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Convection vs. Non-Convection - What to Use When Baking Rose’s Cakes?
Posted: 19 January 2010 08:26 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I am a relatively new owner of an electric oven that has a setting for convection bake and regular bake.  In looking through any of my newer, baking cookbooks, no author, Rose included, has made any comments on what kind of oven was used to bake the featured recipe.  I just see “Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes”.  No additional explanation. 

I have not been happy with the results of some of the cakes I’ve baked since the purchase of the oven, but I can’t tell if any of the undesireable results have been due to using covection vs. non-convec, and when using convection, perhaps not using it correctly. (i.e., baking at suggested temp vs.a lower temp, baking for indicated period of time vs. a shorter period, etc.).

For the record, I always use a reliable oven thermometer and the oven heats pretty evenly.  I’ve read that some people feel that baking with convection creates a dryer cake. My oven mfg. recommends using convection bake for most baked goods. However, at times the layers come out more domed on one side than the other requiring me to cut the domes off. (I also use cake pan strips)

I would appreciate if anyone who has an oven that provides a convection/regular bake choice, would be so kind to let me know how they approach baking layer cakes, and Rose’s recipes in particular.  Thanks so much in advance….
Confused in the Kitchen

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Posted: 19 January 2010 08:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have an oven that allows you to choose between conventional bake/roast and convection bake/roast.

At home, I always choose conventional bake when I am making cakes, cheesecakes, etc. Mostly because I don’t trust the oven manufacturer’s claim that they automatically adjust if you go with the convection setting.

At work, all I have are convection ovens so I’ve learned for each oven/each recipe what I can set it to and how many times to rotate the cakes, etc.  The work ovens are professional convections with powerful fans (high and low, I always use low).  A convection oven is design to circulate the heat quickly so you can cook faster, which you want in a restaurant.  I know these ovens and which ones run hot, which ones run cool, and I’ve learned how to set each one at a different temp for what I’m making but it took a while to figure out their quirks

But if you have a choice, use the conventional setting.

Most cookbook authors presume a home cook is using a regular oven (not convection) and write recipes that way.  In the same way that microwaves vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, ovens also vary.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I almost always use the convection setting when baking. I also lower the heat by 25 degrees from what the recipe says. You need to get to know your oven’s quirks and figure out what works best for you.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks to both of you. However, as usual we have a difference of opinion (which is fine).  I guess my problem is that I don’t understand how convection baking works differently as compared to regular baking.  I thought with convection there is no need to turn pans.  That said, I never turned a pan while baking a layer cake for fear of losing heat and making the cake collapse.  Other than using those damp cake strips around the pans, what is causing the cake layers to dome?  Also do you have any suggetion how to tell whether a cake is baked perfectly and not over baked?  I know the toothpick in the center trick and looking for a springback on cake top method, but I think to I may be tending to overbaking my cakes for fear of underbaked. 

I would be very greatful for any information of these issues.
Yours in cake,
Jane

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Posted: 20 January 2010 08:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The short answer to how convection works is that a fan circulates the hot air around the oven.  Because the air is circulating, things will cook faster and you can use a lower temp than you would with radiant heat.

With radiant heat, the whole oven has heated air, but it is not moving with any kind of velocity so it is a more gentle heat, if you will.  With electric the heat is a little more constant, because with gas, the temp drops to a point where the thermostat kicks in and fires up the jets to heat the air.  That takes more time than with electric elements. 

When a cake bakes, it bakes from the sides inward - the sides set faster than the center.  Once the sides/top is set, there isn’t anywhere for things to go so they go up - hence cracking and doming on the top.  The magicake strips insulate the sides of the pan so the heat penetrates a little slower and more evenly and you don’t see the domed effect.  You can still overbake a cake that has the strips by forgetting it smile and letting it go a few minutes past it’s pull time.

Every oven has it’s little quirks and when you bake something that is reliable for you (that you’ve baked many times) you bake that in a new oven and see how it performs.  Sometimes it takes a while (depending on how much you bake) to find the hot spots or if your oven needs calibration or you need to set it higher or lower than the dial shows.

Even though my home oven is about 3 or so years old, the manufacturer says to use the same oven temp for baked goods when you use the convection bake setting - because it will auto adjust.  That makes no sense to me, and it means that I don’t really know what temp it is using so I’m not inviting trouble in to the kitchen by using that setting.  I can make enough mistakes on my own without any help, thank you very much!! wink  But when it comes to making a roast or a turkey, I am most definitely using the convection setting!!

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Posted: 20 January 2010 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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OH, thank you so much for the quick response. So I gather you bake your cakes using conventional heat.  Maybe I’ll go back and try that.  You know, on top of everything else is taking into consideration what the material/color your pans are….don’t you need to lower the temp for the dark non-stick pans?  Taking all this into consideration, temp/time is something you definately need to keep in consideration.  I still wish Rose and other cookbook authors would make some kind of statement about adjusting bake times/temps for all the different kind of ovens out there.
Thank you again.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think it is more important to get to know the particular quirks of your oven than to bake with or without convection. 

My oven actually bakes less evenly (i.e., it has a marked hotspot) using the “convect bake” option than with conventional baking, even though the opposite is supposed to be true.  And it still has a hotspot with conventional baking, it is just less marked and in a different spot. 

If your cake is doming on one side (not in the middle), you have a hotspot.  You can try turning the cake a little more than half way through baking, but it’s risky.  When I do this, I don’t pull out the oven rack or lift or remove the cake, I just reach in and turn the cake on its rack, then quickly (but very gently) close the door. 

If your cake is doming too much in the middle, even with cake strips, your oven is probably too hot.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Excellent advice, wasn’t aware of the hot spot issues.  Do you do anything temperature or time wise about the color of the pans?

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Posted: 20 January 2010 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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If you are baking in a glass pan (say, a pyrex casserole), the conventional wisdom is to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Same goes for very dark pans.

I agree with Jeanne and Julie that you have to get to know the quirks of your oven. When I bake a familiar recipe in a completely unfamiliar oven (say, a vacation rental house), I am astonished at how differently another oven can behave. I have to be extra-vigilant about watching what is happening as a cake or pie bakes, and make necessary adjustments along the way.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I never use convection when I’m baking at home, and I have a professional range.  I think there is a vast difference in the performance between a commercial convection oven, and a home convection oven.  I use convection for roasting, but I’ve found it just doesn’t perform well for my baked goods.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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When you put something in a conventional oven this is what happens. As heat transfers from the hot oven to the food a microscopic layer of cooler air develops around the food. This micro layer slows the transfer of heat to the food. A convection oven attempts to get around this effect by circulating the air in the oven. This disrupts the micro layer and makes sure that the full heat of the oven contacts the food. There are many different convection designs. Some ovens have a separate heating element associated with the fan some don’t. Some place the fan on the top of the oven. Some on the side or back. Most convection ovens have hot spots by design. The hot spot will be the direction the fan is blowing from.
Your uneven doming is probably because that side of the cake is closest to the convection fan. I always use conventional baking with a new recipe. For home baking the relatively short baking time of cakes 30-40 minutes makes the 30% speed advantage of convection a minor advantage. One little ‘trick’ I like to use with my oven is that I preheat the oven in convection mode. It is much faster and in my imagination I believe it heats the oven more thoroughly. I switch to conventional about 5 minutes before I bake the cake. As the others have pointed out an oven is an individualistic tool and there is a learning curve. Notes every time you bake are a great way to get ahead of the curve. smile

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Posted: 20 January 2010 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Oh yes, I use my convection feature to preheat the oven fast too.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Thanks so much to all of you, for baking cakes, I’m going back to regular bake mode.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 08:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Gene and Patrincia, I also used to use the convection function to preheat- makes perfect sense, no?  Then my convection heating element broke and the repairman told me it wasn’t designed for daily use!

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Posted: 23 January 2010 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I have two homes, each with a double oven. In one, only the top can cook with or without convection, the bottom is conventional only. I have found that my baking is quicker, and much more even in the convection, and use it almost daily for the 5 years we were there full time. It is now 8 years old, and although only gets used when we are staying there about 6 times a year, the convection still works and is accurate. In the second house, where I am most of the time now, I use convection in both ovens. I have never had a repair problem in either oven (this house is new). BUT saying that, I was in an interim home for 18 months, also with double ovens (a must for me), and had problems with that one. The repair man came and ‘readjusted’ the temperature, saying that ovens sometimes needed to be reset outside the factory setting, as these ovens were both running very cold. The convection didn’t matter in these, and for the 18 months I lived there, they never worked well. These ovens had the hot spots I see mentioned, would get extremely hot when the elements turned on, and then get 10 to 15 degrees colder before they would kick back on again, and the problems were never fixed.

I think it depends on your oven and how well the quality is (paying more does not mean better). I believe in time you will find what you become more comfortable with and what works with your baking. My experience with convection is “not all are created equal”. smile I would have sworn by them until my experience in the interim home, but those ovens prove, the most expensive ovens I have ever owned, some convection’s are just made poorly.

I believe you will find for your oven, it will have to be a trial and error process. I still prefer convection because of the quickness in preheating, and cooking, and in my choices now, the more even baking, but it is all subjective.

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Posted: 24 January 2010 04:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I have a similar experience as Montanamom. I have baked the same recipe, same size tin in both convection and regular modes, and on regular, the cake sets around the side too quickly, domes in the middle and I have lower baked volume. So I always use convection for cakes now.

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