Cake mixes are wonderful to use if you don't have the time or skill to make a cake from scratch. They come in endless varieties of flavors and can be whipped up in the time it takes your oven to preheat. Cake mixes are usually pre-made with just the right proportions of flour, sugar and leavening. But sometimes, it's nice to have your cake rise a little higher. Here are some tips to ensure maximum height and fluffiness.
Use an oven thermometer. The dial on your oven may read the right temperature, but ovens can vary in accuracy, especially as they age. Even slight discrepancies in temperature can change the way your cake turns out. Buy or borrow an oven thermometer and use it when you bake cakes. They are available in most stores that sell cooking supplies, and should cost between $10-20.
Fill the pan no more than half or two-thirds full. This will give the cake room to rise as high as it can. If your pan is more than two-thirds full, the cake will not rise to its full potential. If you want a perfect cake, use a slightly bigger pan that can contain the batter more easily. Or, simply keep some of the batter aside and make a cupcake or two.
Meringue powder. This powder is used in frosting and angelfood cakes to ensure lightness. It's made of dried egg whites and an emulsifier, such as cornstarch. Meringue powder may be difficult to obtain in some stores, but you can also use dried egg white powder or, if you can't eat either of these things, beaten egg whites. Add one tablespoon to your cake batter to make it rise as high as possible.
Use baking strips. If you've mixed the cake correctly (taking care not to overmix), it might be the consistency of the heat that's keeping it from rising to its full potential. These metal or silicon strips help cakes rise evenly, so the edges rise just as high as the center. Baking strips wrap around the outside of a round cake pan, keeping the temperature even throughout the pan. You can get them online or in cooking supply stores.