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

4.59 from 12 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 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

  • Reply 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!!

    • Reply 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. 🙂

  • Reply Ladyyybuggg January 27, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Would this work with rectangular pans as well?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 29, 2015 at 8:21 pm

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

  • Reply Jackie January 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Tried and failed!
    Any tips?

  • Reply 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

  • Reply JJ January 9, 2015 at 7:33 am

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

  • Reply Jason Sutton January 5, 2015 at 7:24 pm

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

    • Reply 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!

      • Reply 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.

  • Reply Anjana December 29, 2014 at 4:59 am

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

    • Reply 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!

  • Reply 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

    • Reply 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!

      • Reply 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!


  • Reply Joy November 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm

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

  • Reply 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

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme November 4, 2014 at 8:59 am

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

      • Reply priya November 4, 2014 at 3:52 pm

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

  • Reply 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.

    • Reply 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.

      • Reply 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.

        • Reply TexasBaker March 20, 2015 at 11:50 am

          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.

  • Reply Megan October 15, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Do you think this would work with springform pans?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme October 16, 2014 at 2:59 pm

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

      • Reply 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

        • Reply 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!

  • Reply 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..

    • Reply 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.

  • Reply 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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