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

4.62 from 13 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 Lyanne August 18, 2014 at 12:29 am

    Will this work on silicone? I’ve done this before on normal cake tins, but now that I have my own kitchen all my baking is silicone

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme August 18, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      I’m actually not sure if it’ll work with silicone. Sorry about that!

  • Reply taryn August 13, 2014 at 3:31 am

    this might sound like a stupid question but does this work for gas ovens as well??

  • Reply Amy August 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you for this awesome tip!
    I’ve just used this method on a 12in square cake and it’s come out perfect!
    So happy!
    You’re a lifesaver! :):):) x

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme August 6, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      YAY! So good to know that it can be used with that large of square pans. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Katrina Nolan July 30, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I am right in the middle of making cakes for a birthday party this weekend and out of parchment paper. All I have is wax. I dont suppose it would work the same?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme July 30, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      It really depends what temperature you’re baking your cake at. Most call for 325 or 350 degrees F. If it’s at those temperatures, you should be fine. Wax paper is an ok substitute for parchment UNLESS you’re baking at a super high temperature.

      • Reply Katrina Nolan July 30, 2014 at 12:57 pm

        awesome i will try it then! thank you πŸ™‚ and yes it calls for 350

  • Reply Kathy G July 28, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I don’t normally make comments on blogs, but I have to say THANK YOU!!! I have a carrot cake recipe that always domes in the middle. I end up with a much smaller cake after I slice the dome off of each layer, then trying to get icing on without crumbs is a challenge. I tried your method Friday night on my carrot cake baked in 3 Wilton 9 inch baking pans and it worked beautifully. The layers were perfectly level and evenly baked. What a breeze to finish it up with no fighting the crumbs in my white cream cheese icing!! The only thing I would say is be careful when you open the oven to check the cake–there was a massive cloud of steam from mine. I extended the baking time about 4 minutes, and it was beautiful and delicious! Thanks so much for sharing this great tip!!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme July 28, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Oh that’s amazing! So glad it worked out for you. And thank you for the feedback re: the steam and needing to bake it a tad bit longer—super helpful!

  • Reply Sandy July 22, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Do you know if this tip should work with stoneware pans? I have a set of Temptations bakers that I was planning to use to bake my daughters birthday cake with!!$uslarge$

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme July 22, 2014 at 10:34 am

      I doubt it. Ceramic is pretty hard to penetrate. I’ve actually never baked a cake in anything ceramic so it’s tough to know. Sorry I can’t be more help!

  • Reply Steve Roudebush July 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Just wanted to say that this works great! As an extra tip – I didn’t have any old towels large enough. However, I did have some old pairs of boxers with a stretchy wasteband. I simple cut off the wasteband with about an extra half-inch of cloth and used this to out around the rim of the baking pans. Thanks again!

  • Reply shareen July 15, 2014 at 3:32 am


    I tried this method last niight the cake shape was great but it took forever took and i used a flower nail as well but the centre was still wet. I cooked a 8 inch 3mm high cake should it take longer to bake.. How long would you bake an 8 inch 3 mm cake in gas oven. i have it at gas mark 4 for 70 mins but it was takinga lot longer if i kept it in the oven it would of burnt at the top….the bottom as done but a bit damp..

    Any tips

  • Reply Rebeca June 18, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Does it make a difference if the cake is gluten free? I just tried it with a gluten free cake mix and I followed the instructions on the box and it didn’t make a bit of difference, the cake still domed, in fact its the worst dome i’ve ever seen (not sure if its because its a gluten free cake).

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme June 19, 2014 at 8:49 am

      It might. When cakes dome it usually has to do with the structure of the cake. Cakes with higher protein amounts will dome more than ones with lower protein amounts, i.e, cakes made with cake flour or pastry flour. So this could’ve been the problem. I’m not sure what kind of flours are used in your gluten-free cake mix so it’s tough for me to know.

  • Reply Eileen June 15, 2014 at 3:19 am

    I can’t decide from the notes whether the towel strips will work for a 12X18 size pan? And should I use flower nails?

    • Reply Tammy July 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      The strips will work on any size or shape pan. No need to use both the flower nail and strips. I took cake classes and we were taught to use the wet strips

  • Reply Julie Quinn May 31, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    This is AWESOME! Just made an 11×15 cake with 2 box mixes for my daughter’s bday cake it an looks incredible. So even and beautiful. Thank you! Thank You!! THANK YOU!!!! So glad I googled how to bake a flat cake and found you!

  • Reply Yetty May 21, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    does this method also work for steaming cake?
    When you say lay the
    line the bottoms with a round of parchment and dust them with flour. So important.
    so means lay the paper first then only dust them with flour?
    Or we dust the flour on the paper before we lay them on the bottom?

  • Reply Emily May 13, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    This worked beautifully on a 13x9x2″ metal pan (nonstick, greased and floured). I baked at 350 degrees. The baking time was normal for this recipe (King Arthur Flour favorite fudge birthday cake). In response to other commenters’ questions: Cotton does not ignite until it gets over 400 degrees, so normal baking temperatures for cakes should be fine even if the towel dries out.

  • Reply tessa May 8, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    this worked amazing! Thank you for the tip!

  • Reply therese May 1, 2014 at 5:50 am

    Hi, I’ve just baked my first flourless chocolate cake in my favourite silicon mold. Though it tasted divine, it first domed, then cracked, then while cooling sunk. Not pretty. Will this wet towel method work for silicon molds?
    Also, my silicon mold has some sort of ‘legs’ extending outwards from the sides of the pan (I guess the product designer wanted to make it more stabilized and not be too wobbly), meaning the wet towel may not be completely touching the pan, any ideas?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme May 1, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Hmm…good question. I highly doubt towels would be able to penetrate silicon. I think you may have to just slice off the top of the cake with a serrated knife. Sorry about that!

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