Tutorial Tuesday: How to level a cake

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Lots of people ask me how I level my cakes. There are some fancy things you can buy that are supposed to do this job, but I’ve never had much luck with them. I’ll show you how I can level any size cake with just one bread knife. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a skill and takes some time. Don’t blame me if you wreck your cake! haha

Okay, so first, you’ll need a cake!
Like this one:
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Ok, it doesn’t have to be juuust like this one ;) But seriously, look how wonky this cake is!

You’re going to need a knife. A long serrated bread knife is best. Whatever knife you use, it MUST be serrated. And for goodness sake, let that cake cool first!

Now, you want to score the top. JUST SCORE IT, don’t cut any further than the highest post that is not domed. Does that make sense?
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See here? How I stop right at the edge? That’s as low as you want to score.

Now the other way, same thing. You’re scoring the dome top into four sections:
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Now, holding your knife steady as possible, you’re going to start on one section, Begin your cut right below where the dome stops being… domey. You want to get rid of that hard crusty part anyhow.
And then cut as straight as you can through that section.
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One down, three to go!
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Continue with the other sections, using the previous section as a guide for accuracy.
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Okay, you see how one section is raised higher there? You can see it in the center. It’s easy to spot.
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But don’t fret, it’s easy to just run the knife across that spot, hold your hand steady and shave that bit down.
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Ta-da!
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There you have it. A level cake. And some delicious leftovers…
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(That’s NOT waste… you eat that! or these scraps are great to save for cake pops or cake balls!)

Now, some explanation… yes, you can just do this in two sections. I’d rather do it in four though because when you make one long cut across the surface of the cake, you have a bigger chance of cutting up or down on an angle.
If I do a square cake, sometimes I might just do two sections. It’s easier to keep a level eye on something with corners ;)
I like this method because most cakes I bake are wider across than my knife is long. I can’t just slice the top off in one sweep.
Also, NEVER BE AFRAID. People are afraid to correctly level their cakes because OMGBBQTHATSHALFTHECAKE. But listen, that cake is only holding you back. You stack that thing with a dome top and you’re whole cake is going to fall apart. It’s gravity. I promise. It’s bad news. Plus, who wants to eat those crunchy burnt edges? Not I!
Final note: when you go to frost this thing, whether it’s being frosted just as one layer or stacked with another… your top- is now your bottom. Flip that thing over and frost the “bottom”… otherwise you’ll be trying to frost crumbly, unseared in cake! lol
It would fall apart on you. Just sayin.

Sorry for being MIA. Still trying to work stuff out with my health. If you haven’t got your health… well, you haven’t go anything <3
Happy decorating!
Summer

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sara
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 11:10:40

    Since I don’t really like cake, I probably never would have considered doing this, but it makes sense to level it and then flip it!

    I love the Princess Bride quote at the end.

    Reply

  2. Amanda
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 12:24:42

    This is fantastic. I love the colors of that cake. I always struggle with levelling and end up with a horridly awkward cake.

    Reply

  3. Eva
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 20:22:09

    Thank you! This makes so much sense and I’m definitely going to use it. Really appreciate you taking the time to do this, photograph it and post it. Thanks again x

    Reply

  4. Ronja
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 23:48:04

    OMG! This is why my last cake fell apart. I guess I was supposed to level and I didn’t know how, but now you showed my and I am not so scared to try it. But I do like the crunchy bits of cake…

    Reply

  5. lena
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 21:17:31

    been enjoying your post, especially the fondant rose post, i think it quite cute. when i look at this post I have to thank u for this…really make sense… I will try it on my next cake… Hope you are getting your health back SOON!

    Reply

    • gemcitytiffany
      Jun 26, 2011 @ 23:55:25

      Thanks so much! I’m glad to help, I’ve taught myself everything I know, so I know what it’s like to know there has to be an easier way to do something and not be able to find what I’m looking for online or anywhere!

      Reply

  6. Kimberley Hill
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 18:00:09

    HELP!! I’ve made a square 9″ madeira cake in the past which I followed as described by your post, the problem was that i cut the cake in half and added jam and buttercream filling and the iced the top with ready rollled icing and it was all bumpy and not very level. Any tips on how I can get the icing to be smooth and have a professional finish all over?

    Reply

    • gemcitytiffany
      Jun 27, 2011 @ 18:21:22

      Did you use the “bottom” of the cake as the top? I’m assuming ready rolled icing is fondant? Or something like it?

      You’ll want to ice the cake with a buttercream “crumb coat” first, which catches all the crumbs, as implied. I get a cup of very hot water and warm my spatula in it and then smooth the buttercream as much as I can with that. You want to use enough frosting that you can get a nice smooth layer on, but not so much that it’s sagging/dripping off the cake. If it’s too hard to spread or tearing your cake, you might want to thin it with a bit of milk or water. If it’s drippy or sloppy looking, maybe add more icing sugar. You want it to be able to be applied evenly…
      fondant will mirror any imperfections below it, like you described.

      Getting the cake level in the first place can be a hard thing to master, I didn’t always have success, it’s taken practice to get it right. The same for the icing process. It’s something I’ve done over and over and didn’t always feel comfortable with it right away. Hope this all makes sense and helps in anyway.

      I think I’ll soon do a post on how to smoothly ice a cake.

      Reply

  7. Trackback: Tutorial Tuesday: Simple Cake Frosting « Tiffany Loves Cake!
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    Jul 02, 2012 @ 10:36:51

    How did you do the rainbow cake? Did you just do zebra with a bunch of colors instead of two?

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