How to Bake Flat Cake Layers

in DIY, How-To

How To Bake A Flat Cake

I’m not sure there will ever come a day when baking isn’t magical to me. I still get giddy when I turn on the oven light, peek through the glass to see biscuits doubling in size. Or when a waif of baking banana bread skips through the house and under my little nose. Baking is my magic.

I love the trust and faith we must have in a recipe, in the ratio and in the ingredients. We trust that those ingredients will interact, react and transform into something so beautifully delicious.

Having just whispered all those sweet words of nothing, I’ll admit I’m not really a cake-maker-type girl. I’m not sure if a single layered-cake even lives on this blog. I’m pretty sure it has everything to do with me being an impatient person and thinking cake decorating is a little tedious. But when I want cake inspo, I turn to Sara from Matchbox Kitchen. She makes some insanely pretty cakes. One thing I LOVE about her cakes is how they’re all perfectly cylinder. The tops are completely flat. Flat cake tops are all the rage in the cake world.

Cake layers usually dome on us, rising right in the center and then cracking. I think doming on a quick bread is beautiful. I love it. My friend and baker, Hourie, wouldn’t think to serve a quick bread that didn’t dome. Cakes are different, though. But not to worry because baking flat cake layers couldn’t be easier!

How To Bake A Flat Cake

Just like my last how-to, I’m a little insecure about this post. Do you know this already? Is this obvious?

You could take a serrated knife or this cake slicer thing (that looks like a gigantic cheese slicer) and lop off the top of the cake. I’ve done this before. But sort of annoying.

OR you could buy these even baking strips that go around your cake pans. But sort of a waste of money, especially since this method uses an old towel and a few safety pins.

To start, you want to cut strips that fit the sides of your cake pan.

Fun side note: Use an old CLEAN towel, not an old dirty towel. I almost ended up using one that I used to clean the bathroom with. I can’t imagine cleaning solutions on towel strips and in the oven with your cake is a good combo.

How To Bake A Flat Cake

Next, you want to dampen the towel strips and wring out any excess water.

Wrap them around the cake pans and secure them tightly with a few safety pins.

How To Bake A Flat Cake

Repeat that whole process with the second cake pan.

Oh and be sure to butter your cake pans, line the bottoms with a round of parchment and dust them with flour. So important.

How To Bake A Flat Cake

Add the cake batter to the pans and smack them down on the counter a few times. This will eliminate any air bubbles.

Put it in the oven and bake away.

How To Bake A Flat Cake

What’s happening here is that the moisture from towel is helping the cake bake more evenly, resulting in an even rise and a cake with a flat top.

When they come out, they’ll be perfectly flat. Ta-daaaaa!!

{ 226 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurie September 23, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I’m so excited to try this!!!!

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hueydude September 26, 2014 at 7:10 am

Happily, this technique works as advertised. All these years, all that wasted cake! These baking strips have been around forever. I guess i wasn’t paying attention.

BtW….I found it necessary to rotate my pans midway to cook evenly. Or it could be my old oven…

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Kelsea Knight September 26, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Thank you so much! It actually worked

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Michelle October 2, 2014 at 7:50 am

Thank you so much, it worked! I didn’t have any spare towels, so I tore a strip of fabric and folded it a couple of times.

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Cheryl October 3, 2014 at 2:48 am

Thank you so much for the towel tip, I makes loadsa cakes ,wish I’d known about it before.

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Jenny October 10, 2014 at 9:43 am

Thank you so much for sharing. My cakes are finally perfect. Give yourself some credit, I’m sure you make wonderful cakes. Bake away girlfriend.

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Ashley October 11, 2014 at 12:16 am

Would this work with a square glass pan? I’m in a bit of a hurry and don’t have any metal pans to work with at the moment..

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Adrianna Adarme October 11, 2014 at 9:43 am

I’m not completely sure. But my instinct is that the towel won’t be able to go through the glass. I highly doubt it’ll work with glass.

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Megan October 15, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Do you think this would work with springform pans?

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Adrianna Adarme October 16, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Umm…yes I do think it’ll work. It should!

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Laura May 29, 2015 at 6:37 pm

I love this idea, did it today with my spring form pans and I didn’t have to cut a bump off the top. Thank you

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Adrianna Adarme May 31, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Whoa! That’s cool, had no idea it’d work with a spring form. Good to know. Thanks for reporting back!

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Adele K. Raines November 2, 2014 at 9:20 am

I am in the process of making my own strips. Fortunately I had a large piece of material from a project I did many years ago. So I am making a set of three. (a just in case extra one)

Every site gives you the width and height of the cake pan. No one gives the circumference of the cake pans. So in making my own strips, I also need the circumference for both the 9″ and 8″ pans. Anyone know off the top of your head. Math is not my best subject. In fact not my subject at all.

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Jason November 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm

You just take the size of the pan (which is the diameter) and multiply by 3.2 (for the math inclined, that’s pi, rounded up to take into account the thickness of the pan material itsself).

In your case, they’d be 28.8″ and 25.5″ respectively.

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Jane March 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I thought the circumference of a circle is Pi R2 Which is Pi X the RADIUS (which is half of the diameter) squared.

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TexasBaker March 20, 2015 at 11:50 am

Jane,
You have the formula for the AREA of the circle. The circumference the distance around the circle (or perimeter). Jason’s formula is what you need.

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priya November 4, 2014 at 8:17 am

Hi wats the measurements of your cake pan. i didnt even get a flat top with my non stick one..tried a lot. Thinking of buying a new one.please do reply
Ardra

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Adrianna Adarme November 4, 2014 at 8:59 am

Mine was a 9-inch cake pan – but the size shouldn’t really matter.

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priya November 4, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Thank you. Is that a 20 x 9inch pan?

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Joy November 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Mysterious blogger lady, if this works I’ll live you forever. Seriously.

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Lydia Blais December 27, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Hi…I almost never bake..and I have heard of the towel trick although I have never done it..what I am wondering is in which order you butter, flour and put in the paper? I have never heard of putting the paper in the pan before…can’t imagine putting butter under the paper…or over the paper…and how would the flour stick to the bottom if the butter is under the paper? Confused…lol

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Adrianna Adarme December 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Hi Lydia, Here’s the order I grease my cake pans:

1. Rub softened butter all over the insides of the cake pan.
2. Cut rounds of parchment paper and fit them on the bottom of the pans (over the butter).
3. Dust the pans with about a tablespoon of flour and discard any leftover. (Not all recipes call for the flour addition. Check the recipe you’re using.)

Hope that helps!

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TexasBaker March 20, 2015 at 11:52 am

So I tried this once… sort of… I used non-stick pans and did NOT butter. That was a bad idea… The parchment slipped around too much when I poured the batter. I totally see the point of the butter now. I will try this again… with butter!

Thanks!!!

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Anjana December 29, 2014 at 4:59 am

Hy dear…i’m using a non stick cake pan ..is it necessary to spread the butter and flour inside the cake pan..??

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Adrianna Adarme December 30, 2014 at 9:04 pm

It depends more on your recipe. Is it a sticky cake batter? The recipe should tell you!

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Jason Sutton January 5, 2015 at 7:24 pm

Sounds intriguing. Would sweat bands work as well and be easier to fit?

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Adrianna Adarme January 6, 2015 at 9:37 am

Maybe? I’m honestly not sure. I feel like they might not be wide enough. But it could work!

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M Schmidt March 27, 2015 at 4:25 am

A sweat band has elastic in it. The rubber would probably melt and start making the kitchen and oven smell of burned rubber which could cause an off flavor in the cake.

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JJ January 9, 2015 at 7:33 am

It works for me, but the cake seems required longer baking time.

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crunchy mumma January 13, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for this, it worked a treat even when i didn’t tap the air out as I was cooking a sponge

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Jackie January 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Tried and failed!
Any tips?

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Ladyyybuggg January 27, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Would this work with rectangular pans as well?

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Adrianna Adarme January 29, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Sure! It should. Some people above in the comments had success with rectangular pans.

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MzRizz February 2, 2015 at 4:49 pm

What is the purpose of lining the pans with parchment paper? All of the recipes I’ve used just call for “oiling and flouring” the pans, which has always worked. Is it just to keep the cake from sticking to the pans or does it have something to do with the cakes rising? My cakes don’t stick, so I was just wondering if I should start using the paper or just stick to oiling and flouring. Thanks!!

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Adrianna Adarme February 2, 2015 at 7:45 pm

If you’re ok then don’t add that extra step–I always fear my cakes sticking so I take extra precautions. :)

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Fay Bradbury February 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Wonderful!! I have been baking for decades and did not know this little tip. Thanks for saving my cakes and sharing your ingenious tip

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Mila February 14, 2015 at 7:54 am

Baking an ombre layer cake today. This trick will definitely come in handy! Thank you!

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Matt February 15, 2015 at 1:18 am

Hello! Is the issue just low air moisture inside the oven, or is there a benefit to specifically wrapping the towel onto the pan? If it’s a moisture issue, couldn’t you just add a small pot or pan with water in it?

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Adrianna Adarme February 15, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Nope. It actually slows down the baking. Cakes usually bake from the outside inward. This makes it so the cake bakes evenly.

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Courtney February 15, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Does anyone know the recipe for this cake

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Hala March 4, 2015 at 11:58 pm

I had the change to use Wilton strips once.. to tell you the truth, i couldn’t see too much difference.
As for the towels, even after damping in water, sure there is no risk of burning them?

Thank you a lot for this tip.. have no idea it works with towels :)

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Adrianna Adarme March 5, 2015 at 9:32 am

If they’re damp, you should be good.

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Ariel Pingault March 5, 2015 at 8:15 am

So useful, can’t wait to give this a try! Thank you so much for sharing! This will save all of that risky carving with cakes in the future!

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Lily March 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I am so tired of seeing these highly sophisticated and decorative blog sites and websites where the owner states things like “I am not a great baker”, or “I am not an advanced cake baker”, or “I am not really a baker”, but then proceeds to provide a full page or 2 or 4 or intricate and calculative instructions equal to an architect’s drawing plans on how to bake cakes. Although the directions are nice to have, it is a bit of a turn off when people severely down-play their talents, and then parade a plethora of super advanced recipes with construction plans included!!!

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Adrianna Adarme March 10, 2015 at 12:06 pm

HAHA. There is nothing “advanced” about putting wet towels around cake pans. Anyone can do it. I definitely don’t downplay the fact that I understand the rules of baking; that I do know, but compared to a cake baker who bakes cakes every single day, I definitely don’t come close to being able to construct and decorate a cake like them. But I do write recipes for a living so I absolutely understand the rules of baking and have a very thorough understanding of what each ingredient does in a baking recipe. Never tried to downplay that.

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sandy May 15, 2015 at 8:17 am

Lily – if you don’t like it, don’t read it! Some people just look for anything to complain about! I enjoyed the tips and can’t wait to try it out!

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Yvonne March 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Hi Adriannna , I’m attempting to make a birthday cake for my granddaughter, my cake tin measures 20cm x9cm + 15×7.5cm is it ok to apply this method to both tins? also you mention shacking tins to let the air out, I was led to believe the air made them light and fluffy? Please help…from a total novice.

PS Please don’t let ‘Lily’ bother you.. you always get the ’1′..if you know what I mean ;)

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Adrianna Adarme March 10, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Yes absolutely! This will work. And yes, the air does make them light and fluffy but the leavening will create little air pockets in the cake. In order for the cake to bake evenly and flat you want to make sure the batter is super even to start. Does this make sense?

And thanks for your sweet words! :)

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Yvonne March 21, 2015 at 11:11 am

Thank you for getting back to me Adrianna, ok here it goes, wish me luck! and your very welcome.

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Yvonne March 21, 2015 at 11:14 am

PS Yes total sense Thank you

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Mervet March 11, 2015 at 12:46 am

Hi there,

What setting would be the best to use in your oven to assist with this flat top?

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Adrianna Adarme March 11, 2015 at 10:54 am

You should follow your recipe exactly. Whatever temperature the oven is supposed to be set to is what you should use!

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David March 15, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I’m new to baking cakes and I love it! I’ve always been the grillmeister. Is there a trick to keep from having a thick/thin, or lopsided, cake? No matter how I situate my pans, one always comes out a little crooked.

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Adrianna Adarme March 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Hmm…I’m not sure I had that problem. I think making sure the batter is really even in the pan (before you bake it) might help!

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Jim March 21, 2015 at 2:36 am

Can you use moist paper towels ?

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Adrianna Adarme March 21, 2015 at 10:35 am

Nooooo! This is a fire waiting to happen.

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olaya April 6, 2015 at 5:24 am

In fact you CAN use moist paper towels by wrapping them with aluminium foil before placing them around the baking pan, just use a bigger piece of aluminium than the baking pan to make it fit tight. That’s what I used to do and it works perfect!! and don’t be alarmed if you see at the beginning it blows up a little because of the steam, that’s normal!!

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Sheri March 22, 2015 at 6:31 am

Hi Adrianna, any idea if it works for steamed cakes?

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Adrianna Adarme March 22, 2015 at 9:32 am

Oh I’ve never tried it with steamed cakes. Sorry I can’t give you more advice on those!

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Mandy March 30, 2015 at 2:48 am

Any idea on how to apply this or any other method for cup cakes? :)

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Adrianna Adarme March 30, 2015 at 11:06 am

Oooo…hmm…I have no idea, sorry. I would actually try and find a recipe that bakes flat-top cupcakes. They do exist!

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Janice April 3, 2015 at 6:38 am

Hi there
Greetings from rainy UK…
I would like know if this flat cake trick with the towel works with fruit cakes …ie..currants/ raisins etc. as in Christmas cake…or is it just for sponge batter?

Many thanks
Jan

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Adrianna Adarme April 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Hiii! Yes, it absolutely should. I wouldn’t see why it wouldn’t work with quick breads.

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Julia Gowing April 24, 2015 at 8:10 am

Hi,
OMG, I was a bit sceptical about this method but I have to say it worked a treat. I saw it once on the TV but didn’t take much notice and then I came across your blog and wow, I’m so pleased with the results. I used a 10″ springform tin with no lining which leaked a little but this didn’t stop it from getting a decent rise. Thank you for your great tips, you’re a star!!! x

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Adrianna Adarme April 24, 2015 at 10:09 am

YAYY! It always feels magical when this trick works.

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Eileen Robinson April 25, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Thanks! No, we did not all know how to do this already. Works like magic!
I baked three very thick layers (made from two full cake mixes) and probably should have used a thicker towel that held a bit more water. Near the end of the baking time the towels started to dry out I did get some doming and cracking, but it was really very minimal.

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Rachel June 12, 2015 at 12:08 pm

I was kind of afraid that putting fabric in my oven would start a fire, but this worked like a charm! Thanks for the great tip!

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Adrianna Adarme June 12, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Oh great!

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Michelle June 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm

I’m so excited to try this! Is the towel that you used relatively thin? If not is it possible to double the towel so it ends up being thicker, or does that ruin the cake?

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Adrianna Adarme June 30, 2015 at 8:28 pm

I use a bath towel so it’s pretty thick! I’m not sure if it will help to double up a thinner towel. Perhaps? I haven’t tried it. If you do, please report back with the results!

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Valerie July 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Hi! I tried to step one time, and my cake came out underbaked. Do you think this method affects the cook time of the cake also? Should I leave it in longer since the wrap is making the cake cook slower??…

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Adrianna Adarme July 7, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Hmm..it might. I would say definitely keep it in there until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

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janet July 11, 2015 at 5:27 am

Never seen this before, What a wonderful idea, I have always looked at the ones you buy and they are soooo expensive. I have always wrapped a bit of card round the tin but it doesn’t work.
Looking forward to trying that on my next cake!!!
Thank you!!

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Linda July 24, 2015 at 4:44 am

I’ve just baked a rectangular sponge and this method worked perfectly. It took an extra 5 minutes baking. I’ve not heard of it before and am very grateful for your tip. Thank you.

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Adrianna Adarme July 26, 2015 at 9:27 am

Wonderful.

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Pearl July 26, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Hi I wanted to comment about this cake http://annezca.blogspot.ca/2014/12/how-to-ice-buttercream-ruffle-cake.html
but did not feel like going through the process of registering.

Perfection! Your touch is so delicate. Amazing work. Thank you for showing it to your readers.

Pearl

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