why does the top of my cakes get hard and "crusty" befor the middle is done? Is this typical?
Just a thought as I'm new to all this, but could it be that your oven is too hot, making the top cook before the middle is done?
That's what I was thinking so this morning I'm baking again but turning the temp down....looks good so far.
Purchase an oven thermometer. You can get them at Walmart. Also you may need to adjust your baking rack lower as well.
My top oven runs 25 degrees cooler than the set temp so I always have to set it higher than my bottom oven. Also watch the temp over time. If your oven is inconsistent you get weird baking patterns as well.
Yup your oven must be old because it sounds like the top (broiler) element is turning on and getting hotter than the bottom element. To keep the top nice and moist after the cake comes out of the oven either turn it over to cool with the pan still on it or take a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and cover the hot pan with it. All evaporation will stay inside the cake and not floating around in your kitchen and the top will stay moist.
Thanks for the great tips! The cake I baked this morning was much better. I think I overbaked the other one. Thanks so much for replying. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL