How to bake cake evenly: preventing the dreaded dome

When you bake a cake does it sometimes peak into a big dome on top, instead of staying nice and flat? Frustrating, isn’t it? Learning how to bake cake evenly can be a challenge.

True, beauty is only crust deep, and sometimes you don’t care if your cake is convex rather than flat across the top. But have you ever tried to stack two or three domed layers atop one another? Right. They wobble, they slip and slide, and inevitably you wind up with an off-kilter cake.

Sure, you can trim off those domes to make perfectly flat layers. But think of all that good cake you’re wasting. Even if you snack on it rather than tossing it, as most of us do, better it should remain part of the whole!

No, your best tactic to bake cake evenly relies on simple thermodynamics: once you put the cake into the oven, you have to keep the batter at the edges of the pan from baking too quickly.

Cake layers that dome as they bake are a challenge to stack and frost. Here’s an easy way to bake cake evenly. Click To Tweet

Bake Cake Evenly via @kingarthurflour

Here’s the deal: As batter bakes it does two things — rise, and lose moisture. When enough moisture is lost the cake solidifies (or “sets”) and stops rising.

This happens quickly around the edges of the pan; much less quickly in its interior, where the bulk of the batter has created its own insulation. So the cake’s edges rise and set quickly; but the slower-baking center continues to rise, often far above the edges: thus the dome. Large or small, it can be irritating; but thankfully, avoidable.

In order to bake cake evenly, you have to insulate its edges. Preventing the temperature of batter at the edge from increasing quickly allows the cake to rise longer before it sets. A cake whose edges rise at nearly the same rate as its center will remain flat across the top — no dome, perfect for stacking and icing.

Bake Cake Evenly via @kingarthurflour

Enter cake strips, the simplest way by far to bake cake evenly. Soak the strips in cold water, fasten them around the outside of your pan with their built-in Velcro, and voilà! Instant insulation.

Sure, you can probably fashion your own insulation with strips of cotton towel, and then safety-pin them around the pans. But honestly? Save yourself the hassle. Here’s what one of our satisfied customers says:

“These are the BEST! Since I frequently make 3-layer cakes, I ordered 2 sets. These are very easy to use. Just soak them in water for 15 minutes, wrap them around the pans and secure with the Velcro. No safety pins needed! The strips keep the cake layers from getting a dome, so it’s easier to fill and frost them.” — Mary Ellen, Oak Harbor, Ohio

Let’s see just how cake strips work — and what a difference they make.

Bake Cake Evenly via @kingarthurflour

How cake strips work

Here are the strips; they come in a set of two, and each will fit an 8” or 9” round cake pan.

Bake Cake Evenly via @kingarthurflour

Soak in cold water before using

Soak the strips for a minimum of 15 minutes; you’ll need to weigh them down to submerge them at first. Since it’s actually the water that insulates your cake, you want the strips to be thoroughly soaked.

Bake Cake Evenly via @kingarthurflour

Fasten around the edge of your pan

Velcro lets you easily fit the strip to your particular 8″ or 9″ round pan.

Bake Cake Evenly via @kingarthurflour

Bake the cake

Remove the strip as soon as you can safely handle it; it’ll cool down quickly.

Remove the cake from the pan, and cool it on a rack. Stack and frost as desired.

Here’s a tip from my fellow blogger, Chef Susan Reid: “The best-looking frosted cakes are placed on a plate so the flat bottom is facing up. Often the slight curve even on the flat cake nestles just right inside the concave surface of any typical plate you’d put it on.”

Bake Cake Evenly via @kingarthurflour

See the difference?

The half-cake on the right, baked without a strip, has shorter edges and a taller center: it domed. The cake on the left, baked with a strip, rose evenly all the way across.

In addition to preventing doming, using a cake strip prevents the edge of the cake from overbaking. The darker ridge around the top of the half-cake at right, baked without a cake strip, is tough and chewy. The half-cake on the left, baked with a strip? Soft and tender.

So go ahead: spread that frosting, stack those layers. Now that you know how to bake cake evenly, using cake strips, there’s no going back to the hassle of trimming and leveling.

Some bakers say they’ve had luck simply pressing down any dome on their cake as soon as the cake comes out of the oven. I tried that, but the dome remained; it just sprang back. If you espouse this manual flattening, we’d love you to share how you do it in comments, below.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Barbara! We haven’t tried using cake strips with silicone pans, but you could certainly give it a try — we imagine it would work out. We’d still recommend lowering the oven temperature by 25°F and checking on your cakes a bit earlier than listed in the recipe though. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  1. Bong

    Hi, what about top of the cake? it will be still cook faster compare to the rest of the cake right? It could potential overcook the top of the cake. As the heat in the oven come from top and bottom also. How do we prevent this?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Since air is not as good a conductor of heat as metal is, you generally don’t need to worry about the rate at which it cooks unless you have placed the cake too close to the top heating element. When making pies or other treats that have a tendency to brown too quickly on either all or part of the top, tenting foil over the affected areas (so that it shields the top but doesn’t touch it) will help reflect a bit of the heat, ensuring you get a nice, even bake. Hope that helps! Kat@KAF

  2. Bob Anderson

    I use your gluten free baking flour. Sometimes, especially when I make a yellow cake, the middle sinks by about 1/2 to 3/4”. How do I prevent that?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This is a common occurrence in gluten-free cake, Bob, but one thing that can help is to use a smaller pan, such as a 6″ round pan and making 3 cakes instead of 2 8″ or 9″ rounds. You also want to make sure it’s baked all the through. If they’re sinking in the oven, try the smaller pan size. If they sink after you’ve taken them out, they probably just needed another couple mintues in the oven. You’ll know the cake is done when the center reads 210°F on a digital thermometer. Annabelle@KAF

  3. Nancy Corporon

    My cake domed, so I put a cookie tray over it with a cast iron pan on top for about 5 minutes. It was flat and remained so when I took it out of the cake pan. Thanks for the idea! I thought my Easter cake was ruined.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joy, you can connect cake strips together to make them fit larger pans, and they work quite well this way. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

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