled.
Another option is to use “bake even strips“. I’ve never used these so I can’t vouch for them, but I know people love them.
Another thing that can help cakes (of any size) bake more evenly is simply to bake them for a longer period of time at a lower temperature. Many cake recipes have you baking at 350°F – try reducing the temperature to 325°F instead, and increase the bake time a bit.
Hopefully this information will help someone out. I know when I was younger I had to bake a couple larger cakes and could never figure out how to get them to bake more evenly, and I ended up baking smaller cakes then putting them together on the cake board for the illusion of a larger cake just so there would be no dried edges and under-baked middles! I wish someone had provided me with this information when I first started baking instead of me having to figure it out on my own! Though, I suppose the fact that I did figure these things out on my own speaks for my cleverness? Nothing wrong with a little pat on your own back once in a while right? 😉