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Kitchen Smarts: How to Assemble and Frost a Layer Cake

Have your cake and eat it too.
By Published June 17, 2019

Whether you are making a layer cake for a birthday party or holiday, or just to eat by yourself (we wouldn’t blame you), it is important that it comes out just the way you want it. There is nothing more frustrating than putting in all the effort to make the perfect cake, and then it doesn’t look the way you want it to.

Luckily, in this video, part of the Kitchen Smarts” series on America’s Test Kitchen’s YouTube channel, America’s Test Kitchen books team test cook Dan Cellucci shares some great tips for assembling and frosting a layer cake so you get a perfect result every time, with none of the frustration! Here are some of our findings:

  • Bake in batches: Splitting a cake into two layers can make a mess, and these often thin and uneven layers just won’t stand up straight when stacked. We recommend baking your layers in batches so there’s no cake-splitting necessary.
  • Anchor your cake: Nothing is more frustrating than trying to assemble a cake as it shifts and slides. The solution is simple and involves a couple dollops of frosting and a cardboard round. Watch the video for the step-by-step guide.
  • Layer with confidence: As you add each layer, put ¾ cup of frosting on top and using a small offset spatula, spread from the center and work your way out to ensure even distribution, repeating with each layer. Also, make sure your layers are completely cooled before frosting, otherwise you will be dealing with a melty mess.
  • The crumb coat is key: Adding a thin layer of frosting—called the crumb coat—on the sides of the cake, then refrigerating it before adding a final layer of frosting, will help clean up the sides of the cake and seal in any stray crumbs. It’s an important step in creating the most beautiful cake you’ve ever frosted.

Watch the Video

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What do you do to make your cake stand out? Let us know in the comments!