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If you cake is too domed, you can just cut the top off, right?

Thing is, I tried this, and now my cake is taller on one side than the other. So it's still not flat! ;-)

Does anybody have any good tips for keeping the cut level?

(I already know you need a knife long enough to go right through the cake. I have that. It's just difficult to cut in a straight line by hand.)

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before you throw away your sliced-on-bias cake or decide to not ice it because of the icing-runs-off problem, try putting something below the plate at the side where the cake is lower, so you can keep it level until the icing hardens. A coin (or a stack of coins in severe cases) should help. –  rumtscho Jul 18 '12 at 18:49
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6 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Mostly it comes down to practice. However there are some tips and tools that can make it a lot easier. If you have a cake stand (the kind that spins) then you set the cake on the stand and slowly turn it with one hand while cutting forward and back with the other (trying to keep the cutting hand as level as possible). Another option is to buy a cake leveler http://m.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=415-815 - if you make a lot of cakes it can be very handy.

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That product has been discontinued. –  Rob Oct 14 '12 at 12:23
    
They stuck a fancy handle on it so they could charge more m.wilton.com/store/site/… . You could probably make your own pretty easily with some wood and some wire. –  djmadscribbler Oct 15 '12 at 16:35
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I had always heard you could level a cake by taking a large length of dental floss, surround the cake at the level you need, pull tight till the floss goes all the way through. Then if it's not quite right, flip that sucker upside down (the bottom is completely level after all!). In the future, if it is just out of the oven, you can push down on the cake using your flat hand and a clean towel to help push any "dome" down. And, for the future, you might want to try baker's strips to get an even cake from the get-go.

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Dental floss? Now there's an interesting idea... –  MathematicalOrchid Jul 19 '12 at 10:57
    
"Flip it over, the bottom is level"? Are you serious? –  Beta Oct 13 '12 at 6:12
    
@Beta, yes. Totally serious. If right out of the oven, you can possibly get it even by just flipping it upside down. And if it has cooled somewhat and you have been trying to even out the top and it's not quite working, a combination of flipping it over to the even side (the bottom) and judicious icing can make many cakes look pretty good. –  huzzah Oct 15 '12 at 19:45
    
+1 for the dental floss trick. I've used that for years and works like a charm. Turning the cake over doesn't help unless you have a flat top to begin with. If it's a 2-layer cake, I usually floss both layers, then the bottom layer is bottom-side down and the top layer is bottom side up. Any open areas around the edges of the real tops of each layer are both in the middle and can easily be filled in with frosting. Yum. –  wootcat Jul 16 '13 at 14:13
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Turn it over, the bottom is level and once you turn it over the dome, now the bottom, will settle evenly.

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This sounds like a perfectly sensible idea, and is in fact what I initially did. But it doesn't seem to work; if the dome is not perfectly central, the entire cake will lean to one side. It's still flat, but it isn't level. –  MathematicalOrchid Jul 19 '12 at 10:56
    
I've found that this technique works best when it is PIPING HOT out of the oven. –  huzzah Oct 15 '12 at 19:48
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Alton Brown on the subject (from "The icing man commeth" Season 6 episode 15).

...in case the link goes down: His solution is to use a bow saw blade (or a long serrated knife) to cut and 2 yard pickets (or scrap pieces of wood) as a guide.

For what you would spend on all that, you can just get the cake leveler, but I do like the idea of using a guide of some sort.

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The OP already has a long enough knife; scraps of anything flat to use as a guide are pretty easy to come by. I had already been thinking you could do this just using a strip of wax paper or something wrapped around the cake; you can't rest the knife on it but it would let you at least see where to cut. –  Jefromi Jul 19 '12 at 0:34
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Here's the trick my mom taught me. If your cakes are tall enough that the entirety of the "domes" are higher than the sides of your pan, return the cakes to the pans after they've cooled completely and use the edge of your pan as a guide for trimming the domes using a long knife. This trick tends to work pretty well for me, however sometimes I need to make a double batch of batter to get my cakes tall enough, depending on the pan. I personally don't mind making the double batch since I use any excess batter for cupcakes and the cake scraps are my favorite part of the cake, but it may not be for everyone. Hope this helps!

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Here's an interesting idea; put the cake on a stand with the edge of the pan around it, if it's below the level, put something under the stand until its just right, then cut using the edge as a guide. –  BaffledCook Oct 13 '12 at 7:03
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Or cut a cake strip to the height you want your cake to be and wrap it around the domed cake as a guide. –  rumtscho Oct 13 '12 at 9:20
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Use toothpicks and a ruler to mark level points all around the cake by pushing the toothpicks about half the way in at the height you want. Then use a serrated knife and cut from toothpick to toothpick.

I cut my cakes into 4 1 inch cakes per stack to put filling between and ended up with 3 5" stacks total and they were all perfectly level.

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