How to Bake Flat Cake Layers

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!!

How to Bake Flat Cake Layers

4.65 from 14 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serving Size: 12
Bake perfectly flat cake layers with an old towel! 


  • 1 old towel (but fluffy)
  • 4 safety pins
  • 1 batch of cake batter


  • Cut 3-inch wide strips that fit all the way around your cake pans. Make sure they fit around the cake pans! 
  • Soak the strips in water and squeeze out about half of the water from them. I like them to be very damp. 
  • Secure the wet towel strips around your prepared cake pans, pinning them using the safety pins. You'll want them to fit tightly. 
  • Add the cake batter to the pans and transfer to the oven and bake according to your recipe. 
Keywordbaking techniques, baking tips, diy baking, how to bake cake layers, perfect cake layers, technique baking
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  • Reply NicoleD May 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I love that you used an old (clean) towel and safety pins! I don’t think I could bring myself to buy those special cake wraps. Baking is magic for sure!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme May 2, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      No way! Waste of money. πŸ™‚

      • Reply Jessica January 3, 2014 at 7:48 pm

        Actually I saw the cake wraps at walmart today for under $4…so when ya think of it it’s less than a towel. Perhaps the ones that are under $4 don’t work so well though…I’ve never tried it. I unfortunately have cleaned out all my old towels and have given them to my hubby for rags….so where they went there’s no coming back lol!! I do think it’s an awesome idea though!!!!

      • Reply V March 29, 2019 at 7:07 pm

        No need to make those of us who DID buy the “special cake wraps” feel bad–I bought them long before I saw your idea, and don’t regret it. They don’t fit my 12 cake pan, though, so I am happy with both my “ready made” bake even strips, AND appreciative of your tip!

  • Reply Megan May 2, 2013 at 8:22 am

    I love this! I don’t have exceptional slicing skills and am always nervous I’ll cut the layers all wonky-like. Now I just need to get some safety pins! Love this. Thank you!

  • Reply Stacey May 2, 2013 at 7:50 am

    MAGIC. I’d never seen or heard this before, and I’m terrible at using a serrated knife to even out cake tops. I do love eating all of the cake top scraps, though!

  • Reply Marie @ Little Kitchie May 2, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Great tip!!! Need this more than you know!

  • Reply Danielle May 2, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Amazing! How clever. I certainly have plenty of old towels, but I’m glad you said not to use one that you’ve cleaned the bathroom with! That totally would have been me πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tip.

  • Reply Tina May 2, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Dude ur so genius! I’m so envious of ur baking skills!

  • Reply Tieghan May 2, 2013 at 5:42 am

    LOVE IT!! Such a cool trick!

  • Reply Sarah May 2, 2013 at 5:08 am

    That is a really great idea! And so easy too!

  • Reply Elisa @ Insalata di Sillabe May 2, 2013 at 4:27 am

    Oh my gosh, thanks so much for this helpful post! I was sooo in need of it!
    I’ll be trying out all your smart tips for sure!

    xo, Elisa

    • Reply A March 19, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      Is name calling over a waste of 1/4 cup of cake really necessary? Do you need a time out or maybe a nap?

  • Reply Sahar May 2, 2013 at 4:18 am

    What a great tip! I always struggle with getting my layer cakes even and slicing the domed top off doesnt work for me. I’m baking my mom’s birthday cake next week and i”m definitely tryng this!

    • Reply Mrs. Ruth May 4, 2013 at 5:38 am

      that’s a waste. for a flat top two layer cake, it’s much easier to put the the tops together..for one layer, just turn it over…

      • Reply Franne May 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

        Actually, it’s better than turning them over with the domed sides together. When you do that the sides don’t meet evenly and you have uneven distribution of icing between layers. This is a great tip. I mean, how hard is it to rip up an old towel and pin it around the cake tin???

        • Reply Frankie December 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

          Agree with you Franne, I can’t see anything wasteful about this at all Mrs. Ruth???

        • Reply aline March 6, 2019 at 3:32 pm

          Franne, is this gonna work using silicon cake pan?

      • Reply Evette August 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

        I tried that but the top layer splits in the middle and the sides don’t come together well. I have been using a cake leveler that works ok. I like this method better and will be using it.

      • Reply Bleben Kabob October 2, 2017 at 7:58 am

        You’re an idiot! You’re a waste ha ha!

      • Reply David Wallen September 28, 2018 at 5:04 pm

        goch you r smart….

  • Reply Hannah @ All-Purpose and Semi-Sweet May 2, 2013 at 4:03 am

    What a great idea!

  • Reply Averie @ Averie Cooks May 2, 2013 at 1:56 am

    They’re like fuzzy legwarmers for your cake pans. LOVE IT πŸ™‚

  • Reply foodnerd4life May 2, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Wow, never heard of this before! What a great tip! I’m making my bothers wedding cake so this is really going to help! Thanks

    FoodNerd x

  • Reply thecitygourmand May 2, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Wow, nice tip – hadn’t heard of that before!

  • Reply Belinda @themoonblushbaker May 2, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Ah!! this is the best trick I have seen for baking flat layer cakes. I often try not to over mix the batter or cream the butter and sugar too much; I find that makes them crack on the top.
    Totally pinned.

    • Reply NICOLE FREDRICKSON August 20, 2018 at 10:33 am

      Wait, do you butter the pan, THEN line them with parchment, THEN flour? So the butter isn’t touching the cake batter?

      • Reply Adrianna Adarme August 20, 2018 at 11:28 am

        I butter it, flour it and then place a round sheet of parchment on the bottom. πŸ™‚

        • Reply Closet Baker January 5, 2019 at 10:06 am

          Another easy option is to take paper towels, enough to go around the outside of the pan and get them wet, just like you did with your towels and fold them to about 2″ wide. Then wrap the moist paper towels in aluminum foil and then wrap the pan, again – just like you did with your towels, around the outside edge of the pan. Just crimp the ends by folding over several times. You can get about 4 or 5 bakes before you have to replace. I prefer this method because I don’t have anything laying around and it is very cheap. Good luck

        • Reply bunny May 2, 2019 at 1:17 pm

          3 stars
          All I do is place a parchment circle in the cake pan and spray the sides. No butter or flour needed, and my cakes always come right out of the pans.

          • Bong July 7, 2019 at 12:28 am

            5 stars
            What about top of the cake? Won’t it cook faster and get darker compare to the rest of the cake?

    • Reply bunny May 2, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      3 stars
      Another thing that helps bake a flat cake is to bake at 300 degrees. I’ve done this for 50 years, and my cakes never have domes. The lower temp gives the edges more time to back higher resulting in no dome in the middle. As a pastry chef, and Culinary School Instructor, this is one tip I give all my students.

      • Reply Mary May 18, 2019 at 1:58 pm

        Bunny so how long do u bake it for then. My large pan is 12×18 pan 40-45 min @325

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