How to Cut a Cake Into Layers

If you want to have a cake with multiple tiers, you will need to layer your cake. But the last thing you want to do is to botch the cutting job, ultimately destroying your cake or leaving it unimpressive. Luckily, cutting a cake into layers isn’t too tricky – as long as you have the correct technique.

To cut a cake into layers, start by cooling it entirely. Then, cut off the dome so you have a flat top. Use a ruler to measure where you want to cut the cake in half and insert toothpicks to guide your knife. Finally, saw around the perimeter before cutting the cake into two.

My name is Michelle, and I’ve been baking cakes in my home kitchen for the past ten years. I make all types of cakes, from ice cream birthday cakes to decadent chocolate cakes for upscale events. One request I often get is layers. That said, I’ve made plenty of layered cakes, and I’ve cracked the code for achieving the perfect cut.

Want to know how to cut a cake into layers? Follow my technique below!

4 Easy Steps to Cut a Cake Into Layers

Cutting a cake into layers can seem like a serious challenge. But I promise you, if you follow my method, you’ll have no trouble getting the perfect slice.

Before we get started, I highly recommend investing in a cake leveler. Cake levelers take all the guesswork out of cutting layers – so much so that you don’t even really need to use the technique below. For the price and convenience, there’s no reason not to buy one.

If you don’t have time to get a cake level or just don’t want one, don’t panic – you can still make a picture-perfect cut. Here’s how.

1. Allow the Cake to Cool Entirely

Trying to cut a warm cake in half is a recipe for disaster. It will crumble the moment you try to stick your knife into it, ensuring you’ll need to re-bake your cake. And nobody has time for that!

That said, allow your cake to cool entirely before attempting to cut it. 

Place it on a wire rack and allow it to cool for around two to three hours. You can also speed up the cooling process by pointing a fan at your cake. 

You can also wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge (one hour) or freezer (30 minutes).

2. Cut the Dome off of the Cake

After your cake is done chilling, set it on a flat surface. A cake turntable is an excellent option and will help you at every step of cutting and decorating.

From there, use a long serrated knife to remove the “dome.” You want the top of your cake to be completely flat. Use a gentle sawing motion to slice the dome off.

3. Measure and Insert Toothpicks Around the Cake

I know this might seem tedious. But it’s essential to the outcome of your cake layers.

Begin by using a ruler to measure the height of your cake. Then, decide where you’re going to cut the layer. For instance, a two-inch high cake is typically cut at the one-inch mark.

Insert a toothpick indicating where the cake will be cut. Continue to measure around the entirety of the cake, inserting toothpicks every few inches. These will act as a guide for your cut.

4. Saw Around the Cake and Cut it in Half

I don’t recommend grabbing your knife and cutting your cake in half in one go.

Instead, saw around the perimeter of your cake, paying close attention to where the toothpicks are located. Cut directly on top of the toothpick indentations. 

Once you’ve cut through the edges, you can gently see your cake in half. Place your hand on top of the cake for some added stability. Use your long knife or a cardboard round to separate the layers.

(Tip: Some people use dental floss to achieve this. However, as a former dental assistant, I simply can’t bring myself to use floss in my baked goods, even if they’re 100% clean and sanitary. You can certainly give it a try, though!)

Here’s a top-notch video showing how this is done (thanks, Matha Stewart):


Now that you know how easy it is to cut your cake into layers, you will want to layer all your homemade cakes. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Oh, but I have more to share with you – check out these frequently asked questions below!

Is it better to cut a cake hot or cold?

It is 100% better to cut a cake for layering when it’s cold or, at the very least, at room temperature. Chilled cake is easier to cut and will offer more consistent and beautiful results. Hot cake can tear or crumble entirely, so avoid cutting layers right after your cake comes out of the oven.

How do you cut a cake into layers with thread?

I don’t personally use this method, but many people do, and they do it successfully. The goal is to wrap the unscented dental floss around the entirety of the cake. Then, pull it in opposite directions so that it slices it in half.

Should you refrigerate cake before leveling it?

You don’t have to refrigerate a cake before leveling it, but it’s highly recommended. This will allow the cake to cool faster. It will also leave you with a chilled cake that’s far easier to cut. Just make sure the cake is wrapped tightly in plastic so it doesn’t dry out in the refrigerator.

Let’s Make Some Layered Cakes!

Although layered cakes seem intricate (and impressive), they’re not too tricky to accomplish. As long as you are strategic and careful with how and where to cut the cake in half, you can easily make a delicious and picturesque layered cake. 

Do you have any tips to share about layering a cake? Share them in the comment section below!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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