Cake Pan Prep or How to Get a Flat Cake Layer


cake baked in panOne of the most frustrating aspects of baking is to spend time making a scratch cake, putting it into the oven and waiting for it to bake – only to have layers that are humpy in the center.  Of course, they can be trimmed flat but why not bake them that way to begin with?  In a professional bakery, trimming takes time and wastes money.

Traditionally, cake pans have been greased and floured or sprayed with a releasing agent.  And therein lies the problem.  When cake layers are baked, the edge bakes first as the heat takes time to travel to the center.  When pans are prepared in this traditional manner, the edges rise, and because the rest of the cake isn’t baked yet it can’t support the edges, so they slide back down the greased pan resulting in a humpy cake.  This assumes the recipe or formula being used is balanced.

By preparing the pans without greasing them, the cake edge will rise and then stick to the pan because they can’t slide down.  They wait there while the center catches up, resulting in a flat cake layer.  When I discovered this, we prepared all of the layers  this way including the largest layers of a wedding cake.  It saved us an enormous amount of time and we didn’t waste cake that had to be removed.

Simply spray the center only of the cake pan.  Cake pan unspraiyer

Cake pan sprayed

Line with parchment paper.parchment in

and spray only the center of the paper. Parchment sprayed Fill your cake pans as called for, bake and cool.  cake stuck to pan

Notice it is not only flat, it is stuck to the sides of the pan, as it should be.cake stuckk to pan

To release, use a small, flexible metal spatula flexible spatulaand go around the inside edge of the pan.  Spatula on pan sidesMake sure you keep the spatula to the edge of the pan and not the edge of the cake to avoid cutting the cake layer.

After releasing the cake, place a cardboard round over the top of the pan cardboard round on panand flip it over.  Pan turned overRemove the pan an pull back the parchment.pan off

parchment off

Cake Layer right side upThat’s all there is.  A simple but effective way to get flat cake layers.

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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8 thoughts on “Cake Pan Prep or How to Get a Flat Cake Layer

  1. Kim

    Helen, you are full of information! So thankful you are sharing it with us. I am putting this to the test soon. I do have a question about cakes from scratch. It seems like mine do not have a tender crumb but are too coarse for my liking. Should I be using cake flour or it there something else I’m doing wrong?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Kim: Gosh, there are so many things that can cause the coarse texture. It would help to see the recipe. How are you measuring the flour. Does the recipe specify a weight to the flour? Also, over beating could cause the problem. Is the cake made by the creaming method, dump (basically you just keep adding ingredients like the quick bread)or is it a foam cake (egg whites beaten and folded in (sponge, chiffon and some butter cakes). It could be the recipe – it might be out of balance. Does this happen with all your cakes? Are you using more modern recipes or older ones?

      I will be including cake recipes as we go along. Tomorrow is an Angel Food Cake that is ultra easy.

      Get back to me with some answers and we can try to narrow it down.

      1. Kim

        Thanks for responding. here is the recipe i used and yes, I do measure flour by spooning flour into the cup and leveling off with a knife (my high school teacher taught me that 25 years ago!) This cake calls for sprinkles in the batter but I didn’t use them.
        Homemade Funfetti Cake
        1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
        1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        1/4 teaspoon baking soda
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        3/4 cup sugar
        1/4 light brown sugar
        1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
        1 large egg
        1/4 cup yogurt (plain greek yogurt)
        3/4 cup milk
        1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
        …..mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in the sugars vigorously getting out any brown sugar lumps – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain……

        Read more from the source:


        1. hfletcher Post author

          Hi Kim:

          Looking at this quickly, it seems to lack enough leavening. The usual amount is 1 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour. This has 3/4 teaspoon total between the baking powder and baking soda. Also, anytime you use oil or butter melted, the cake is going to have a heavier texture than if it is creamed. Whisking by hand may help.

          I just went on and looked a the photos of the cake. I am assuming, by her comments that this is how she likes her cake. Did yours come out differently than hers? It looked fine to me as it was a single layer cake.

          My suggestion for a lighter cake is to find a different cake as this cake is not intended to be a really light, fluffy cake.

          Whatever you decide to do, do not change from all purpose to cake flour. If you do, you have to increase the cake flour to get th same volume which is easier to do if you weigh the ingredients. Also, if you read her “correct way” of measuring, she is a little under the norm. 1 cup of spooned and measure flour weighs 140 grams or 5 ounces. She is about 12 grams under per cup. Try sifting the flour into the measuring cup until it overflows, then sweeping it off. You may be closer to her measurement.


          1. Kim

            Great tips Helen. I will use your suggestions on my next attempt at making a cake. Thank you for your help.

  2. Debbie Wise

    This is an AMAZING revelation to me. I have been baking for over 40 yrs and had NEVER heard of this. I am going to do this w/ the next layer cake that I make. Thank you so VERY much for sharing this.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Debbie – thanks so much. I did this for over 20 years and teach it. Please let me know how it went for you. Excited to be able to help. All best – Helen

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