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Unknowingly, I used to keep the cake on the center shelf in the oven, then I realized that the shelf can also be placed at the bottom of the oven.

Does this make a huge difference in the final outcome?

If I put the shelf on the bottom, and then stack the cakes on the top of each other in a 28lts oven, will that make sense?

Do any special care have to be taken in these situations?


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Do you use a convection or convention oven? –  Mien Mar 11 '12 at 12:39

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes, it makes a difference. In a conventional oven (even one with a convectiono fan), anything placed on the bottom rack is going to absorb less radiation heat from the oven element. That means longer cooking times and possibly the need for a higher temperature setting.

If you're following a recipe then it's best to use whichever rack the recipe says. If the recipe doesn't specify, it's usually designed for the center rack.

Now, using a different rack is completely different from actually baking one thing on top of another thing, on a higher rack. That will have a significant effect on whatever is underneath, and if it is particularly sensitive to the time and temperature (many baked goods are) then it is very likely to fail entirely. I once tried to bake two layers of cream puffs and the ones on the bottom were still practically raw by the time the top was done. I doubt you'd find much better success with cakes.

A convection fan may help in this case, but I still don't think it's enough to compensate for the temperature gradient you'd create by "eclipsing" one dish underneath another in the same oven. You are literally blocking the heat from reaching the bottom dish.

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I make cakes in my convection toaster oven all the time...no issue. –  rfusca Mar 11 '12 at 18:56
@aaronut toaster ovens are good enough for cakes. But in them, the difference between racks is even greater, because they heat mainly per direct radiation from the heating elements, much more so than conventional ovens (where convection plays a bigger role). –  rumtscho Mar 11 '12 at 19:17
OK, I removed the comment about the toaster oven... still think it's kind of goofy, but I can sort of see it working in a convection toaster oven (not a regular one). –  Aaronut Mar 11 '12 at 20:49
In every oven I've ever owned, the heat comes from the bottom of the oven when baking, thus the top rack results in less radiant heat to the bottom of the pan, baking on a lower rack results in more. The upper heating element is used when broiling. In gas stoves, the bottom drawer is often the broiler, placed under the flame that heats the oven, instead of having a redundant broiler element at the top of the stove, as electric stoves do. Some ovens may use the broiler element in conjunction with one below to provide more even radiant heat, but it's certainly not universal. –  Theodore Murdock Mar 12 '12 at 10:20
Our current oven has two settings: bake (heat from below only) and broil (heat from above, with five different levels of too hot). Good to hear that many ovens are designed better, but I suspect that cheap bake/broil ovens like this are likely still manufactured and sold. One of the first recommendations in Cooking for Geeks (2010) is clearly for this type of stove, recommending adding a large baking stone permanently placed on the bottom rack as a heat diffuser to prevent the kind of "burned on the bottom but still undercooked" result typical of cheap stoves like ours. –  Theodore Murdock Mar 12 '12 at 12:54

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