Cake

2 Ways to Get Equal Amounts of Batter into Cake Pans

September  8, 2014

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich is going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Alice explains how to achieve batter equilibrium for perfectly even layer cakes.

Banana Cake with Penuche Icing Recipe

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Bakers and pastry chefs are notoriously anxious about details, one of which is getting equal amounts of batter into cake pans so all of the layers will be done at the same time and so that when the finished cake is cut, all of the layers look even. We just can’t help ourselves.

You might think that the best way to get an equal amount of batter into each pan is to first measure the batter by volume, divide by the number of pans, and then fill each pan with the correct amount of batter. But this method is boring, messy, and time-consuming, and it’s quite likely to result in batter that is over-handled and deflated. Forget about it.

Here are two ways to do it better. (Guess which one I like the best!)

1. Use a scale: Weigh the entire batch of batter and jot the amount on the recipe so you never have to do this again. If ingredients are given in weights you can simply add up the weight* of all of the ingredients. Either way, divide the total weight by the number of pans. Set a pan on the scale, press the tare button to zero the scale, then pour a little less than the correct amount of batter (to compensate for batter stuck to the bowl and spatula) into the pan. Repeat with the remaining pans and batter. Divvy up any leftover batter by eye.  

2. Use the eyeball method plus a toothpick: Pour batter into pans by eye. Check the level of batter in each pan by inserting a toothpick and comparing the depths. If pans are unevenly filled, spoon batter gently from the fullest pan to the others.  

*Grams are easier to add and divide than ounces, which is just another reason we should all go metric. If you are adding weights in a recipe, figure large eggs weigh 50 grams (just shy of 2 ounces) and water, milk, and similar liquids at 225 grams (8 ounces) per cup.

More: All the tools you need for layer cake domination on Provisions.

Get excited about Alice's forthcoming book Flavor Flours: nearly 125 recipes -- from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread -- made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor, too). 

 

 

Photo by James Ransom

11 Comments

nancy C. February 18, 2015
Can you add hot pepper to hot chocolate?
 
Linda September 21, 2014
I eyeball it. Then put the full pan on the scale and weigh it in metric. I put the second full pan on and weigh it in metric. Then move the batter from the heaviest to the lightest until they're within a few grams of the same weight. With more than two layers, you weigh all the pans and adjust as needed to even them out. When you do that, you don't have to subtract the weight of the pans or fiddle with the weight of the bowls or worry about batter left stuck in the bowl or on the spatula. :)
 
Sinthia December 15, 2015
Too much handling deflates the batter. 1 well-planned transfer is ideal.<br /> And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the author for the dry-weight tips. I've always done it one ingredient at a time on a coffee filter.
 
spiffypaws September 8, 2014
I've weighed all of my mixing bowls and written the weight of each on the bottom in perm. marker. That way, if the weight of the batter varies at all fro the norm (it can), I still have even distrib. because I just subtract the weight of the bowl from the total weight and divide by # of pans.
 
nomnivorous September 10, 2014
Oh my, that is a KILLER trick to remember. I never thought of just writing the weight on the bottom of the bowl. Awesome!
 
spiffypaws September 10, 2014
Thanks, it really simplifies baking.
 
JohnL September 8, 2014
I've always used method #1 above, but I never thought to keep the weights with the recipe for future reference so I never have to do it again. Maybe I was afraid the flour's weight might vary with humidity at different times of the year. But not enough to matter? P.S. Alice's Dried Fruit and Nut Cake (from her book Pure Dessert) is superb. It is chock full of walnuts and just enough batter to hold it together. This is THE cake to try if you don't think you like fruit cakes (I don't usually). What convinced me to try the recipe was the full page photograph in a Best of the Best collection by Food & Wine Magazine. It is gorgeous!
 
Sue M. September 8, 2014
I would love to get the recipe for the cake above --- wow!
 
JohnL September 8, 2014
You can pull up the recipe by clicking on the picture. Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting. Mmmm.
 
mrslarkin September 8, 2014
Excellent tips! I always use the scale method (in grams). I like to be very accurate with even cake batter distribution, so I use cake pans that weigh exactly the same.
 
Sinthia December 15, 2015
What's the pan's weight used for? I understand the need for mixing bowl weight.