6 Steps You Should Never, Ever Skip When Baking a Layer Cake

What seems like a simple shortcut can quickly turn into a disaster. Here are six steps you simply must do in order to create a beautiful layer cake.

Unrecognisable woman decorating a delicious layered sponge cake with icing cream. DIY, sequence, step by step, part of series.Photo: Shutterstock / ABO PHOTOGRAPHY

The temptation to cut corners when baking a layer cake is high. We get it—you want a lot of impact (but it’s a lot of work). But what seems like a simple shortcut here and there can quickly turn into a disaster. Here are some steps that you simply must do in order to create a beautiful layer cake, like this fluffy coconut cake.

Stuck on what kind of layer cake to bake? Try one of these swoon-worthy layered cakes.

1. Grease the cake pan

It would definitely be a baking nightmare if each layer in your triple-layer chocolate cake didn’t gently lift out of the pan and you were forced to resort to agitated punches of a butter knife to remove them. Rubbing coconut oil brings a nice sweetness to the cake, as does a pat of butter, and allows the cake to come out with ease.

2. Fully combine butter and sugar

Whether you’re using a hand mixer, stand mixer or your own wrist, make sure that the butter and sugar are smooth—not lumpy—when combined. A rule of thumb is to stop mixing when you glimpse a light, fluffy texture.

Does your recipe call for softened butter? Here’s how to get it room temp fast.

3. Cool the cake completely

The clock is ticking and you’re anxious to check this baking item off your to-do list and exit the kitchen. But if you frost while the cake is still warm, that frosting will slip right off.

4. Cut the tops off

You don’t want a domed cake, do you? Well, it’s likely the tops of each layer will not be entirely flat when they come out of the oven. You have to make them flat. Shave any bumps with a bread knife until the surface is even. Once you do that, the cake layers will sit evenly on top one another.

5. Frost a crumb coating

A baker’s trick is to do a thin, “crumb coat” layer of frosting first. The reason is that you want to trap those loose crumbs in the first layer of frosting and not have them show on the outside. An offset spatula makes this process easy—here’s our Test Kitchen’s favorite.

6. Add a garnish

Even if a recipe for a layer cake doesn’t call for it, make the presentation sparkle. In an age where not snapping a photo of your food is unheard of, you won’t regret it. Orange slices, fresh berries, chocolate shavings, flavored sugar or fresh herbs (especially mint leaves) easily do the trick. If you don’t have those on hand, use Mary Berry’s trick—just a dusting of powdered sugar can go a long way.

Get inspired by these decked-out desserts.
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Kristine Hansen
A former editor of a regional home and garden magazine, where she edited the entertaining section, Kristine writes for national travel, design and food outlets about culinary trends. Her book on Wisconsin cheese serves as a love letter to her adopted state of Wisconsin and she loves to travel in search of regional cultural foods.