Recipe Review

I Tried the Foil Hack for Baking Flat Cakes — Here’s What Happened

published Mar 23, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
cake layers cooling on cooling rack
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

The easiest way to turn an ordinary day into a celebration is with cake. While I have my favorite tried-and-true layer cake recipes practically memorized, there’s a boxed cake mix in the pantry at all times — you know, for emergencies.

Even when I follow the directions, cakes sometimes bake up with an overly browned top or with a large dome in the center. That’s nothing that an extra layer of icing or a bit of trimming can’t fix, but I always wondered whether there was an easy solution that would eliminate these issues altogether.

I recently came across an Instagram Reel that promised a solution to my cake conundrum. In the video, Shumaila Rai covers cake batter-filled baking pans with aluminum foil, then pokes a single hole in the center with a skewer. Would this technique result in perfectly moist, evenly browned, and perfectly flat cake layers? I had to find out.

How I Tested the Foil Hack for Baking Cakes 

I prepared a box of white cake mix according to the package instructions and split the batter evenly between two cake pans. I weighed the batter to make sure the same amount of batter was added to each pan, and luckily I have a pair of cake pans that are the same brand and same diameter.

I covered one of the filled cake pans with aluminum foil, and poked a hole in the center. I baked the cakes in the same oven, rotating the cakes and their position in the oven halfway through. Once the cakes were done, I removed them to a rack and let them cool for 10 minutes before removing the foil and removing them from the pan. I let the pans cool, then repeated this test a second time with yellow cake mix. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

My Honest Review of the Foil Hack for Baking Cakes 

I was excited to try this baking hack because it was so simple and required just aluminum foil and a skewer. As the cakes came out of the oven I realized quickly that I had mixed results on my hands. This hack was simply promising too much. 

This hack controlled the browning on the top of the cake very well. Sometimes it’s important to the overall appearance of the cake to have the color consistent throughout the cake. If you are preparing an all-white cake for a wedding or other special occasion, for example. The edges and bottom of the cake did lightly brown due to their contact with the metal pan.

I did not notice a major difference in the degree of doming between the foil-covered cake and the uncovered cake. In fact, covering the cake with foil caused some of the cake to stick to the foil as it baked. I was left having to trim the top of the cake to even out the jagged layer left behind. 

If You’re Trying the Foil Hack for Baking Cakes, a Few Tips

  1. Spray the foil with cooking spray. This may keep the cake from sticking to the foil covering as it rises during baking. 
  2. Use a variety of doneness indicators. Because you can’t rely on browning to signal doneness of a foil-covered cake, you’ll have to use other indicators. The edges of the cake should pull away from the edge of the pan, a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan should come out mostly clean, and the top should spring back lightly when pressed.