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The secret to a proper layer cake?

I can never get my layer cakes to look like the recipe pictures you find in cookbooks...mine end up uneven or too messy with crumbs getting in the frosting layer or something. Any advice for getting it just right?

asked by KatyM about 5 years ago
6 answers 1687 views
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added about 5 years ago

While everything Maedl says about professional food photography is true, professional bakers have their own tricks to make cakes look perfect too, like the "crumb coat" described. They also know how to use a cake turntable to create even layers. It's all part of the art of baking (as opposed to the science of the craft).

Take a look at the books published by Rose Levy Beranbaum for recipes and techniques.

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added about 5 years ago

Just a few days ago on Food52, there was a featured tutorial called Mastering Layer Cakes. In the search box on the home page, upper right hand corner, write in LAYER CAKE and choose FEATURE from the drop down menu. Sorry I can't copy the link on my phone.

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added about 5 years ago

I'm a home cook, and no professional... However, I do have a cake cutting device! It's a piece of shaped metal with notches up the sides, with a thin wire that runs across. You can choose the thickness to cut your cake on the notches, and then run the wire through the cake. It provides even layers, so you don't have to try and stack wonkily cut slices back together to make a straight/flat cake! It cost about a fiver ($7) and was well worth it! I also second the crumb coating... Thin coat, in the fridge for a bit to set, then do a proper layer of icing. I also find it helps to put plenty of frosting on, and then take it off, rather than find you haven't put enough on and then want to keep adding to a thin bit.

Also! If you don't already...Hot spatulas... A mug of hot water to leave it in, wipe on kitchen roll, and smooth!

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added about 5 years ago

Two things come to mind here. A "crumb coat" is essential - brush loose crumbs off as well... And insulated strips you apply to the pan before baking. They can be found in a cake decorating section of hobby/craft stores. They are silver strips/pads that you soak in water, wring out, then put around the perimeter of the pan before adding the batter and baking. The insulate the outer edges so it cooks slower and you have less of a center rise. The finished cake will be close to level! If it isn't, trim it down with a slicing knife before crumb coating.

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added about 5 years ago

All of the above, plus practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the more you'll learn, and the better your cakes will turn out.
I also rely on friends, family and neighbors, who are happy to sample and offer suggestions.

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