How to Bake Flat Cake Layers
No more trimming and leveling, and no fancy tools needed! Come learn how to easily bake flat, even cake layers every time.
Leveling cakes is super frustrating, right? First off, it’s hard to get it perfectly even without a fancy cake leveler tool, and secondly, you waste so much cake. I like snacking on trimmings as much as the next gal, but I like fuller, taller cakes more.
So how to I do it?
Table of Contents
- No special equipment needed!
- How to bake flat, even cake layers
No special equipment needed!
A lot of baking advice says to use cake strips to achieve flat cakes with no domes, but I’ve actually never used them. If you like them, then go ahead and use them!
But, let me show you how you can get the same results without
How to bake flat, even cake layers
Measure your cake batter
Flat, even cake layers begin with equal amounts of batter in each cake pan. The best way to do that is with a digital scale. I have a piece of tape on the bottom of my mixing bowl with its weight (so I don’t have to remember it). So all I have to do is place the bowl full of cake batter onto my scale and do a little math:
(total weight of bowl & batter) – (weight of bowl) / (# of cake pans) = (how much batter for each pan)
Then I pour that amount into each cake pan with the help of the kitchen scale. Add the cake pan to the scale, zero out the weight, and add the batter.
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can also find the total volume of the batter and divide it equally between the pans. However, this method can be less accurate (and dirties more dishes).
Reduce the baking temperature
Baking at a lower temperature slows the spring in the leavening, which prevents a dome from forming on your cake. Most cakes bake at 350°F. Reducing the temperature to 325°F is all you need to do to get a flat-topped cake.
Since you’ve lowered the oven temperature, your cake will now take a little longer to bake. Reducing oven temp by 25 degrees will require you to increase baking time by approximately 1/2. Here’s an example:
Bake at 350°F for 30 min → Bake at 325°F for 30 min + 15 min = 45 minutes total
I usually take a quick peek once I’ve reached the original baking time and then every 5 minutes after that just to be sure I don’t over bake it, but the adjustment above is usually pretty accurate.
Once the center of the cake(s) is set and don’t jiggle when pans are lightly shaken, test for doneness by gently tapping the center. If it bounces back, it’s done. You can also insert a toothpick into the center, and if it comes out with just a few moist crumbs, your cake is done. Note: Always remember that cakes are delicate, so minimize how often you open the oven door.
Bake in the middle rack only
For best results, cakes should always be baked in a single layer on an oven rack placed in the middle of the oven. Trying to bake cakes on multiple racks at the same time usually results in lopsided cakes, and cakes that have browned too much either on the tops or the bottoms.
If I’m baking more than 2 cake layers, I will bake the first 2 together on the same rack in the middle of the oven, and then any subsequent layers after those are out of the oven.
A kitchen scale makes things easy, but it’s not necessary. Simply measure the total volume of your batter and divide it by the number of cake pans you’re using/cake layers you’re baking.
If you don’t know the weight of the bowl, then you can’t subtract it from the batter to isolate the batter’s weight. Instead, put the cake pans individually on the zeroed out scale and add equal amounts of batter to each until you’ve run out of batter (I’ll start with 1lb (455 grams) of batter in each pan, then add a few more ounces to each, depending on how much batter I see left.)
Reducing the temperature to 325°F really slows down the baking process. The patience is worth it in the end! And once you’ve baked cakes this way a few times, it becomes much more natural, and you’ll be able to tell easily when the cakes are done.
Leave the oven door closed and check through the window to see that the cake appears set and is not longer moist on top. Then, quickly and carefully open the oven door and press gently with your finger. If it bounces back, then your cake is done! However, if you try to test a cake too soon, pressing the tops may cause it to collapse. If the cake appears to not actually be set once you open the oven door, quickly close it again and try again in a few minutes.
Yes, you can still bake cakes at 350°F or per your recipe’s instructions. The cakes will be evenly thick, but may have a domed top. Once cool, use a serrated knife to carefully cut the dome off.