The Pro Secrets to Keeping Layered Cakes Standing Tall

For the most impressive cakes, follow these easy steps that will teach you how to make cake layers even.

Tiered cakes are impressive. (Especially if it’s one of our lovely layered recipes!) It’s exciting to wow your friends with the final product, but the process can be stressful and leave you wondering if your cake will stack straight. Follow these tips on how to create level, even cake layers

Try a new mixing technique

The first tip for getting a level cake starts before ingredients are even in the mixer. To get a level cake, you’ll want to reverse the way you mix ingredients together. Taking a tip from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (1988), the reverse creaming method is the first step to layered perfection.

In this method dry ingredients (flour and sugar) are combined ffirst, then butter is added, followed by liquid ingredients (eggs and extracts). There is bonafide science behind why this method creates a more level cake but in the most basic terms: by eliminating the creaming of butter and sugar, there is less air captured in the cake batter and less rise and fall occurs while in the oven. Try it with this rainbow layered cake.

Give your tin a tap

Even the smallest adjustments can help you get a more even cake. Before you put your cake tins in the oven, give them a good tap on the counter to even out the batter. A few steady taps to each pan will help release extra air bubbles and level everything out.

Pro tip: Apply a gentle touch. Do not slam or slap them! If you’re too robust in your tapping efforts, the batter might splash or slosh around leaving you with an uneven cake.

Give your cake a pat

We just got done tapping the cake, but once it’s baked, it’s all about patting.

As soon as you take a cake out of the oven and it is still hot, place the pan on the countertop. Then place a kitchen towel or tea towel over the cake. Our favorite cleaning tool, a microfiber cloth, will work too!

Gently pat the center of the cake with a flat hand. Light, even pressure will start the leveling process of your cake dome, as it cools and sinks.

How to level a cake without a leveler

You may have seen “cake cutting wires” in specialty baking store or cookbooks, these tools are finicky and honestly take up more room in your drawer than they are worth. For cake leveling the best tool to reach for is your standard serrated bread knife.

Before you even consider slicing your cake, make sure it is completely room temperature throughout. No cheating! You don’t want to level a cake only to have it slump in the middle as it cools.

When you’re ready to level, start with your serrated knife at the edge of the cake dome, not the side of the cake. This way you are wasting as little cake as possible in the leveling process and your cake will stand taller and more impressive.

Your blade should be completely parallel with the countertop. Then slice about two inches into the cake dome. Remove the blade and turn the cake a quarter turn until you have sliced all the way around the cake. Once you’ve given a preliminary slice around the edge of the dome, you can take your bread knife and slice all the way through.

And don’t toss those scraps! You can use them to make cake pops (though we don’t blame you if you just snack on the extras instead).

Once your cake is rid of that dome, you can start to frost! What we love most about this technique is not only that it levels the cake, but by exposing a bit of the sponge, it allows some of that filling and frosting to really set in. Yum! Oh—and be sure you’re using the right buttercream!

With these tips, you’re ready to stack your cakes layers high!

Get started with these layered lovelies.
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Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.