What Is a Crumb Coat and Why Do I Need One When I Frost My Cake?

The secret to a swoon-worthy cake starts with the very first layer of frosting. It's called a crumb coat, and can turn your cake's presentation from "meh" to "marvelous"!

A gorgeous homemade cake is a labor of love. From flour-dusting the pans to mixing, baking and cooling the cake itself, you’re already well into the second hour of prep before the best part even starts—frosting!

From the five types of buttercream to the fluffy cream cheese frosting atop this Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake, that most delicious finishing touch will look (and taste) all the better if you add a crumb coat first.

What Is a Crumb Coat?

It’s simply a thin layer of icing applied to seal the cake layers, trapping errant crumbs. It’s all too easy to jump right in with a generous dollop of frosting, but skipping the crumb coat isn’t recommended.

Anyone who has ever botched a frosting job can relate! Armed with a bowl of beautiful icing, you start to work on the dessert your cake stand was made for. A few overly enthusiastic icing attempts later and it’s a crumbly, bumpy mess. The more you try to smooth over it, the worse it looks—not to mention how much frosting you’ve used in the process, with a whole lot of cake left to cover. It’s a baking frustration easily avoided with the crumb coat. Thinly applied, it acts as a primer—the foundation for a swoon-worthy finish.

You don’t even need fancy equipment to pull it off. If you have a cake stand that you can easily turn as you work, all it really takes is patience. An offset spatula can make the task easier, too.

Ready to try your hand at a crumb coat? No need to wait for a birthday celebration to roll around. We’re big fans of baking cakes on any day that ends in Y! Here are a couple of our favorite layer cake recipes. Just bake, cool, seal, frost the layers—and eat!

40 Amazing Layer Cake Recipes
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Rebecca Walden
Rebecca C. Walden is a freelance writer with Deep South roots - an Alabama native now living in north Texas. Her writing has appeared in Reader's Digest, the Huffington Post, Southern Living, and many other regional publications, focusing on everything from health and wellness to parenting, family, and women's interests. Walden also provides freelance writing to corporate clients in finance, government, healthcare, and higher education. Check out her latest work @rebeccacwalden.com.