Master How to Make Cakes Bake Evenly Each and Every Time

Ensure your cakes bake level (and are ready to decorate!) with these easy tips.

Lopsided cakes (that aren't tilted on purpose) leave something to be desired. Tilted cakes appear less polished than the look you're likely going for, plus they're challenging to frost evenly and stack layer cake-style. After decades of baking trials, our Test Kitchen experts have come up with a handful of tips for how to fix a lopsided sheet cake, and how to make cake bake evenly in the first place. Whether you're baking a classic cake or showcasing a totally unique flavor combo, these strategies will walk you through everything you need to know to steer clear of tilted cakes.

slices of yellow gluten-free cake with buttercream frosting and sprinkles
Blaine Moats

5 Tips to Make Cakes Bake Evenly

With so many potential causes for uneven cakes, there are a variety of solutions.

  1. Try an alternate mixing method. If lopsided cakes only happen every once in a while, it could be the result of your mixing process. Try beating the cake batter for a minute longer or so the next time. Or consider "reverse-creaming" to mix the batter: Stir together the dry ingredients and the butter, then incorporate the other liquid ingredients, such as eggs and vanilla.
  2. Mind your temp. An oven that is too hot can also cause uneven baking. Use an oven thermometer ($15, OXO) to check your oven's accuracy. Then adjust accordingly: If it's 25 degrees higher than the setting, just lower your baking temperature by 25 degrees. If the temperature is off by more than 25 degrees, it's probably best to recalibrate your oven.
  3. Check your levels. If all of your cakes turn out as tilted cakes, an unlevel floor level could be the culprit. To test this out, fill a glass pan or bowl with water, place it on your oven's middle rack (with the oven off), and see if the water's top is even. If not, try adjusting your oven's leveling legs.
  4. Bake cakes in a water bath. Speaking of water, baking cakes in a pan of H2O works well for cheesecakes and regular cakes too. The water acts as insulation, preventing the outer part of the cake from warming up too fast. Simply place the cake batter-filled pan inside a larger pan that's filled partially with water. (Just be sure that the water stays low enough to not spill on top of the cake!)
  5. Try cake strips. Wrapping the pan with insulation is another alternative to make a cake bake evenly. As the cake batter bakes, it rises and loses moisture all at once. Once enough of the moisture evaporates from the cake itself, it begins to set—exactly what you want! The challenge is that this often happens much quicker near the edges of the pan than in the middle. The outside ring of batter has less insulation so the edges rise and set fast while the center of the cake keeps rising and eventually bumps up into a domed or uneven cake. To insulate the outside portion of the cake in a similar way to the center, try wrapping the pan in damp cake strips ($27, Walmart). Soak in water, wring them out slightly and slide around the pan. This strategy will likely lead to a longer bake time, so instead of following the recipe bake time to a "T," follow these tips to tell when a cake is done.

How to Prevent Cake from Sinking After Baking

Cupcakes and cakes from scratch may rise while baking, then fall again once cooled. This is often caused by small mistakes during baking. But falling cakes are easily preventable. Here's how:

  • Check your baking powder: Expired or old baking powder is one way your cake may not hold up after baking. If you're not frequently restocking your baking powder, be sure to check the date to make sure it's still fresh.
  • Watch the oven temperature: If you have a from-scratch or cake mix cake falling after cooling, an abnormal oven temperature may be to blame. Check the manufacturer's directions to see how to adjust your oven or consult an appliance manufacturer. High altitude may affect baking as well. Remember, lower air pressure (as at high altitudes) may cause baked goods that use yeast, baking powder, baking soda, egg whites, or steam to rise excessively, then fall.
  • For cakes leavened by air, such as angel food, beat the egg whites only to soft peaks; otherwise, the batter may expand too much. For cakes made with shortening, decrease the baking powder (start by decreasing it by ⅛ teaspoon per teaspoon called for); decrease the sugar (start by decreasing by about 1 tablespoon for each cup called for); and increase the liquid (start by increasing it 1 to 2 tablespoons for each cup called for). These estimates are based on an altitude of 3,000 feet above sea level. At higher altitudes, you may need to alter these measures proportionately. You can also try increasing the baking temperature by 15ºF to 25ºF to help set the batter.
  • When making a rich cake, reduce the shortening by 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup and add one egg (for a 2-layer cake) to prevent the cake from falling.

How to Fix an Uneven Cake

If you're wondering how to fix a lopsided sheet cake or how to fix an uneven cake of any shape once it's already baked, use a large serrated knife to level it out. If the dome isn't too noticeable, simply flip your cake and put the top layer upside-side down so the flat bottom is now the top, then frost and/or stack as desired.

You can snack on the trimmings as you finish decorating your cake, or put them to delicious use in showy Geode Cake Pops or a mason jar mini trifle.

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