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It’s time to assemble your cake like a pro!

You’ve already portioned out your batter and baked your cakes like a boss. But what do you do with them now that they’re out of the oven? That’s what you’re here to find out! So let’s give you some answers ASAP.

Kill your cake layers with kindness.

After your cakes come out of the oven, you should let them cool.

Ideally, you want to let your cakes cool in the pan for a while. Then, when it won’t crack your dessert or burn your hand, remove the cake from the pan and set them on a wire cooling rack. This way they can “air dry,” so to speak, until they’re room temperature.

That said, don’t let your layers sit on the counter endlessly. If you completely walk away and forget about them, they’ll get dried out. And you’ll be disappointed. To avoid this, you can put your cake layers in plastic containers until you’re ready to assemble your cake. Be it tomorrow, or the end of the week, your cakes will be ready when you are.

Now, when it comes to storage, you can leave the cakes on the counter for a day or two. But they’ll last way longer in the fridge. Especially if it’s super hot and humid in your house. Leave them too long in those conditions and your dessert becomes a science experiment. AKA moldy. (And moldy = bad.)

However, if you do save your cake layers in container for a couple of days, they could be sticky to the touch.

All this means is that your plastic container worked a little too well. Clearly, it was an overachiever. But there is such an easy fix: just let them air dry for a bit. Or, if they isn’t working, pop them in the fridge uncovered until they’re dry enough to handle. This works because your refrigerator is a dehumidifier and leaving food uncovered in the fridge dries it out. Normally that’s a bad thing- but not in this case. Once you can touch them or pick them up without the cake sticking to your fingertips, they’re ready to go.

You can also freeze your layers if you wrap them in plastic wrap.

This can be advantageous when it’s time to level your layers. (Which you’ll learn about in .5 seconds.) But, more importantly, it means you can bake your cake layers way ahead of time. Like, you could have homemade cake a month or more after you bake the layers! (The freeze time depends entirely on what recipe you made.) And when you want cake, simply thaw your cake layers and assemble your cake like normal.

How cool is that?! (No pun intended… But what a happy accident!)

Leveling cake layers.

The first step to building an amazing layered cakes is leveling. Now, depending on how your cake baked in the oven, you might be able to skip this step. You see, the goal of leveling your cake is to ensure that the entire top is flat. So if your cake is nice and flat on top, then your cake is good to go.

More likely though, your cake came out of the oven with a dome in the middle. So, to level your cake, you’d need to trim off the fat. (Can cakes be fat?🤔) The other possibility is that the sides of your cake are tall but the middle sank as it cooled. In this case, you’ll need to cut down the sides so all the heights match.

All this just to explain that you want to stack one flat surface on top of another flat surface!

Now, I know that sounds lame. But it’s actually a key factor in making a layered cake you can be proud of. If you don’t level your cake, it won’t be the end of the world. You’ll still have a really tasty layered cake. But your cake layers won’t fit together nicely and it won’t be nearly as pretty. Let me explain why.

Close your eyes and image you’re building your layered cake.

You didn’t level your layers and you’re just now setting down your second layer. This second layer bulges in the middle and you place it dome-first onto the frosted cake below. It doesn’t sit right, does it? The cake moves around like a spinning top or a seesaw! And, in order to fill in all the places where it doesn’t sit right, you’re gonna need a truck load of frosting.

You can open your eyes now.

But let’s follow this train of thought all the way to the station. Let’s say that you do exactly that. You make a gallon of frosting and you fill in everywhere the cakes don’t touch. Now, your cake is finished and looks gorgeous. Clearly you’ve proved me wrong and I never should have doubted your skills.

I do have one last request though. Before I admit defeat, I dare you to cut me a slice where I can’t see how your cake layers are oddly shaped and are actually 80% frosting. You see, as soon as you start serving slices, everyone will become privy to the inner workings of your cake.

Side elevations hide nothing.

Now that I’ve convinced you to level your cake, how do you do it?

Naturally, you have options.

You can actually buy a tool called a cake leveler. Which is essentially a piano wire strung between two rods on the side. To use it, simply adjust the height of the wire and draw the wire through the cake to behead anything you don’t want. You can also use this to cut one thick cake into multiple different layers. Which seems handy. But personally, I don’t own one. I’ve only ever used a serrated knife and prayer to level my cakes. Mostly because I’m cheap and I didn’t want to spend the money.

So- do you wanna know how I do it?

The first rule to using a serrate knife on cake is to never use it in a sawing motion. Never. Instead, hold the knife steady and just spin the cake around the knife. To begin, score a level line around the entire outside of your cake. Once you’re confident the line is level, slowly spin your cake so that your knife starts cutting about an inch into the cake. Then, gradually draw the knife deeper into the cake as you twirl the cake around.

Eventually, your knife will cut all the way through and you should have a perfectly level cake. Or, ya know, at least a mostly level cake. (And mostly level is good enough for me.)

Avengers assemble! Er, I mean, cake layers assemble!

It’s finally time to assemble your cake! This is the magic moment when all of your hard work pays off. Where all the effort you’ve made becomes worth it. Seriously, assembling a layered cake, is an accomplishment like no other. It just makes you feel so good about yourself… 👏 OMG, I’m so excited for you!

You’re going to be so proud of yourself! Ok. Enough chit chat. There will be no more delays to you feeling good about yourself.

When you’re working with cake, try not to pick it up and move it any more than necessary. Cake is delicate. And the more you handle it, the higher the risk of cracking. And cracks will make it really difficult to assemble your cake.

If you want, you can start building your cake on top of a cardboard cake circle. A cake circle is literally what it sounds like: a cardboard circle cut the same diameter as your cake that you build your layered cake on. You can buy them premade or make your own from a clean piece of cardboard. (And if you do DIY it, maybe add a sheet of parchment paper between the cake and the cardboard. Just to be extra sanitary.) But what’s nice about them is that they can give you a really sturdy foundation for your cake. Which is especially important if you want to move your cake.

Now, I know this sounds crazy, but it happens. Like if you decide assemble (and decorate) your cake on a turntable, but want to serve it on a cake pedestal. In this case, once you were done working on your cake, you’d have to pick up and transfer your mint condition cake from A to B. And having a strong surface supporting the bottom of your cake makes this way less stressful. Trust me.

That said, I’ve also made lots of cakes without cake circles. But I thought you should know they exist. And why.

When it comes to stacking your cake layers, there is no wrong way to do it.

However, I recommend that you face all the cut sides of your cake layers towards the inside of the cake. This way both the very bottom and the tippy top of the cake are baked-in-the-pan side to the outside world. Why? Mostly because cakes are naturally shy creatures, so they retreat into their exoskeleton when frightened. No, not really. The real answer has two parts. One: It creates a level base for your cake.

And two: It helps with the crumbs.

Crumbs have an irritating tendency to cling to your frosting. And once they’re on your frosting, they’re either totally visible or they get mixed in and make your frosting look lumpy. The worst part is, this is just going to happen. To a certain extent, crumbs are gonna crumb. But the parts of the cake that are cooked against the pan- aka the sides of the cake that don’t get leveled- are less crumby. So it’s much prettier if these crumbs are trapped on the inside of the cake. Not center stage on the outside of your cake- where, if it’s really bad, they can distract from your cool frosting design.

Now, the ideal work surface to assemble a layered cake is a turntable.

By building your cake on a rotating surface, you can easily make sure that your layers are lining up. And, when it comes time to frost, you can frost your entire cake without ever moving your feet. That way you can focus on what’s important- the decorating. Without having to stretch in order to reach to “other side” of the cake.

Up, Up and Away! It’s time to build your cake!

Start with the first cake layer.

Place it cut-side up on your work surface, then cover the cake with frosting. You can either spread or pipe the frosting on top of the cake- both work. Now, you’ll want to use roughly the same amount of frosting in between every layer. So keep track of how much frosting you use. (Although that’s only useful info if you’re making a cake taller than two layers.) Next, place the second layer on top of the frosting. If you’re only making a two layer cake, face the cut-side into the frosting. If it’s not a two layer cake, the cake layer can face either direction.

Be sure to make the second layer line up perfectly with cake underneath.

It’s very important that they’re perfectly aligned. And making adjusts is as easy as pushing or pulling the upper layer- not too forcefully- into place. There also shouldn’t be any gaps between the second cake and the frosting you set it onto. If there noticeable gaps, add more frosting to make that seam seamless.

Add any additional layers and repeat this process.

But before you place the last layer, flip it so that the cake faces cut-side downwards. This will leave the bottom of the cake facing the ceiling. Congratulations! You just assembled a layered cake! Way to go! Woo-hoo! 👏🎉🎈

From here, you frost.

I’ll get black hole deep on frosting a little later in the course, but there’s one thing I want to talk about quick. There’s this frosting technique that is only used on layered cakes. It’s called a crumb coat.

A crumb coat is a thin veneer of frosting that’s entire purpose is to catch crumbs. Remember how I said crumbs were unavoidable? Well, this is how experts avoid them- by trapping them in a thin layer of barely-there frosting. A good crumb coat is so thin that you can still see the cake layers through the frosting. The whole cake should only have a hint of frosting on it.

Now, if frosting isn’t all that important to you, you can make a naked cake. To make a naked cake, you literally just apply a crumb coat to your layered cake and call it finished. No fancy frosting or sprinkles. (Three guesses as to where the “naked” part comes from.)

But unless you’re making a naked cake, you’re not done here.

Personally, I like to apply my crumb coat (as best I can- I’m not the best at them) and then pop the entire cake in the freezer for an hour or two. Freezing helps solidify my cake into a single, unified object before I start frosting the outside of the cake. While this is optional, I find some form of chilling helps me significantly.

Aw, look at you! You’re all learned up and brimming with knowledge!

Ready to cram even more know-how to that brain of yours? Click the Next Lesson button to jump back to the main Layered Cakes lesson. Then it’s on to a brand new lesson!