How to Build a Layer Cake

One of the most common emails I get is “Can you do a tutorial on how to make a layer cake?”

And while I am no expert, I would love to share the tips and tricks that I use!

 

This is the SUPER FAST and EASY version.

Use a good recipe.  This can be a box mix or your favorite homemade recipe.  You are looking for a cake the bakes up flat and even and moist and firm.  Easy right?

Just in case your cake does not bake evenly, have no fear!  You can simply level your cake.  There are three easy ways to do that:

Use leveler or a long serrated knife to skim off the top dome part of your cake.

If your cake has risen above the edges of your cake pan, you can rest the knife on the edges of the pan and use the pan as your guide.

As soon as your cake is done cooking, take a clean towel and lay it on top of your cake.  Press gently and evenly.  Tip: This only works if your cake is done cooking!  So make sure you test it.

Make sure all your layers are the same height.  

Neapolitan Cake

Chill your layers before assembly.  I find that working with a chilled or partially frozen cakes really helps.  There is nothing worse than trying to assemble a layer cake and having it fall into pieces in your hands.  And you totally know I am speaking from experience.

There are many methods to torting, or using frosting in between the layers of your cake.  I like to do what is easiest and whatever method requires as few tools as necessary. (Yes, you may call it what it is.  Lazy.)

I just decide before hand how thick I want my layer to be and then use an appropriate amount of frosting.  One half cup is a nice thin layer on an 8in cake,  but 1 cup of frosting is my go-to amount.  I like frosting.  Lots of it.

I typically use about a cup of frosting on a 6in as well as an 8in cake.  I dont recommend that.  You be normal and use less on that 6in cake, ok?

Place your first layer on your cake stand.  Put  frosting on it and use a small offset spatula to make frosting an even layer.

Place your next layer on top.  Some frosting should “spill out” the sides and that is ok.  Repeat this process;  frosting, layer of cake, frosting, layer of cake, until you have added all your layers.

When making a layer cake it is important to do a crumb coat.

A crumb coat is simply a thin layer of frosting applied to a cake.  The crumb coat is intended to seal in crumbs, hence the name, crumb coat.  I talk more about it here, or you can watch a video here.

Some frosting may have spilled out, or your layers may not be perfectly aligned, or maybe your cake is slightly lopsided.  Doing a crumb coat is a great opportunity to fill in any problem areas.

 

Want to see how this cake turned out?  It’s the New Years Eve Cake in my book, ‘surprise-inside cakes’

Use an offset spatula.  I put a dollop on top of the cake and then use the spatula to bring it down over the sides, making sure to get the frosting all the way to to bottom.

If you have a rotating cake stand, you can place your spatula flat against the cake and slowly turn the stand.  This will help smooth out the frosting and create an even coat.

Once your cake is covered in the crumb coat, I usually chill it.  I like the cake to settle and the frosting to set.

To decorate a cake, I start by putting a smooth layer of frosting on.  This is done the same way as the crumb coat.  Place a dollop on top of the cake and pull it down over the sides using an offset spatula.

To smooth out sides, make sure cake is covered in an even layer of frosting, then place spatula flat against side of cake.  Slowly turning cake, smooth out layer of frosting until you have polished, even coat.

This step takes practice, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t look perfect.  Just keep at it until you are comfortable with how your cake looks!

I have also placed my cake stand directly on a rotating stand, and this helps me when smoothing out the edges.

How to Frost a Cake!

In my new book, Surprise-Inside Cakes I share many MANY more details on this method.  I also share techniques on what to do if your cake domes, if it sinks in the middle, and how to do easy (no-fuss!) frosting decorating techniques.  Not to mention over 40 cakes with surprises inside!

Check out Surprise-Inside Cakes now! (It’s on sale for 93% off!)

 

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  1. Pam, in nC says

    I would tell you that THAT was just a silly question – but I actually met a woman a few weeks ago who is 50 and has NEVER baked a cake!! Amazing!! Yes, I’ve baked hundreds of layer cakes!!

  2. donna giblin says

    I love to make layer cakes. Love to take two layers and make them into 4. My go to cake is Hershey’s chocolate cake and Hershey’s chocolate frosting. So delicious and so easy! Thanks for the chance to win great tools.

  3. Linda says

    I have made a few layer cakes through the years, but I haven’t ever been really happy with the way they looked! I definitely have trouble getting my layers even and keeping the cake from being lopsided! I would love to figure out the process that would result in a great cake!

  4. Becca says

    I have made layer cakes before, but they haven’t come out perfect. I’d love to try using these tools!

  5. Linda Terry says

    I have made a few layer cakes, I am by no means a pro, still trying to get comfortable with making them, and I am still looking for tips in making layer cakes. I love the rose swirl cake, looks amazing!

  6. Ashley says

    I have made a German chocolate layer cake and a peanut butter cup layered cake with reese’s homemade whipped cream! Both the cakes were for my boyfriend’s 28th birthday. Made with tons of love.

  7. Rachael says

    @mizan. I’m not an expert by any means but with five 14″ layers I think you’re going to need internal supports. Especially if it is soft.

  8. says

    Hi — I was reading your site, and enjoy the cooking tips. I was looking at this one about layering cakes. I just take one cake mix, divide it equally between four eight-inch pans — and voilá — I have four layers. I just baked these layers this morning. They turned out pretty perfect. No cutting. It’s really easy. I baked two pans at a time for 18 minutes at 350 degrees (I left the second “batch” in for two extra minutes — they just seemed to need it). I do use whipping cream instead of water in the mix. I don’t know if this makes a difference or not. Also, I used disposable silver (Hefty?) pans. Those layers popped out perfectly after they cooled.

  9. Anne Marie Lussier says

    Thank you very much for your “Tips on the multi-layer” cake. My Best Friend and I always try to give one another “harder” things to bake for one another’s Birthday. She wants a white/chocolate multilayer cake with white frosting/Raspberry Preserves in each layer. Topping off with Raspberries … Oh boy – this is going to be fun. Thanks again for your help! Annie

  10. laura says

    I tried to make a layered cake with homemade fondant. I could have really used these tips…. Although it tasted amazing it didn’t look the prettiest.

  11. Racheal Nelson says

    Yes I’ve made many layer cakes, but I can never seem to get them the same size. I’m going to try today … on a snickerdoodle cake. Fingers Crossed … ;)

  12. Jenna S says

    I have made many layer cakes, but am just NOW getting into the “right” way to do them. I already have a list of tools that I need (most of which are on this list to win!), so this would help my foray into the cake world immensely!

    Mine usually taste good, but don’t look great. I want to learn how to make cakes that look AND taste great!

  13. lorrie says

    I have made a lot of layer cakes. Most of them I learned from my mother. She was an awesome baker and made everything look easy!

  14. Qwen says

    This is my greatest problem area, icing the cake. I can never get it to look nice and even. It will come out too much, not enough woop sided . I am going to try this and see if I can get it iced. I am tired of my naked cakes.

  15. Sharron osia says

    This Easter will be my very first time. I’ve found your information extremely helpful. Please wish me luck

  16. Asta says

    i have made quite a few of them ever since i was a kid and started with my mom doing those….but for serious fun on my own with my own kids i have made even a LOT more :D but mine have never turned out good enought but i say practice makes perfect so FINALLY this passed weekend i made my first perfect one :D I LOVE MAKING CAKES and even more i love to decorating them i can spend HOURS on it

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