Reader Erin writes:
I have a question about layer cakes. I am baking a three-layer cake, but I have only one pan. Is it bad to let the batter sit while each layer is in the oven? Or will the cakes turn out fine? The alternative is to divide the recipe into thirds, and only mix one third at a time, but that might be tricky.
Hey Erin! It’s a less-than-ideal situation, no question. However if the leavening is baking powder (versus baking soda) you’ll have a better chance of the last layer coming out alright. Double acting baking powder is called “double acting” for a reason. One action starts to kick in when the batter is moistened, the other doesn’t start to happen until the batter is heated.
That said, formulations have evolved such that even the “wet” action requires heat to release all of its gas. I’ve seen muffin batters keep for a week in a walk-in and still puff up nicely in the oven. So my suggestion is not to bother with three batters. Just do one and move the process along as promptly as you can. The last bake may not be quite as tall as the first, but you should still have three very usable layers.