How to Bake Flat Cakes

Baking a flat cake is the dream of many decorators starting a cake business or for people wanting to create perfect cakes for their friends and family. No dome or funny shape. A perfect level cake is ideal. First of all, why would you want to bake a flat cake? Because it’s easier to ice and to achieve sharp edges. Also, if there is a dome on your cake, you will cut the top off to make it more manageable to ice and decorated. This ends up being a big waste at the end of the year. And what do you do with the cake cut offs? That’s right, you eat it! So having flat cakes can be beneficial for your waist too!
Today, I will share with you my 3 top tips to bake flat cakes. This is what I have learned from the past years in cake business. Before you read those tips, you need to know that my technic is called “baking in layers”. For example, I will bake 3 thinner layers of cake instead of baking 2 thicker cakes and cutting them horizontally before stacking them with icing or filling between.

1. Wrap your cake tins

To avoid the dome shape on your cake, the middle and the edge need to cook at a similar speed. This is hard as the edges are closer to the heat. Usually the edge of your cake will bake quicker than the middle so it will set quicker and won’t rise as much. To stop this from happening, you need to wrap your tin so the heat doesn’t affect the edge of your cake as much. Another benefit wrapping your cake tin is to get lighter coloured cake edge.
In my opinion, the best cake wraps (also called baking strips) are wet towels. You can make them yourself with towelling fabric and a sewing machine (see how we made our ones!). Then you use safety pins to attached them around the tin. Before putting your cake in the oven, you wet the towel strip with cold water, wring the excess water out and wrap it around your tin.

If you don’t feel like doing a bit of sewing, you can buy baking strips but I reckon they don’t work as well as the towels because they don’t absorb a lot of water and therefore don’t stop the heat as much. You can also make your own baking strips with wet paper towels or newspaper wrapped in aluminium foil. If you bake a lot of cakes, you will end up wasting a lot of paper and foil with this option. You would be better investing a bit of time and money in the towel strips.

2. Lower the temperature of the oven

The other important thing is to bake your cake at a lower temperature. Once again, this will help the edge of the cake to cook slower and avoid the dome. I like to bake my cakes in a fan-forced oven (convection). For the sponge batters, I bake at 160oC/320ofan-forced and for the mud cakes, at 140oC/285ofan-forced. If you don’t have a fan-forced oven, the temperature would be 180oC/350ofor sponge batter and 160oC/320ofor mud cakes. For the cooking times, if you bake in layers (see tip #3 below), it’s approximately 30 minutes for the sponge cake and 50-55 minutes for the mud cakes. Those time can vary depending on the oven and cake batter.

3. Put less cake batter in the tin

This is probably the most important tip of the lot. To get a level cake, you don’t want to have too much batter in the tin. This comes with another benefit, having even layers of cake when comes the time to you stack and fill your cake. No need to cut a taller cake in smaller layers. You save a step and it makes filling the cake less messy as there are no crumbs exposed. The only thing is you will need more than one cake tin of the same size if you don’t want to have 3 or 4 baking sessions for the cake layers (you can read this blog about how to bake several cakes in the oven at the same time).
Now the question is how much batter to put in the tin. This depends on the size of the tin obviously but also the consistency and density of the batter. You can follow this guide below. This will give you layers of approximately 1” (2.5cm) baked cake. To achieve a 4” (10 cm) tall cake, you will need 3 of those layers and filling between (buttercream or other).
If you want to use a scale and weigh your cake batter in the tin, I recommend checking the weight of one cup of your batter first. In general, one cup of my batters is 200g for the sponge cake and 250g for the mud cakes but this can change depending on your recipe. There is also some discrepancies depending on the brand of the cake tins. For example, I know that my 9” tin (which is a different brand to the other) requires a bit extra batter to get the layers thick enough.

Tin size
(diameter)

abc

Volume of batter to bake 1” layer

abc

Weight for Sponge Cake

abc

Weight for Mud Cake

6” / 15 cm

1 cup + 2 table spoons

225 g

280 g

7” / 18 cm

1 1/2 cup

300 g

375 g

8” / 20 cm

2 cups

400 g

500 g

9” / 23 cm

2 1/2 cups

500 g

625 g

10” / 25 cm

3 cups

600 g

750 g

11” / 28 cm

3 1/2 cups

700 g

875 g

12” / 30 cm

4 cups

800 g

1 kg

Those numbers can be really useful too when you are trying to work out how much cake batter you need to prepare. For example, if you want to bake a 2 tier sponge cake of 6” and 8”, each tier 4” tall, you will need : (225 g + 400 g) x 3 layers = 1875 g. If your recipe gives you 1kg of batter, then you know you will need to double the recipe (and you will have a little bit extra fro some cupcakes!). Don’t worry if you haven’t got the weight of your prepared cake batter, you can always estimate it by adding each of your ingredients (if you have them in cups instead of grams, check out this conversion chart).

Better baking comes with practice. Don’t get down if it doesn’t work perfectly the first time. Let us know how you went with our tips. We would love to hear from you!

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