How to cut a cake into even layers (2023)

Baking Essentials

by Annalise August 4, 2015 (updated April 3, 2020)

If you’re looking to add a little extra pizzazz to a layer cake, more cake layers is a great way to do just that. More layers means a taller cake and more oohs and aahs from friends and family when you slice into it. While you can bake each layer individually, you might not have enough cake pans or oven space, so splitting cake layers in half horizontally is the way to go.

There are lots of suggestions out there for how todivide cake layers in half— you can buy a fancy tool, you can cut them in half with the help of toothpicks, and you can even use dental floss. However, this is my favorite method. It’s easy, accurate, and requires no fancy equipment.

What you’ll need

You’ll need a small paring knife and a large serrated knife. The layers you’d like to cut should be chilled, as a cold cake is much sturdier than a cake at room temperature. I like to bake my cake layers the day before and store them in the fridge.

Also, I alwaysuse this trick to bake my cakes with flat tops, but if your cake layers have a domed top you’ll need to remove them with a serrated knife before slicing the layers in half. And finally, I prefer to split cake layers that are 2 inches or more thick (tall). Thinner cake layers can be more difficult to work with.

Now that you’re ready, let’s get started!

Step 1

Use the paring knife to score the entire outside edge of the cake halfway up the side. Go slowly, get down at eye-level if necessary, and don’t cut toodeeply. This is simply serving as a marker.

Step 2

Take the serrated knife and cut through the cake along the indentation made with the paring knife. Again, go slowly to maintain accuracy, there’s no need to rush.

Step 3

Use the knife to lift the top layer off of the bottom layer. Your cake should be sturdy enough to lift easily without any buckling or crumbling, however if you’re working with a cake round larger than 8 or 9 inches or cake layers that are extremely thin, you may need to usea little extra care.

Use thedivided layers immediately to build a layer cake, or wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer (double-wrapped) for up to 1month.

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    20 Comments on “How to cut a cake into even layers”

  1. Erin R. Reply

    Yay! This is EXACTLY what I would do if I were trying to cut cake layers! I haven’t tried to do it yet, but my instinct was that I should trace the line first so I could be sure it was level all the way around. I’ve seen those fancy hacksaw things in the decorating aisle and thought, no, now they’re going past the problem and making it more complicated than it needs to be. Ooh, I’m glad you posted this. Next time I need to make a cake I’m going for it.

  2. Jessica M Reply

    Awesome! Thanks for the tutorial. Looks simple enough that I might not mess it up 🙂

  3. Karen @ The Food Charlatan Reply

    I totally need this Annalise! great tutorial. My cakes are always cut so uneven and then I have to use cake scraps to build it up on the leaning side, sh don’t tell!! 🙂

    • Annalise Reply

      Ha! Oh Karen, I’ve sooo been there. 🙂 You’ll have to let me know what you think if you give this method a go!

  4. Katrina Reply

    Fab tutorial, and the flat top trick. My birthday baking season is coming up, Sept – Jan, will be using your tricks to great effect. Thanks


  5. Connie Reply

    Thanks so much for this tip – easy, and no special tools required. I’ll be trying it out in a couple days on my next order for a layer cake with filling! Another little trick I learned from a YouTube video I watched: If your round cake has domed too much during baking, and if you want the cake to be the height of the pan you baked it in: First, let the cake cool (or even chill or freeze it), and then cut off the dome *while the cake’s still in the pan.* The cake pan edge can serve as a level to rest your knife on while cutting.

    • Annalise Reply

      This is such a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing, Connie! 🙂

  6. Lisa Reply

    Great tips! Thank you so kindly for sharing. I baked my cake last night & just put it in the fridge. I’ll be trying this out in a few hours. Thanks again! 🙂

  7. Carol Prewitt Reply

    First time to bake a cake with this recipe, and first time to split. Looking forward to splitting it in the morning after it being in the frig overnight. Thank you for all the tips!

  8. Criolla Reply

    I just made a chocolate cake from scratch, was able to find only 1 pan, this lesson is great, it is for the best son in the world, his birthday .

    • Annalise Reply

      Yes! This is exactly why I shared this tip, sometimes you don’t have enough pans! So happy to hear it worked out for you. 🙂

  9. Adriane Gilder Reply

    Thank you. Now I need to know what is good to substitute for marscapone cheese and peanut butter.

  10. Linda T Reply

    Most coconut cakes I see haves “Sheen” or shine on icing. Please tell me how to obtain this.

    • Annalise Reply

      Not sure, it must be a specific kind of frosting.

  11. Vixie Reply

    You mean “paring” knife. This did not work very well.

  12. Kay Reply

    Terrific tip thank you

  13. Sandra Stewart Reply

    Thank you so much for teaching me how to cut a cake in layers. I’m making 3 nine inch cakes. But I need 2 cakes of 3 layers. I have a large group to make this for and I don’t want to bake 2 separate cakes as it gets expensive. I hope this works. Thank you again.

  14. Julie Reply

    Thank you for the tip!! What do you recommend wrapping the cake up for other to freeze? Parchment, wax paper, foil, film??

    • Annalise Reply

      I always cover in plastic wrap.

  15. Kimberly Reply

    Next time I have great faith in this method 🙂 unfortunately my cake was entirely too dense this go around but it’s gonna be oh so very tasty. Lemon cake, lemon curd between the layers and frosted with lemon cream cheese frosting Yuuuuuuum have a great day and thank you very much for the technique

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