Can you bake a cake in a Convection Oven?
Regardless of whether you have been baking for a long time, or have just have started, you probably have questions about convection baking – especially when it comes to baking cakes. Many people question if these convection ovens produce the desired result since the baked dishes could end up looking a bit different than when cooked in a regular oven, or the structure/taste could also be slightly different.
Convection Ovens explained
Convection ovens bake at about 25° hotter compared to regular ovens. This is because these ovens have a fan installed inside that effectively and evenly circulates hot air all around, browning the food much faster and better, making the dish well done or slightly overcooked.
Convection is indeed good for small pastries, pies, and cookies; however, many would say that convection is not the best choice for cakes. The batter for a cake is mostly fluffy, foamy or lighter than other batters, so the circulating air can change the dough and flatten out every air bubble; this can make the dough rise less, become shorter, flatter or denser.
For flat doughs that have to keep that dense flatness, convection would be a good choice, but if you have not used convection before and do not know how to use it properly, the end result could be an overcooked or hard, heavy cake instead of fluffy or light, crumbly structured dough.
Is convection good for baking?
Convection is the perfect cooking method for dishes like roasted veggies or fruits, chicken, breads, pizza, but especially for scones, cookies, or biscuits. However, the fan that is installed in the back of this oven has to be turned off if you are preparing a quick bread, wet muffin batter and more liquid batters (cupcakes, loafs, angel food), or layers and thin bread doughs.
Still, foods baked in a convection oven can sometimes retain more moisture, so the desired and needed crumb consistency will be altered. For example, the light structure of the Red Velvet Cake would be falling apart when baked in a convection oven, and in this case (for batters/doughs of this light, fluffy type), choose a regular oven bake instead.
How to use a convection oven for cake making?
For doughs and cakes, convection ovens have enough space for several cakes or a few batters divided inside. Another good thing is that the cake is always perfectly baked and browned equally from every side and angle, including center/middle as well. First, preheat the convection oven and reduce the temperature primarily by 25° degrees. For very large cakes, reduce it by 5° or 10° and start baking. For better heat circulation between two (or more) pans/trays, leave approximately 2” between the trays and do not cover the pans with aluminum foil.
Before you remove the cake, make sure to check it 10 minutes prior the time needed in the original recipe, as these ovens cook much faster than regular ovens. The interesting thing is that smaller cakes are done faster, while larger ones same or a bit longer than regular ovens, even with heat equally spreading. The dough can end up a bit dryer but the desired outcome would depend on which kind of batter you prepare, fluffy or dense, etc.
Baking doughs, pastries and dessert recipes with convection
You probably get frustrated when recipes flop and top layers in cakes are burnt, but moist on the inside. For these foods, you can choose between many types of bakeware, even glass; there is no need of special cookware. You can use non-stick, aluminum or glass dishes, the same as a regular oven. Do not use pots for a microwave because they will burn with convection heat. For using all racks, bake with the same bakeware and of same material and size to achieve even doneness. Also, skip using the cushion-air pans—they provide better results with regular/radiance ovens.
The temperature has to be lowered to bake dough evenly and still have mild and perfect browning with a well-done center. By lowering the temperature and checking 10 minutes before the recipe should be done, you can prevent cakes or doughs from burning on the top. In case the cake/dough still burns on the top layer, use aluminum foil, but limit this to rare occasions.
Another thing is that baking temperature depends on the dish or recipe. Breads and cookies dough are baked at 180-220° Celsius and brownie, cupcake or cake batters are baked at 140-160° Celsius. From experiences, the best cakes to try out in a convection oven are chocolate sponge cake, chocolate fudge cake, rocky road cake, coconut cake, chocolate chip cake, and similar. For even better results, always reduce the temperature, check the batter 5-10 minutes earlier and do not forget to check the user manual prior baking with a convection oven.
Convection ovens generally have two modes: convection and convection bake
The first one generates heat from the back and with the help of the fan for heat circulation. This would be ideal for doughs and batters like scones, cookies, puff pastries. The latter is perfect for denser doughs for bread, heavy batter (banana bread) or pies and cakes.
Overcoming the convection oven learning curve
If you are not accustomed to convection baking, there is a learning curve regarding temperature or time for baking changes—sometimes both at once. Regular ovens have radiance heat from the top and bottom surfaces; this means a regular oven has a concentrated heat mostly from top and bottom, and other spots inside would be colder. Convection ovens have equal distribution of heat in every spot, and this heat penetrates deeply in every food.
Use pans and trays with low sides or shallow depths, and as far as cookie sheets go, opt for rimless sheets. No need for rotation of trays or pans; the heat is perfectly dispersed.