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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Recipe Rating

  • Reply Olga March 20, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Bravo! What a great idea! Love this. I’m sure this is incredibly delicious!

  • Reply Alyssa March 19, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Adrianna, , what a gorgeous cake! Your directions make this seem like such an easy approach, too. I would love to make this soon!

  • Reply Emma Bellon February 14, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I hate cutting off the domes of cakes. I tried this recipe and they came out amazing!! Thank you so much for this tip!! Another thing I learnt is that if it’s a little domed you can press down slightly with a towel the moment it comes out. It’ll be hot but helps avoid cutting. Make sure not to make the middle sink as well.

  • Reply Rose January 24, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Just wondering, is it safe to put a tea towel and safety pins in the oven? (Sorry but I’m really confused)

  • Reply Lori August 23, 2018 at 7:30 am

    How do I keep large cakes from shrinking? The sides get all weird bc they shrank and it makes the icing really thick in some spots. Not good!!

  • Reply Michelle August 3, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Are you supposed to fold the towel lengthwise so it’s a doubled for each strip or is it just a single layer strip?

  • Reply Irene Carroll July 26, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Hi, did this. Found the cakes had to bake longer; sob sob, they weren’t that much flatter.
    Learnt this in the meantime – when cakes are taken from the oven, flip them out immediately, then tip them back again onto a different cake wire tray. Place a damp dishcloth over the cake and press lightly (with cake pan if you want, or with palms of your hand. Cake down goes down ever so slowly. Please try it and see if it works for you too.

  • Reply person June 11, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    won’t the towels burn in the oven?

  • Reply baked March 8, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    of course they are re usable Dave, they are cloth towel strips. I decided to secure mine with velcro. surprisingly the backing didn’t melt as I supposed it might do.

  • Reply Dave Goodchild October 28, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Hi Adrianna, I know I’m dragging you back to a 4yr old post, but I found this on my quest for flat cakes. I just tried baking a multilayered red velvet and every single layer is domed, because they are thin, slicing them just isn’t an option. Thanks for the tips and I’ll be sure to try this out. Quick Q, after each use, are the towels typically reusable?

  • Reply Tenale Reed October 5, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Thank you for sharing

  • Reply Bree July 25, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Ugh, so disappointed! I was really hoping this would make my layers perfect but they actually look worse and more lopsided than ever. 🙁 Not sure what I did wrong. Friend’s bday tomorrow and they’ll have to accept one ugly cake.

  • Reply Michael July 19, 2017 at 11:46 am

    This is a great trick that I’ve used for years. I do have a comment about why this works. It has less to do wth the moisture keeping the cakes flat and more to do with the fact that as cakes cook in the pan, the batter closest to the pan sides cooks faster than the batter at the center of the pan due to the heat of the pan itself. The batter at the sides sets rather quickly while the batter in the center sets more slowly and continues to rise, thus cause the dome. Placing the damp rags around the pan keeps the pan cooler so that the batter at edges and the center of the cake rises at the same rate. If cakes seem to take longer to cook using this method, you might want to check the calibration of your oven. It may be that your oven is is cooler than the dial Is indicating.

  • Reply Wendy June 6, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Do we have to moisten the towel ?
    Thanks, this one is really useful and awesome !

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme June 6, 2017 at 7:49 am

      Yep dampen the towel with water!

      • Reply Wendy August 10, 2017 at 5:26 am

        Thanks for replying ! I really enjoy and like your blog and will keep supporting it in the future :))

  • Reply Carolyn April 12, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Awesome…. it works ….love it so thank you for such a wonderful idea. I have NEVER HAD A SMOOTH TOP !!! Thank you so much !

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