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What is a cake heating core?

cake heating coreNo one likes an undercooked cake and the bigger a cake pan you’re using, the more difficult it can be to achieve even baking without over-browning the top and sides of the cake. Heat radiates through the cake from the sides of the baking pan and, while not a problem for smaller cakes, larger pans will easily be overdone on the sides before they are finished in the center. To ensure even baking for large cakes – over 10-inches round, usually – some bakers will use a cake heating core.

The core is set inside the center of the pan before it is filled with batter (lightly greased on both the inside and the outside) and the cake batter is poured around it. A small amount is poured into the cake core itself to create a “plug” for the cake after it has baked. When the cake bakes, some heat radiates outward from the metal core, putting more of the batter closer to a direct heat source and baking a bit faster. The Baker’s Edge pan actually works on something of a similar idea, although the unusual shape of that pan wouldn’t be that useful for those looking to create layer cakes.

The only drawback is that the cake in the center “plug” may dry out slightly during baking. I’ve heard some bakers tell me that the cake insulates the core and prevents it from doing so, so it may just be over analysis of its texture on my part. In any case, the plug easily slips into the center hole left by the heating core and it’s impossible to tell that it was there once the cake has been frosted.

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  • Mrs. L
    June 19, 2008

    I think one of the reasons I’m not so fond of cake is because they are usually dried out. This may help me not do that! Thanks for the info.

  • Linda
    June 19, 2008

    A cheaper solution is taking a can, cutting both ends out, greasing it like the cake pan, and putting it in the center. I like it better because you don’t have to decide how much cake batter to put in it and it doesn’t add any change in height if you accidentally fill the plug too much. It’s also easier to remove. Unlike the plug that has to have the cake plug removed, the can just lifts off and the plug is in place. If someone feels concerned about a can, they could always spend the $$ to buy a cake ring at least 3 in. tall and use that instead. Just an alternative–I have both and tend to use the can more.

  • cakey
    June 20, 2008

    We have similar cake pan like this in Singapore. We use it to bake Chiffon Cake and we do not grease the pan at all because the cake “climb” on to the tube,and “pull”itself up.It will rise higher as chiffon is a very soft and fluffy cake so we need to use this type of pan.

  • Caroline
    June 22, 2008

    Another cheap solution is to use a rose/flower nail and put that in the middle of the cake. Simply place that in the cake pan pointy-end up before you put the batter in. It does the exact same thing as a core, but you don’t have to worry about plugs. And it comes out easily once the cake is baked. I’ve used this on layers as big as a round 16 inch tier, and the entire cake cooked evenly. I’ll use two for my larger rectangular tiers.

  • Sally
    June 23, 2008

    Cool, I have this octopus bundt pan that doesn’t cook well in the center, I’ll have to try this or one of the commenter’s ideas to see if I can get it to work, well in the fall or a nice cool day or something.

  • Tracy
    July 11, 2008

    Do you need one of you are baking a large cheesecake? or will a water bath do the trick?

  • Carol Smith
    February 22, 2009

    What is a Rose/Nail. I am baking my grand daughters wedding cake and have bought all 3 inch deep pans. Do I want to not fill them more than half and bake each pan twice for the layers or should I cut the layers in half. I am concerned about how to deal with that layer process. I was told to just use 2 inch pans or shallow pans and bake more layers and I will not have to cut them. Any suggestions?

  • EU
    May 17, 2009

    I’ve been practicing for a wedding cake and in my opinion you will have better cake texture if you bake the full layers then torte them (cut them in half)so that you can brush on soaking syrup and frost between the layers. Otherwise the cake gets very dry. So for example, if you are baking a cake with a 12″ bottom tier, that tier will be a full 12″ layer on top of another 12″ layer and both of those layers will be cut in half for a total of 4 layers in that big 12″ tier.

  • Angie Potts.
    November 10, 2011

    Regarding the “cake heating cores”, I’m having the same problem with cakes of 10″ and over not looking completely cooked in the middle. I am about to make another one and was thinking of using several metal scewers by placing them into the mixture so that the points sit on the bottom of the cake tin and the rings rest on the top edge of the tin at aprox 45 degree angles. I’m hoping that half dozen (three each on two opposit sides alternately) will radiate enough heat to bake the centre succesfuly. If this works, a big plus is that they should be easy to pull out with no plugs required……..I will report the results when done.

  • dr.amy
    October 17, 2012

    @Linda= can we simply put the batter in the pan then put the greased can in the middle , instead of putting the can first then filling it with plug then pouring the rest of the batter??!

  • Bernie
    February 22, 2013

    @ caroline: When using nails in a 16 x 12 pan, do you place two of them in the center, or do you place them apart from each other, like at 6 inches in from the left side of your pan and 6 inches in from the right side of the pan, so they are evenly spaced. I recently did a full sheet cake (two 16 x12 frosted together) and did not use nails at all. I felt like the cakes were dry and it disappointed me 🙁 Because I have never done a full sheet cake, I have never used a nail or a core. Seems like the core is more work, so I would like to try your nail method. Thanks!!

  • mj
    April 24, 2013

    ive made topsy turvy cakes …i was using the flower nails but they always fall down inside cake then i have to dig it out when cake is done therefore having to piece cake together .:( i just bought a heating core so we wil see

  • Liz
    November 5, 2013

    I absolutely hate the heating core, I don’t know why it has to be closed on the bottom!! @Linda, I love the idea of the can! I plan to have my husband cut off the bottom of my heating core (he’s handy with such things, I’m sure he has some tool that will do it) but until he gets around to it, I will definitely use the can idea! @Dr Amy, that’s exactly what I plan to do. And then I can just pop it out with my thumb instead of trying loosen and dig around in the stupid plug. Honestly, I think whoever came up with that idea for a heating core is missing some marbles, or were trying to make it unnecessarily difficult and tedious for everyone else.

  • Zazou
    May 3, 2016

    @mj how did your cake came out using the heating core on your topsy turvy cake. This is my first time using topsy turvy I saw a lot of reviews that the middle don’t cook. Let me know what you did when using your topsy turvy pans.

  • Michael
    July 24, 2018

    Liz, the heating core (yes it is messy) but the bottom sitting against the bottom of the pan allows for more heat generation into the core.

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