I'm rather new here, more of a lurker. I did a search for this issue but didn't find it:
I haven't been overly impressed with the height of my 9" round cakes I've done recently, like they wouldn't rise enough or something. I only mix the batter exactly as directed on the box, so I don't think I mix it too long or not enough. Anyway, last night I used 2 boxes of cake mix, and filled the pans to just over 1/2 full. I also used baking strips around the outside of the pans. The cakes cooked well, but they cracked on the tops. Was this because I filled the pans too full? It's not a big deal, as I can trim the tops and still have plenty of height, but I've never had a cake crack before.
How do you achieve height on your cakes? I thought I read something somewhere a long time ago about using meringue powder in the batter, but I've never tried it.
In general all cake pans should be filled 2/3rds full.
Your problem could be that you are using 1 1/2" deep pans.
The fact that the cakes cracked was NOT due to the pans being too full of batter. Most likely it was due to too high of a heat. You should bake at 325 degrees F. It will bake slower, more evenly, and end up being a much moister cake. You will not get that hump in the middle.
If you use enough batter in the pan & bake in a slower oven the finished cake should reach the top of a 2" deep pan - and even just a bit over the top. Using the edges of the pan to run a knife across the cake for a perfectly level layer.
Meringue powder is dried egg whites, sugar, starch and a few unpronounceable things. It really doesn't do that much to help the cake rise better.
I always bake using one cake mix, 2 whole eggs, and 1 1/3 cup liquid (almost always water). Mix for 2 minutes and pour into a prepared pan; place in a pre-heated oven (300 degrees F). For a 9"x2" round pan it would take about 20 minutes - *then turn the heat up* to 325 for another 15-20 minutes. I do not use a heat core or flower nail nor wrap w/wet towels.
Ditto to everything the poster above said! I would highly suggest cooking at 325 for your next cake and see if the results are the same. Good luck!