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 Eileen Robinson April 25, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks! No, we did not all know how to do this already. Works like magic!
    I baked three very thick layers (made from two full cake mixes) and probably should have used a thicker towel that held a bit more water. Near the end of the baking time the towels started to dry out I did get some doming and cracking, but it was really very minimal.

  • Reply Julia Gowing April 24, 2015 at 8:10 am

    OMG, I was a bit sceptical about this method but I have to say it worked a treat. I saw it once on the TV but didn’t take much notice and then I came across your blog and wow, I’m so pleased with the results. I used a 10″ springform tin with no lining which leaked a little but this didn’t stop it from getting a decent rise. Thank you for your great tips, you’re a star!!! x

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme April 24, 2015 at 10:09 am

      YAYY! It always feels magical when this trick works.

  • Reply Janice April 3, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Hi there
    Greetings from rainy UK…
    I would like know if this flat cake trick with the towel works with fruit cakes …ie..currants/ raisins etc. as in Christmas cake…or is it just for sponge batter?

    Many thanks

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme April 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Hiii! Yes, it absolutely should. I wouldn’t see why it wouldn’t work with quick breads.

  • Reply Mandy March 30, 2015 at 2:48 am

    Any idea on how to apply this or any other method for cup cakes? πŸ™‚

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 30, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Oooo…hmm…I have no idea, sorry. I would actually try and find a recipe that bakes flat-top cupcakes. They do exist!

  • Reply Sheri March 22, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Hi Adrianna, any idea if it works for steamed cakes?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 22, 2015 at 9:32 am

      Oh I’ve never tried it with steamed cakes. Sorry I can’t give you more advice on those!

  • Reply Jim March 21, 2015 at 2:36 am

    Can you use moist paper towels ?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 21, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Nooooo! This is a fire waiting to happen.

      • Reply olaya April 6, 2015 at 5:24 am

        In fact you CAN use moist paper towels by wrapping them with aluminium foil before placing them around the baking pan, just use a bigger piece of aluminium than the baking pan to make it fit tight. That’s what I used to do and it works perfect!! and don’t be alarmed if you see at the beginning it blows up a little because of the steam, that’s normal!!

  • Reply David March 15, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    I’m new to baking cakes and I love it! I’ve always been the grillmeister. Is there a trick to keep from having a thick/thin, or lopsided, cake? No matter how I situate my pans, one always comes out a little crooked.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Hmm…I’m not sure I had that problem. I think making sure the batter is really even in the pan (before you bake it) might help!

  • Reply Mervet March 11, 2015 at 12:46 am

    Hi there,

    What setting would be the best to use in your oven to assist with this flat top?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 11, 2015 at 10:54 am

      You should follow your recipe exactly. Whatever temperature the oven is supposed to be set to is what you should use!

  • Reply Yvonne March 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Hi Adriannna , I’m attempting to make a birthday cake for my granddaughter, my cake tin measures 20cm x9cm + 15×7.5cm is it ok to apply this method to both tins? also you mention shacking tins to let the air out, I was led to believe the air made them light and fluffy? Please help…from a total novice.

    PS Please don’t let ‘Lily’ bother you.. you always get the ‘1’..if you know what I mean πŸ˜‰

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 10, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Yes absolutely! This will work. And yes, the air does make them light and fluffy but the leavening will create little air pockets in the cake. In order for the cake to bake evenly and flat you want to make sure the batter is super even to start. Does this make sense?

      And thanks for your sweet words! πŸ™‚

      • Reply Yvonne March 21, 2015 at 11:11 am

        Thank you for getting back to me Adrianna, ok here it goes, wish me luck! and your very welcome.

        • Reply Yvonne March 21, 2015 at 11:14 am

          PS Yes total sense Thank you

  • Reply Lily March 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    I am so tired of seeing these highly sophisticated and decorative blog sites and websites where the owner states things like “I am not a great baker”, or “I am not an advanced cake baker”, or “I am not really a baker”, but then proceeds to provide a full page or 2 or 4 or intricate and calculative instructions equal to an architect’s drawing plans on how to bake cakes. Although the directions are nice to have, it is a bit of a turn off when people severely down-play their talents, and then parade a plethora of super advanced recipes with construction plans included!!!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme March 10, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      HAHA. There is nothing “advanced” about putting wet towels around cake pans. Anyone can do it. I definitely don’t downplay the fact that I understand the rules of baking; that I do know, but compared to a cake baker who bakes cakes every single day, I definitely don’t come close to being able to construct and decorate a cake like them. But I do write recipes for a living so I absolutely understand the rules of baking and have a very thorough understanding of what each ingredient does in a baking recipe. Never tried to downplay that.

      • Reply sandy May 15, 2015 at 8:17 am

        Lily – if you don’t like it, don’t read it! Some people just look for anything to complain about! I enjoyed the tips and can’t wait to try it out!

  • Reply Ariel Pingault March 5, 2015 at 8:15 am

    So useful, can’t wait to give this a try! Thank you so much for sharing! This will save all of that risky carving with cakes in the future!

  • Reply Hala March 4, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    I had the change to use Wilton strips once.. to tell you the truth, i couldn’t see too much difference.
    As for the towels, even after damping in water, sure there is no risk of burning them?

    Thank you a lot for this tip.. have no idea it works with towels πŸ™‚

  • Reply Courtney February 15, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Does anyone know the recipe for this cake

  • Reply Matt February 15, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Hello! Is the issue just low air moisture inside the oven, or is there a benefit to specifically wrapping the towel onto the pan? If it’s a moisture issue, couldn’t you just add a small pot or pan with water in it?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme February 15, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      Nope. It actually slows down the baking. Cakes usually bake from the outside inward. This makes it so the cake bakes evenly.

  • Reply Mila February 14, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Baking an ombre layer cake today. This trick will definitely come in handy! Thank you!

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