How To Bake A Level Cake

filed under: Cakes on December 2, 2010

This is just a super quick and easy tutorial on how to have your cakes coming out of the oven level.

You can also level your cakes after they have been baked, a method that almost all bakers use, but this helps you get an even cake layer prior to baking.

The first thing you should so is start with a good recipe! If your recipe has the proper ration of baking powder and/or baking soda, you should have evenly distributed cake coming out of the oven.

Every time I make my favorite chocolate cake, it comes out perfectly. Its like Ina Garten knows how to cook or something.

Now, on to the baking!

Start with a clean pan. This is a six-inch pan I got from Walmart.

Use cold Cake Strips. That is simply strips of towel wrapped snuggly around the edges. Be sure to soak them in cold water first! Just wring out the excess water and wrap around your pan. You can secure with a pin or tie the towel in place.

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Those towel strips are just my cheap version of these Cake Strips.

Photo courtesy of Wilton

Mine are old. Tattered. Used. Loved.

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Now, get a solid layer of cooking spray in your pan. You can also use the butter and flour method, but that is slightly time-consuming and the new baking sprays work just as well.

You can also use homemade GOOP, which is nothing short of AWESOME.

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I try to make sure the sides are fully covered. This helps the cake break away from the sides more easily.

It can also be helpful to measure out your batter. I find that the easiest way to do this is to know how many cups of batter your recipes makes. For instance, my Perfect White Cake makes 4 cups of batter, so I know to add 2 cups to each pan.

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Now add your batter. I typically set my timer for five minutes less than the recipe suggests… this way I can monitor the cake closely in the final baking stages. Have a toothpick or small sharp knife on hand to test cake.

If there are cracks insert into the cracks, otherwise just insert into middle of cake. If it comes out clean or with one or two crumbs, you are good to go!

I once heard a famous baker say, “If you toothpick comes out clean your cake is over cooked and will be dry.”

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Here is the cake out of the oven. Slightly brown on top. Has pulled away from the sides.

And is totally level.

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I also own one of these handy dandy inventions.

Not every recipe is perfectly calibrated, and not every baker oven is perfect either.

You can also use a long, sharp serrated knife to cut off any dome or excess on your cake.

Those are just a few tips that have helped me, and I hope they can help you too.

And with any luck, you will get to see the final product of that rainbow speckled cake very soon!

UPDATED:

I recently learned that if your cake comes out domed, while it’s still hot from the oven (and in the pan), press it down your hand after covering it with a clean dishcloth or a paper towel.

Worked like a charm.

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Comments

  • Stacy says:

    Great tips! I am a new baker and I need help! How can I get my cake out of the pan without it sticking or falling apart? Please HELP!!!

  • Rachel Smith says:

    I’m pretty sure this post just changed my life.

  • Kim says:

    I will definitely try the towel strips! My mom always used plain, unwaxed dental floss to level her cakes!

  • liana says:

    How do you secure the towel strips? just tie them on, or do you secure them with a safety pin or something similar?

    • susie edwards says:

      Its easy, just tuck the ends in

  • R says:

    I learnt this tip a long while back. Before tossing the mix in the oven, swirl the mould/pan gently ensuring its all covered. Just gently tipping it around or sides (dependent on the mould used)

  • Ella says:

    Leveling Cakes-2 simple ‘tricks’ are ( A ) If it’s a two layers or more, flip the layers, so that the ‘uneven’ sides face eachother. And let the middle layer of frosting help even it out a bit. Because the ‘bottom’ of the Cake-that had been in the Pan- “is” coincidentally not only level, it’s also now on the top of the pan 😉 ( B ) If when you draw your baked good from the oven and find it’s risen OVER the edge of it’s baking pan-then you can use a long bread knive, and placing it carefully along the rim, as a guide, you can literally lop off the excess. If you bake frequently enough, you can put the excess into freezer bags & keep the cooked cakes for a bit, and use them when you need them for baking projects that need cake iceing. OR you can just mix up the flavors and let your kids pull out pieces whenever they want, to put into thier own ‘Cake Milkshakes’ as a special Summer Treat every once in a while. Or like if they suddenly mowed the lawn without being told. Lol.

  • Ani says:

    Thanks for such a great idea!

  • Mary C. says:

    How did I miss this post!? I am attempting the rose cake next weekend and will give the towel strip trick a try. Thanks 🙂

  • Jamie says:

    THANK YOU! Seriously, thank you. I’ve been making cakes for over 5 years and have always struggled with this. You’d think I’d be an expert by now. Like they say, you learn something new everyday. I’ve seen the Wilton things but have been reluctant to buy them. I’m very old-fashioned when it comes to making my cakes (everything from scratch, buttering and flouring the pan, etc). So your towel idea was just what I needed to maintain the air of grandmothers kitchen I strive for when I bake. I don’t like a lot of those new fangled gadgets that are so expensive considering the little things that they do. I must say I have tried, succeeded, and have this technique written down for my daughters when they get older. Thanks again from the top of my heart!

  • Judy says:

    Oh my!! I have just discovered your website… This may be a problem. I made a rainbow cake for my sons tenth birthday and I wrapped the pans in a cut up dish cloth… So amazing, perfectly level, stacked into 4 layers of a perfect cake! Thanks!

  • susie edwards says:

    I tried using the towels and they worked perfectly! Thank you so much for the info.

  • Julie says:

    Wow! This is like serious cake magic! Until now I thought cakes were supposed to be dome shaped 🙂 Not only is it level but it tastes much better because the outside isn’t over cooked. Thank you!!

  • Elda says:

    Hi

    How do you fasten the strips around the cake tins?

    Thanks

    Great blog

    • Amanda says:

      If you are using the towels, I just tied them in a knot. If you buy Wiltons’ strips they include fasteners. 🙂

  • Vickie says:

    Married 28 years and gave up on layer cakes. But tried this and it worked perfectly. Thanks for a great tip.

  • Sugary Flower says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!
    Honestly? I have never bothered trying to make my cakes come out of the oven level – I just figured Dome-Shaped was the right and proper shape for a cake. But I wanted to try today as I’m entering a cake into the Royal Show later this year (and domed tops are a no-no). So after I found your tip, I chopped up an old towel, fastened it around my cake tin with a safety pin, and it worked like a charm! Yay! I think I’ll be wasting a lot less cake from now on!

  • Kara Barber says:

    OMG!!! You have made me so happy. I thought I was the only one who couldn’t make a level cake. I just tried this, and my cakes are bea-u-t-ful. Thank you!

  • Lisa says:

    Just wanted to share my experience with a recent chocolate cake..well I think I did not allow sufficient time to cool or something..but the cake kind of started cracking in half and because I was short on time and had company due soon I actually just kind of stuffed the middle of the cake with icing and prayed it would all hold together and when my company arrived and took a look at my cake- they kind of lauged a bit because it looked like a big tragedy as far as cakes go (thankfully my company was family-so embarrassment was minimal!) and I told them it was my attempt at one of those Lava Cakes.. But oh my word- it was one of the best tasting cakes I have ever made…

  • miranda says:

    what is the purpose of the wet towels?

  • Jilly says:

    My late Grandmother and brilliant cook with extremes being no object to her. Would use her cooking paper, buttered and floured, the base and sides. She would always have extra paper up the sides of the tin by about 2″. All of her cakes were suitable for Government officials throughout Australia as that is the sort of person she would cater for. Her cakes were always flat, then maybe they had better cooking products in those days.

  • charlotte says:

    if my cakes are uneven i wait for them to cool so they arent hot and dont break. i turn them upside down and put the cake tin upright, ontop of the cake, this light weight ways it down and flattens it. its even handy to serve it upside down especially if your covering with buttercream, fondant or icing as its as smooth as a babies butt.

    the reason cakes can be uneven is they are not turned around during the cooking process, make sure u turn yours around 4 times during cooking, so turn it to 3 oclock, 6, 9 then back to 12.
    good luck

  • DJ says:

    You know, I was just discussing this very issue with a friend who also bakes cakes & has the same problem. When I make layer cakes I have to cut so much off to level it and then I end up eating those parts! No bueno!

    I have a theory as to why I think this method works: The wet towels (and Wilton strips) act as deflectors, or cooling methods to keep the metal sides from heating faster than the rest of the pan, preventing the batter at the sides from baking faster than the rest of the mass. What causes the “peaking” is the batter baking from the sides in, moving the liquid as it hardens and expands towards the center – the coolest area.

    Woohoooo! I am so happy you posted this information! I knew someone had a solution! Thank you so much!

  • Helena says:

    After I made a ring-mold cake which rose horribly unevenly, I found this tip and made a second one….and the cake rose perfectly level!!! (other changes for the second attempt – I reduced the heat in my oven by 10 degrees centrigrade from the recipe because I have a new oven which I am still figuring out…..and also popped the second cake on a lower shelf). Thanks!

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