The Reason You Should Rotate Pans When Baking A Cake

It's a chilly fall day, you have your favorite cake recipe ready, you've combined all your ingredients, greased and floured your pan, and preheated your oven — all the work is done, right? Wrong. If you think that you can just toss your cake pans into the oven and walk away until you hear that oven timer ring, you'll want to rethink your strategy. There are several things you'll want to do during the process to ensure you're not making one of many mistakes when baking a cake.

First up, per Real Simple, you'll want to rotate your baking pans after the cake has baked more than halfway through. Just turn them 180 degrees. Why is this important? As King Arthur Baking explains, when you preheat your oven to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, your oven isn't actually going to be 350 degrees in every single spot. Think of it like setting your thermostat in your house; even if you set the temperature to 68 degrees, you'll still have certain corners or spots that are a little bit warmer or a little bit cooler. Ovens are typically hotter around the sides, bottom, and top, near the walls. Rotating your pans, then, ensures that your cake doesn't cook faster on one side than the other.

You'll want to do more than just rotate the pans

In addition to rotating your pans, you can also do a few other things to ensure you avoid any mishaps that might occur due to your oven's differing internal temperatures. Real Simple notes that, at the same time you rotate your pans, you'll also want to swap oven racks (if you're baking two separate cakes and have two racks in your oven, that is). Just move the bottom pan to the top and vice versa. According to Cook's Illustrated, you should also stagger multiple cake pans, allowing for greater air circulation within your oven. The outlet additionally points out that your oven's "hot spots" can be as much as 50 degrees hotter, which can obviously make a big difference in your final product.

Whether you rotate, swap racks, stagger, or all of the above, though, make sure that you do your swapping and rotating at the right time. Food Network says that, if you don't rotate your pans at the right time, you could end up with a cake with a sunken middle. The ideal time is about three-fourths of the way through the baking process.

In addition to these baking tips, you can try this trick that might help save your oven-baked cake if its gone dry.