How to Level and Torte Cake Layers

how to level and torte cake layers

Whether my cake layers come out of the oven with a domed top or a flat one, there’s one step I never miss once those cakes are cooled: torting the layers. Torting is a fancy word for leveling, and the process ensures that any domes get chopped off and any difference in height between layers is eliminated. Perfectly level layers not only make for the most picturesque cake slices, they also ensure that your cake is more level overall when frosted. In my humble opinion, it is a must

strawberry cake recipe by Sugar and Sparrow
funfetti cake layers by Sugar and Sparrow

There are two main methods for torting cakes: using a Cake Leveler or using a serrated knife. I prefer the Cake Leveler method because it’s ultra failproof, but if you don’t have one on hand, a serrated knife will work just fine. You just need to be a little more careful when it comes to making sure the end result is even. Here’s a quick video to show you both before I walk you through each method below: 

Side note before we move on: If you’re wanting to see more Cake Basics videos like this one, you should definitely check out my YouTube Channel and watch more of this series! You’ll even find cake recipes and decorating tutorials there to help broaden your skill set and inspire you. Be sure to hit the Subscribe button so you never miss a new video!

Method 1: Using a Cake Leveler

Like I mentioned before, the Cake Leveler is my preferred tool for torting cakes. These contraptions come with an adjustable wire or blade, so you can set it at whichever height you want your cake layers to be. I have been using this one by Wilton for over a decade now and love it, but there are other brands out there. 

Wilton Cake Leveler tutorial

The size I use accommodates cakes up to 10 inches in diameter. I rarely make cakes larger than that anymore, but if you do, I can also recommend this large Cake Leveler by Wilton. 

To torte your cakes with a cake leveler, simply line up the wire at the height you want to cut and lock it into the groove. 

how to use a cake leveler

Then, use a gentle sawing motion as you slide the wire through your cake layer, ensuring that the “feet” of the Cake Leveler remain flat on the table the entire time.

how to cut off domed top of cake

After that, remove the top of the cake that has been leveled off. 

how to trim cake layers to make them level

I usually end up snacking on the leveled off tops with a little bit of buttercream. Gotta make sure it still tastes good, right? 

Method 2: Using a Serrated Knife

If you don’t have a Cake Leveler on hand, you can always use a serrated bread knife to torte your layers. The serrated edge is perfect for slicing through cake. Since this method is a little more freehand, you’ll need to use a little more focus to ensure your layer ends up level. 

First, you’ll want to create some score marks around your cake at the height you want to level off. You can eyeball this part or use a ruler to make each layer exact. 

how to make cake layers even

Once your score marks are there, use a gentle sawing motion to level off the cake layer as close to your score marks as possible. Remove the top and continue torting until the layer looks perfectly level. 

how to torte cake layers with a knife

Whichever method you use, torting your cake layers will ensure that when you’re filling and frosting your cake, the end result is nice and level. It’s a must!

how to make cakes level

Want more Cake Basics? Head here to see all of the posts and learn the methods of caking I’ve come to love over the years. I’m cheering you on every step of the way!

8 Comments

  1. Thank you Whitney! I have both the Wilton leveler and the knife and I’ve used both. I usually use the knife on partially frozen layers. Great video and instructions!

    • Thanks so much, Paula! Isn’t the cake leveler awesome? I can’t believe how long I’ve had it (over ten years!).

  2. Hi Whitney! What is the measure of the way you use to make the cake from the photos used in this post? Do you have a favorite shape brand? Thanks in advance

  3. Hi Whitney! Do you ever use cake strips around the pans when baking? I baked a couple of your cakes using them but still found the the tops puffed up in the middle. I ended up buying the cake leveler you recommended and of course it’s perfect! But I still wondered what you thought about using baking strips, yay or nay?

    • Hi Adriana! I’ve actually never tried cake strips before but I hear they work! I’d say give them a try and see. I always just like to level off my cakes to make sure they’re super precise, so I don’t mind having a bit of a dome.

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