How to Bake a Level Cake {for cheap!}

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How to Bake a Level Cake with Wet Towels

This tip is not new or earth-shattering (I saw it over on the Taste of Home forums), but I can’t tell you how many years I baked cakes without knowing about it!    Of course, you can also buy these nifty pre-made strips, but since I’m a cheapskate… this is a solution that works for me!!

It’s a super easy {and cheap!} solution for baking cakes with level tops!!

Here’s what you need:

  • Baking  pan (this works for rounds and squares!)
  • Old towel(s)
  • Safety pins

First, you’re going to take your old towel and tear it into strips… I do mine about 4″ wide.

The length doesn’t really matter.  I have short ones (for small pans) and long ones (for large pans) and sometimes I end up pinning 2 together anyway, so it really doesn’t matter!

Then you’ll need to fold them in half length-wise.  This gives you 2 layers of fabric for more insulation.    Then wet your strips and wring them out.  You want them saturated, but not dripping.

Now… just wrap it around your pan and pin it.  Overlap is fine if your strip is too long!   PS.  I don’t have pics of this because I didn’t have enough hands to do it and take a pic at the same time.  But I have found it works best if you pin it up and down (the pin up and down) instead of side-to-side… it holds better!

Remember, if you’re trying to wrap a large pan, you may have to combine more than one strip.

Then fill your pan with batter… I usually fill mine just over halfway.  If you missed it last week… be sure to line your pan with parchment too!

Then bake as usual.  I generally lower the temp on my oven by about 25 degrees so the cake will bake a little slower and that also helps it bake evenly.

When you take it out… you get these gloriously level baked cakes…

Or from this angle..

Wondering if this works on a larger cake?  It absolutely does!  Here’s a huge 14″ square that I did a few months ago…

I also use a heating core for cakes larger than 10″ (that’s the gadget there on the right and why there’s a filled hole in the middle of the cake) but the wet towels combined with the heating core gave me a perfectly level cake!

Isn’t that amazing?

Baking with wet towels to get level cakes… Works for Me!!

Did I miss anything?  If you have questions about how to make this cake, please leave them in the comments!!

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  1. Kristen Miller says

    Hmmm…I love this technique! I even learned something. I haven’t been making 4″ strips and folding. Just doing a 2″. It works fine that way too but I imagine the pinning is easier with more layers too. :)

    • Rose says

      I do have some that are only 2″ wide and I use them when I have tons of baking to do, but I really like the wider ones better! Thanks, Kristen :)

  2. Terry Carter says

    I have never heard of this in my lifetime. Ok, I don’t make a lot of cakes, but I’ve watched people make cakes for years. Since I have some problems with fire in the kitchen, how concerned should I be that the rags will catch on fire? I’m a horrible cook.

    • Rose says

      LOL!! Too funny Terry! Well, I certainly won’t guarantee that they’d never catch on fire, but I’ve been doing this for 2 years and I can say it’s never happened to me!! Just thoroughly wet the towels and I don’t think you’ll have that problem!! =)

  3. Michelle says

    Hi Rose, Thanks for the tutorial on making leveled cakes. I have one question. We’re dipping the towel strips in what temp water? Hot? Or does it matter as long as it’s wet?

  4. Jeanne Zamutt says

    I’ve used the towel strips before but used wooden clothespins (the type that pinch together) to hold the strips together.

  5. Tasnim says

    Hi, I am sending a mail from South Africa :-) I love your site especially since I am also learning to bake from home – trial and error. Your tips help a lot. I have tried the towels and they work great except you must bake at least 15minutes longer otherwise the cake will sink in the middle. I also read that you can use a florist nail in the middle. Have not tried as yet. I don’t understand how the heating core works and where do you put it?

    • Rose says

      Yes, you do have to bake a bit longer. The heating nail simply heats up and distributes heat from the middle of the cake outward – therefore cooking it more evenly and faster. I always put them in the center.

  6. Paula says


    I love your site! I just caught the baking and decorating bug last month after making Elmo cupcakes for my daughter’s second birthday party. I’ve found your tips, recipes and tutorials extremeley helpful.You inspired me to make a pink ombre roses cake for my niece’s 16th birthday party, and my family was wowed. I’ll be trying buttercream ruffles this weekend. You make decorating cakes much less intimidating.

    I have a question that you may have already addressed somewhere else, but this is new to me. Would you please give instructions on how to use the heating core in a large cake?

    Thank you again for the tips and inspiration!

    • Rose says

      I place it in the center of the pan, spray it with non-stick cooking spray then put a little cake batter in it. Then I fill the pan around it as usual and bake as usual. When it’s done, you take the core out, pop out the cake inside and use it to fill the hole where the core was. Easy-peasy!

  7. Kate Storjohann says

    Oh Rose! Why didn’t I read this earlier!

    I cut my strips and used them for the first time yesterday and the cakes turned out perfectly flat! Thank you for sharing this amazing tip!!!!!!

    • Marcia Mayfield says

      Hi, Betty. Lining the bottom of a cake pan makes it a little easier to get your cake out when done baking. A little baking spray on the parchment paper, the paper will pull right off when the layer is removed from the pan.

  8. Marcia Mayfield says

    I have used this method for flat cakes for years, but with newspaper instead of towels. I take 2-3 sheets of newspaper, overlap and make a roll, then crease to the height i need. Wet the strip, fasten with a paperclip. Throw it away when done. Newspaper works just fine, but I am going to try with towel strips, those I could reuse.

  9. whitney jolivet says

    Oh wow, thank you for this tip, after baking my umpteeth domed cake that was all more dried shell than actual cake, i can’t wait to try again – i can’t believe how flat your cakes look – i just have to try it – thank you!!!

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