What does it mean to level a cake? Well, cakes don’t magically bake flat. In general, they will puff up a bit around the center, making for something of a “dome”. Leveling the cake is the process of slicing the top off of the cake so that instead of a dome, it is a flat surface.
Why level a cake? Leveling a cake has a few purposes. First, the flat surface will make for easier stacking of layers--they won’t wobble when stacked. Second, it creates a more professional look, as well as an easier surface for decorating.
Ready to level a cake? Great. First, be patient--you’ll want to let a just-baked cake cool for about an hour before leveling. Trying to do that before the cake has “set” can lead to a messy result--crumbs everywhere and an uneven, jagged cut. Once your cake has cooled a bit, though, here are some options for methods.
Option One: Use a Serrated Knife. This is the most basic method of leveling a cake. First, place your cake on a board or flat surface, dome-side up. Move the knife back and forth in a gentle sawing motion to remove the crown. Some find that placing the cake on a cake stand and rotating while you cut is easier than keeping the cake static. Either way, try to keep the knife as level as possible as you cut.
Pros: Minimal equipment, easy to do.
Cons: Most possibility for leveling a cake unevenly if you don’t have a steady hand.
Option Two: Use a Cake Leveler. Place the cake on a cake board. Adjust the ends of the cutting wire to your desired height (there are notches along the sides). With the “legs” on the work surface, gently draw the cutting wire into the cake using a gentle sawing motion. Once it has passed the cake’s crust, gently pull the wire through the cake until it comes out on the other end; the dome should slice off nicely and evenly.
Pros: Easy to use, consistent results.
Cons: Clunky item to have in your kitchen; more expensive than a serrated knife, and it’s a single-use tool.
Now you’re fully prepared to make your cakes as beautiful and professional looking as they are delicious to eat!
Option Three: Use an Unexpected Tool. Too cheap to buy a cake leveler? Here’s a fun tip adapted from Bakers Royale: use a sewing hoop! These are readily available and quite inexpensive at craft supply or fabric stores. Simply place the hoop around the cake, adjust the knob so it fits snugly around the cake, with the hoop resting at the height you’d like to cut. Rest the serrated knife at the top edge of the hoop, and gently cut across the cake with a sawing motion. Use the top of the hoop to keep your cut level, keeping the tip of the knife visible on the opposite end of the hoop to keep the knife from angling down.
Pros: Inexpensive; easy; more consistent results than using a serrated knife alone.
Cons: The hoop can slip if you don’t put it on straight; also, you probably don’t want to use that hoop for sewing after you’ve used it on a cake!
Now you’re equipped with several methods of leveling your cakes. This will ensure that they look as great as they taste! For more tips on cake sculpting, check out the online Craftsy class Basic Cake Sculpting with Catherine Ruehle. You might also enjoy types of cakes. Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to discover tips for designing a cake.