We tested four brands of cake strips to see which baked the most even, moist cakes.
Published Jan. 1, 2011.
Perfectly level, evenly baked cakes can elude even the most practiced bakers. Cake strips, also known as magic strips, are engineered to correct uneven baking by applying an insulating layer around the outside of a cake pan. Without insulation from the oven’s heat, the edges bake more quickly while the center tends to dome, crack, or rise quickly before collapsing. And while cake knives and other tools can level off cakes meant for layering, there’s no remedy for an underdone, gummy interior if the edges have already dried out.
We wrapped four brands of cake strips, made from silicone or aluminized fabric that’s been soaked in water, around 8-inch square, 9-inch round, and 13 by 9-inch pans filled with cake batter, and compared them with cakes wrapped with homemade cake strips: damp cheesecloth or newspaper folded into 2-inch strips of aluminum foil and tied with twine. We looked for cracked, dark centers on our Classic Gingerbread Cake (Jan./Feb. 2011) and high, domed centers on Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake (March/April 2008). And just to see if they could accomplish even baking from the edges all the way to the middle of a large sheet cake, we baked yellow cakes in 13 by 9-inch metal pans fitted with each of the strips. Then we baked cakes without strips and compared them all (a grand total of 26) side by side to see which ones passed our test.
One of the biggest factors determining the success or failure of a cake strip: how evenly it wrapped around a pan. A strip too short to reach around the pan’s perimeter had to be doubled up with a second band, and anywhere the pieces overlapped led to uneven baking. For example, one product encircles a 9-inch cake round without overlapping, and the cakes from that vessel emerged evenly baked and level. But when we overlapped a pair of these strips to fit around an 8-inch square pan, the gingerbread it contained rose almost ¼ inch higher on the side with strips overlapping. And it wasn’t just that brand; strips from other manufacturers that had to double up and overlap led to the same results, despite reassurance two of the packages that overlapping wouldn’t interfere with effectiveness. We had much better results with a silicone band and our homemade strips. The former snaps onto a round or square pan like a rubber band, while the latter can be fashioned to any length, meaning that overlapping is never an issue. In both cases, the insulated rings ensured evenly baked yellow cakes; Our winning cake strip produced almost-perfect gingerbread, save for a slightly domed center.
Cake strips that were easy to affix without slipping or falling off in the ...
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