How to Line a Cake Tin and Make Baking Strips

How to make baking strips for cake tins

How do you feel about dry cakes? Yeah really, you don’t hear someone come back from a party and announce that they really enjoyed that lovely dry cake with crusty edges that needed to be washed down with a litre of electrolyte water. Ugh.

I’m hoping to get some more cake recipes up soon – specifically gluten free cakes that are suitable for cake decorating. And several of the gluten free cakes that I make are chocolate mud cakes, which require long, slow baking to create a lovely dense and moist cake with no nasty crusty edges.

Not long after I started baking mud cakes I read on the glorious internets about baking strips – which insulate the cake and prevent the outside from over-baking before the centre is set. You can buy ready-made baking strips, but these are quite narrow and are better suited to shallow cake tins. But if you make your own they are the perfect height for 3″ high cake tins, and can protect cakes that rise above the level of the tin.

The baking strips I use are made from aluminium foil and damp paper towels, but there are several different techniques, one of which is using strips of old towels (my friend Rachel has a picture of these on her Flickr page).

The foil-and-paper-towel strip is not a new technique by any means, and people have slightly different ways of making them. This is how I do it, and since I’ll be suggesting using these for my recipes, I thought I’d put together a tutorial with all the info in one place.

Another useful trick to prevent over-browning of a cake is to make a little foil ‘lid’ to protect the top of the cake. You can either use this right from the start of baking, and it will help your cake rise more evenly (and possibly prevent you from needing to level it) or you can slip it on later in baking if you check the cake and it looks like it’s getting a bit dark. I used to just place a flat piece of foil on top of the cake, but the fan in our oven would blow it off (usually landing right on the bottom of the oven, which then required tongs to fish it out without burning myself). Then I realised I could form the foil around the base of a cake pan, and make a perfect little foil hat to adorn the tin and protect the cake from the sun. Er, oven.

So I’ve rolled all of this into one tutorial, from quickly and easily lining your cake tin, making a foil lid and foil baking strips. Making the strips adds a little extra time to the baking process, but is so worth it to avoid trimming off half of your cake to get rid of the dry bits!

You’ll need:

Non-stick baking paper
Aluminium foil
Paper towels
Oil spray
A large knife
Metal clips


How to make Baking Strips ~ Supplies

(You’ll want to get your tin lined and baking strips made before you start mixing your cake batter.)

If you’re making a foil lid then do this first, before lining the tin. Take a square of foil plenty large enough to cover the tin and fold over each of the edges of the foil.

How to Make a Foil Lid for Cake Tin

Place it over the upturned cake tin and press down to form the foil over the tin.

How to Make a Foil Lid for Cake Tin

Remove the lid from the tin and set it aside for later. Or wear it so that the aliens can’t read your thoughts while you bake. Whatever floats your spaceship.

Now to line the tin…

Start by measuring out a piece of baking paper long enough to fit around the circumference of your tin. (Tip: If you are lining two tins that are different sizes, make the strip long enough to fit the larger tin, and when you split the paper into two then you can trim one piece down to fit the smaller tin.) Tear off another piece of baking paper big enough to fit the base of the tin.

Take the longer piece and fold it in half lengthwise. Run your fingernail along the fold. Slide the knife between the two sides and slide it along the fold to cut it. You’re basically just using the knife to split the paper along the fold. If you are only lining one tin then set aside the other length of paper for next time.

How to Line a Cake Tin ~ easily split baking paper in half lengthwise

Try not to cut yourself. And more importantly, try not to take too much notice of my scary pale zombie hands.

How to Line a Cake Tin ~ easily split baking paper in half lengthwise

Draw around the base of the tin onto the smaller piece of baking paper. Fold the circle into quarters. If you have trouble seeing the lines to line them up, try placing the paper onto a white or light coloured surface, the pencil lines should show up better. Cut along the line and unfold the circle.

How to Line a Cake Tin ~ cutting a circle to line the base

Spray the tin with oil.

How to Line a Cake Tin ~ spray the tin with oil

Place the long strip of baking paper into the tin and unroll it around the sides of the tin, adjusting it up or down as necessary.

How to Line a Cake Tin ~ lining the sides

Spray the overlapping end with oil to adhere it. Place the circle of baking paper on the bottom of the tin and smooth out any air bubbles.

How to Line a Cake Tin ~ Sweetness and Bite

To make the baking strips, tear off a piece of foil long enough to wrap around the tin with a 10cm or so overlap. Tear off (or cut) two strips of paper towel the same length.

Fold the foil in half lengthwise and then unfold.

How to Make Baking Strips ~ Foil and Paper Towels

Lay one strip of paper towel on top of the other and fold in half lengthwise. Roll or fold them up, then saturate the towels with water and squeeze them out very lightly, just until they no longer drip all over your bench and/or floor.

How to Make Baking Strips ~ Fold up the paper towels


How to Make Baking Strips ~ Saturated paper towels

Lay the towel along one side of the foil, and fold the other side of the foil over. Fold the edges in (trim or fold the paper towels if they stick out too far, you should be able to fold the foil over at least once.)

How to Make Baking Strips ~ Fold or trim paper towels


How to Make Baking Strips ~ Fold edges

Fold over the top edge of the foil, and then fold it over again to seal. We’re done folding now, promise. It’s not origami….

How to Make Baking Strips ~ Folded edges

Place the baking strip with that folded edge on the bottom and facing towards the tin, and wrap the strip around the tin.

How to Make Baking Strips ~Wrapping the tin

Pull the strip tight and secure in place with the metal clips. (Note: if you are lining a square tin the concept is basically the same, but you will need to crease the strips at the corners. Make sure you crease it all the way up above the tin – if your cake rises above the edge of the tin then the strip will help it keep its shape).

How to Make Baking Strips ~Clipping the strips in place


How to Make Baking Strips ~Clipping the strips in place

Run a finger around the top of the strip to smooth out any lumps and bumps. If your cake rises above the level of the tin then it may take on any odd shapes the strip makes.

How to Make Baking Strips

Snip the top edge of the strip in a few different spots around the tin, this lets a little of the steam out as the moisture in the paper towels evaporates and stops the strips from puffing out due to trapped steam, and distorting the top of your cake. Trust me on this one, it took me a few wiggly cakes to realise it.

How to Make Baking Strips ~ steam vents

Now you can make your cake batter and fill the tin. If using the foil lid then place this over the top just before putting the cake in the oven.

How to Make Baking Strips and Foil Lid

Ok, ok, it looks a little ridiculous, like the Tin Man is baking Dorothy a birthday cake, but I’m sure Dorothy hates dry cake almost as much as tornadoes and will appreciate the effort!

You can re-use the strips more than once, just carefully open up the foil and either re-wet the same paper towels or replace them with fresh ones.

If the strips dry out completely during cooking and start smelling burnt, then you can remove them before the cake is done – they will have done most of their job protecting the cake by the time they dry out. If you suspect the cake has a lot longer still to bake then you can put new strips on, or re-wet (or replace) the paper towels in the strips – just use oven mitts to remove the hot metal clips, and let the strips cool a bit before you handle them! (And the cake should go back in the oven while you refresh the strips).

I love these strips for my mud cakes, but I also use them when I’m baking rich fruit cakes for Christmas. Traditionalists would probably be completely horrified that I don’t line my fruit cake tins the ‘proper’ way with layers of brown paper or newspaper, but this way you can avoid that gawd-awful smell of burning newspaper. And really, who wants to smell that for three/four/five+ hours while a cake bakes?!

Just quietly, I much prefer to sniff the brandy…

As always, if you have any questions you know where to find me (hint: the comments below are a good place to start looking, I don’t camouflage well. It’s the ginger hair, I suspect.)


21 Comments on How to Line a Cake Tin and Make Baking Strips

  1. Suzette
    March 12, 2014 at 10:10 am (2 years ago)

    Awesome Natalie – great read and great advise. I love the tin hat – would this also stop say a lemon pound cake from getting a hard brown crust on top?

    • Natalie
      March 12, 2014 at 10:15 am (2 years ago)

      Hey Suzette, yes it sure would! I make a lemon sour cream cake and use the lid on it to stop it getting too dark. You can either put it on right from the start, which slows cooking a little bit but (depending on the recipe) it can make the cake rise mostly flat with not much dome, or you can just put the lid on later in cooking if you check the cake and it looks a bit brown but not cooked through yet.

  2. Lauren
    March 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm (2 years ago)

    Hello! Thank you so much for your tutorials. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them (I’ve read your three tutorials on butter cream stripes too) and you’re a pleasure a read and learn from. I can’t wait to try out the new techniques I’ve learned today. Thank you so much.
    Lauren Smith Xxx

    • Natalie
      March 25, 2014 at 10:28 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Lauren, you are so welcome and thank you for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment! :)

  3. Jenny
    April 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Nat….Such a fantastically detailed & entertaining tutorial as always…you are such a legend :)) I always use baking strips for mud cakes, but read your tutorials for the sheer pleasure of it! Thanks. Jen

    • Natalie
      April 11, 2014 at 10:55 pm (2 years ago)

      Aww thanks Jenny. I should really thank you, it was talking to you about gluten free cakes ages ago that made me want to share these recipes, and since I used baking strips I had to write this post, so it’s all filtered down from you! It just took me a while to get myself into gear ;) Hope you guys are well :) xx

  4. Sudhanshu
    May 23, 2014 at 11:41 pm (2 years ago)

    Could you please also show the paper lining method for muffins and cupcakes.. if dont want to use the ready liners and want to have those muffins big enough for areal bite..Appreciate the work you have uploaded here a real good read..

  5. David Henry
    August 15, 2014 at 3:48 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Natalie,
    Very, very informative and practical. Question: how high above the tin should the lining be?

    • Natalie
      August 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi David. I like the lining to be a good few inches higher than the top edge of the tin. It provides a bit of protection for the cake, and also gives it plenty of room to rise. I find by splitting the baking paper in half lengthwise it gives me the perfect height. The paper I buy is just a little under 12 inches wide, so when I split it each strip is about 6″.

  6. Natalie
    September 1, 2014 at 6:36 am (2 years ago)

    Hi – Brilliant tutorial thanks…it might be exactly what I am looking for?!

    If I use the liners will it stop my Victoria sponge from forming a thick hard crust on the outside? The actual sponge is great but you need steal teeth to bite through the biscuity crust :/

    I have been asked to make a baby shower cake next week but don’t want to choke anyone!

    My cake tin is 24cm and today it was in the oven (fan) at 180 for nearly and hour and a half. Your advice would be very much appreciated!


    • Natalie
      September 1, 2014 at 9:08 am (2 years ago)

      Hi Natalie. You could definitely try this out on your Victoria sponge. It will take a bit longer to cook, but the outsides will be protected from getting to dry.

      There are a couple of other things you could try too. If the sponge crust isn’t too dark and burnt looking, you can brush freshly boiled water onto the crust when the cake comes out of the oven, then cover it and leave it to cool. The moisture and steam should soften the crust.

      Another thing you could do is bake the cake a little higher than you need it, and just trim all of the crust off the top, bottom and sides, it’s a little more wasteful, but you will end up with a perfect slice of cake. I generally trim the crusts off the top to level it, and then trim the sides to make sure I get a nice even layer of butter cream or ganache around the cake.

  7. Anna Schmiclin
    November 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm (2 years ago)

    I would like to thank you for your knowledge on wrapping your cakes I will definitely try this it looks very interesting and I am definitely going to try your Gluten Free cake I’m so happy I found your website… Thank you again…

  8. Mariam
    December 1, 2014 at 9:55 pm (1 year ago)

    Excellent tutorial, I can’t wait to try it out. Thank you…

  9. Adrienne
    July 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm (10 months ago)

    I really enjoyed reading this tutorial (your sense of humour is a VERY nice touch). I have tried this method and now have cakes with no hard crusty bits. BUT, I now have the problem that my cakes are rising beautifully and then collapsing once they are out of the oven. I realise this will be because I need to increase the cooking time. Do you have any suggestions for how much longer the cooking time should be? If the original time is 1 hour 30min would you expect it should be an extra 30mins? Any suggestions most welcome.

    • Natalie
      July 22, 2015 at 3:11 pm (10 months ago)

      Hi Adrienne, yes the only downside of this method is the extended cooking time. I would suggest 30 minutes extra is a good starting point, check it and leave it longer obviously if it needs it. If you haven’t already, check out this post for some tips on checking if your cake is baked all the way through, since muds are notoriously hard to check for done-ness. And also it’s a good idea to take note of how much extra baking time your recipe needs, then you’ll know next time when you need to start checking it. Hope that helps :)

  10. Bobby Veeramany
    August 9, 2015 at 4:13 am (10 months ago)

    Hai. Your tutorial was so so helpful for a beginner like me. Just one question If I am.using a towel do I still need to put the paper liners inside and can I still cover my cake??

    • Natalie
      August 9, 2015 at 1:02 pm (10 months ago)

      Hi Bobby. If you’re using a towel yes you definitely do still need the paper inside, that’s what will stop your cake sticking to the pan. And yes you can still put the cover on top, as it will sit on top of the paper liner :)

  11. Kelly
    November 10, 2015 at 3:47 am (7 months ago)

    Omg where have I been as usual I turn up late to the party so glad I found your little piece of the Internet loving the tips!
    Happy blogging love Kelly xx

    • Natalie
      November 12, 2015 at 5:42 pm (7 months ago)

      Thanks Kelly! I’m always late to everything on the internet. But don’t worry, if I was giving out loot bags at this party, I would save you one ;)

  12. Rebekah
    March 2, 2016 at 3:44 am (3 months ago)

    Hi Natalie
    Thank you so much!
    What a helpful great read! You are funny too :) Bek

    • Natalie
      March 2, 2016 at 11:28 am (3 months ago)

      Thanks Bek, I’m really glad you enjoyed it! :)


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