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Kitchen Smarts: How to Assemble and Frost a Layer Cake

Have your cake and eat it too.

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.

The Perfect Cake

America’s Test Kitchen’s first all-cake book, The Perfect Cake, is the definitive guide to any cake you crave.  
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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

The Best Cake Stand

Winco Revolving Cake Decorating Stand

This stand is tall, providing excellent visibility and comfort. It rotates quickly and smoothly yet stops precisely where you ask it to.  
Buy on Amazon
The Best Offset Spatula

OXO Good Grips Bent Icing Knife

From handle to tip, this spatula is sized right. It’s sturdy but nimble, and helped testers make quick work of icing cakes with all types of frosting.  
Buy on Amazon
The Best Mini Offset Spatula

Wilton 9-inch Angled Spatula

This spatula offers great control when spreading batter or icing. It’s sleek, sturdy, and comfortable, and its blade (4½ inches in length) is just about flawless.  
Buy on Amazon
The Best Round Cake Pan

Nordic Ware Naturals Nonstick 9-Inch Round Cake Pan

Solidly built, with light gold nonstick coating, this pan produced tall, fluffy, level cakes. Layers shaped up perfectly, no matter how the pan was greased.  
Buy on Amazon
The Best Cake/Pie Server

OXO SteeL Pie Server

Our winning pie server felt “remarkably comfortable” and “balanced” in our hands, and testers liked its rubbery grip.  
Buy on Amazon

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

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