Once upon a time I thought I wanted to bake wedding cakes for a living. It turns out wedding cakes, or more specifically baking them for brides, gives me nightmares. It also made me a little bit crazy for about a week each time I had to do a cake. At some point before I figured this out, I made a LOT of cake.
I still love to bake cakes and sometimes I even make a wedding cake as a gift. I just don’t try to sell them anymore.
I have baked cakes in cheap pans and expensive pans. At the end of the day, the most important part of HOW you bake a cake is the wet towel you use to wrap the pan.
In the oven, a cake will bake from the outside edge in towards the center. This means that the outside finishes cooking while the middle is still raw. Something has to be done in order to prevent the cake from getting hard and dry at the edge and growing a mountain in the middle.
I use a wet towel wrap to insulate the outside and force it to bake more slowly. This causes the cake to rise evenly while remaining moist and tender from the outside all the way to the middle! I have experimented by baking one batch with a towel wrap and one without. The cakes with the towel wrap are always flatter and significantly taller. Sometimes they are as much as one inch taller than identical cakes baked without towel wraps! That means you have more cake to serve from the same ingredients and the cake you have to serve is fluffier!
Print out the instructions below and save them with your cake pans. Next time you bake a cake, give this a try!
A Note on High Altitude Baking: I now live at about 3,000 feet above sea level. Sometimes I have to fight the altitude when I’m baking. The wet towel wrap can be helpful if you are having problems with your cakes falling. It is not always a perfect solution but I find it significantly reduces falling caused by altitude issues.
- wax paper or parchment paper
- 1 old towel
- two safety pins or paper clips
- Line each pan with circles of wax or parchment paper. I like to place the pans on the paper, draw a circle, and then cut it out.
- Butter the sides of the pan generously. If the liner is trying to curl up, use a smear of butter to tack it down so that it will stay flat.
- Fill the cake pans with batter according to the recipe.
- Take an old towel that you don't care about anymore and cut it into strips that fit the height of the cake pans. If your cake pan is 2" tall you need a 2" wide strip of towel. Each strip needs to fit at least once around the pan once plus a few inches. If the towel is very thin and threadbare, cut 2-3 strips for each pan. If the towel is very thick, cut 1-2 strips. I use 2 strips of thin towel for my pans.
- Get the towel strips sopping wet in the sink and then squeeze them until they are wet but not dripping everywhere .
- Wrap one towel strip around the pan until the ends overlap. Start the second strip on top of the exposed end of the first. Wrap it around the bottom strip. Secure the strips with a safety pin or paperclip.
- Bake the cake as directed in the recipe. When the cake is 3-5 minutes from being done, remove the towel strips and put the cake back in the oven. This allows the edge of the cake to finish baking. If you do not do this, the edge will remain so moist that the frosting will fall off.
- You can hand wash your towel strips and use them over and over again for many years.
- Let your cakes rest according to the directions in the recipe. When it is time to remove the cake to the rack, loosen the sides with a silicone spatula. Use a plate or flat platter to flip the cake over unto its top. Thump the bottom of the pan once or twice and the cake should fall out of the pan. Lining the pan allows the cake to release easily and prevents most broken cakes.
- Put the cake (rack and all) in a clean, unscented trash bag to finish cooling. This will help the cake remain moist throughout the cool down process.