This post includes step-by-step instructions and photos of how to create an insulated cake strip, which can be used to ensure you bake flat cake layers (or a crack-free cheesecake) every time!
While I am the first person to tell you that it does NOT matter what a cake looks like, so long as it tastes amazing… there is something to be said for a beautiful cake with nice flat layers. (Particularly at weddings, which is where this divine chocolate cake with fresh strawberry buttercream went.)
There are several techniques for getting flat cake layers, but my favorite is the insulated cake strip. It’s something that can be made using tin foil and paper towels, which everyone typically has around the house already. It doesn’t require any changes to the recipe. And it works for me. Every time.
Insulated Cake Strip FAQs
An insulated cake strip is a magic strip that helps you get a flat, evenly baked cake! Ever wondered how to stop a cake from doming? This is a great tool for exactly that.
Cakes typically dome, because the outer edges of the pan heat more quickly than the middle of the cake. The hotter pan sides make your cake batter cook and “set” more quickly, while the center of your cake continues to rise. By insulating the outer pan edges, the cake cooks more evenly and you get a flat cake top.
While you can buy or DIY insulated fabric baking strips, this quick insulated cake strip just uses foil and paper towels – which most people tend to have on hand.
There are several ways including: (1) using an insulated cake strip (my preferred method!); (2) using a recipe that produces a slightly more dense cake, as denser cakes (i.e., more fat) tend to bake more flat; or (3) inverting a metal “flower nail” (used for piping buttercream flowers) in the center of the cake.
Step-by-Step Instructions & Photo Tutorial
Lay out a long strip of aluminum foil that is is approximately 6″ longer than the circumference of your cake pan. (I.e., for a 9″ cake pan, lay out a piece of foil that is roughly 34″ long. )
Length of foil piece = 3.14 x (diameter of your cake pan) + 6
Tear off a strip of paper towels that is about 6″ shorter than your foil piece:
At this point, I usually tear my paper towel length into two pieces, so it’s easier to handle. Crumple your towels and run them under water. Give them a light squeeze. They should be thoroughly soaked, but not excessively dripping. Carefully uncrumple the damp towels and lay them out flat on top of the foil piece (centered between the two short ends):
Fold the damp paper towels in half, meeting the longer lengths together. (Hot dog fold if you remember your kindergarten clues.)
After folding in half, fold in thirds (again – hot dog style):
This strip of paper towels should be no taller than the sides of your cake pan. Move it to one edge of your foil piece:
Repeat the dampening and folding steps for all of your paper towels and lay out the long resulting strip at one long edge of the foil:
Fold the long edge of the tin foil up over the damp paper towel strip.
Continue folding the foil over the damp paper towel strip – and over itself – until you reach the opposite edge.
When you get to the far end, you should have a long foil strip that reaches all the way around your cake pan and is no taller than the sides of your cake pan.
At the edges of the foil strip, where there is no damp paper towel inside, slightly fold over the edges to make a point, as shown below. This will make it easier to tighten the wrap around the pan.
Wrap the outside of your cake pan with the insulated cake strip, bringing the pointed ends together to meet.
Twist the two ends together tightly, until the insulated cake strip doesn’t budge and is secured to the pan!
You can tuck the ends back closer to the pan so they don’t get in the way, but this is entirely up to you and not necessary.
THE FINAL STEP!
Fill the pan with your cake batter and bake as directed! The moisture has nowhere to go, so don’t worry about trying to “hurry” or anything like that. Make the strip and prep your pan before you mix your batter and it will be ready when you are!