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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.
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.
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