Don't be Afraid to Rotate Cakes

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2013

Does rotating a delicate, airy cake during baking cause it to collapse?

In the test kitchen, we often recommend rotating cakes, pastries, and breads in the oven halfway through baking to promote even browning. (This is especially important because most ovens do not heat evenly.) But we don’t generally recommended rotating delicate, airy cakes for fear that they will collapse. Without any conclusive evidence that this was the case, however, we decided to put it to the test.

We made two pairs of the most delicate cakes we could think of: fluffy yellow layer cake and angel food cake, both containing whipped egg whites, which we figured would make them prone to collapse if disturbed during baking. One set of cakes we rotated at the halfway point, jostling them clumsily in order to drive the point home. The other we left alone.

The result? Neither of the rotated cakes was worse for wear, and both were more evenly browned than the undisturbed cakes. It seems that even delicate cakes are fully set early on during baking, so there’s little risk of collapse halfway through. From now on, we will call for rotating all baked goods—even delicate cakes—halfway through baking. If you are baking on upper and lower racks, we recommend switching rack positions and rotating the cakes at the same time. It will only improve your results.

GIVE IT A SPIN: Rotating any cake—even a delicate one—during baking won’t cause it to collapse.