In this baking tips post, I will teach you how to fill, stack, and frost a basic layer cake. I will share with you tips and tricks as well as my favorite cake supplies to help you become a cake master!
Tools & Supplies to Frost a Layer Cake
Here is a list of the supplies I use when filling and frosting a cake. You do not need every tool, but these are definitely my favorites that make frosting a cake easy and fun!
- Cake turntable: A cake turntable helps to create a smooth buttercream finish on the top and sides of the cake.
- Nonslip mat: This helps to hold the cake board in place on the cake turntable so the cake does not slide.
- Cake board: Building the cake on a round, flat cake board helps for easy decorating. The cake board should be slightly larger than the diameter of the cake.
- Offset spatulas: Offset spatulas are used to apply frosting to the cake. You could also use a straight spatula if you prefer that style.
- Cookie scoop: I use a large cookie scoop to portion buttercream in between layers to ensure the layers of frosting are even.
- Cake scraper: A cake scraper or bench scraper creates a smooth finish to the sides of the cake. I prefer to use a metal cake scraper, but you can also use plastic or acrylic cake scrapers as well.
- Piping bags & piping tips: Piping bags and tips can be used to decorate the cake. Piping bags hold the buttercream and the tips create the piped design.
Be sure to level the cake layers with a serrated knife before you get started to create an even, flat-topped cake.
Step 1: Place the first cake layer on the cake board
Add a small amount of buttercream to the round cake board and spread evenly with an offset spatula. This will hold the bottom cake layer in place. Then, place your first cake layer onto the board. Be sure the cake layer is centered on the board.
Step 2: Add frosting on top of the first layer
Add buttercream frosting to the cake layer. I love using a large cookie scoop to portion the frosting to ensure I am adding the same amount of frosting in between each layer. This will give your cake a perfect look when you cut a slice!
Step 3: Spread the frosting so it is even
Use an offset spatula to spread the buttercream onto the cake layer. Be gentle. We are not buttering toast here. Once you have the buttercream spread to the edges of the cake layer, use the offset spatula and spin the cake turntable to create an even, smooth layer of buttercream.
Step 4: Add the next layer of cake and repeat
Place your next cake layer on top of the buttercream. Be sure that the second cake is centered on top of the first layer so the sides are straight and even. Gently push the cake in the appropriate direction if it appears uneven. Then, add buttercream with a cookie scoop and spread evenly using an offset spatula.
Step 5: Add final layer of cake
Add the last cake layer on top of the buttercream. A helpful tip to creating a smooth and even top is to flip the last layer upside down. The top of the cake will be the side of the cake layer that touches the pan, so the top of the cake will be perfectly even. Again, be sure that the final cake layer is centered on top of the previously cake layers.
Step 6: Crumb coat
The next step is to apply a crumb coat. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that traps crumbs so the final layer of frosting is free of crumbs and smooth. I recommend starting with the top of the cake and working your way down the sides.
Apply and smooth the buttercream with an offset spatula. Then, use a cake scraper to smooth the buttercream on the sides. Use an offset spatula to smooth the buttercream around the top edges of the cake by pulling it gently toward the center of the cake.
After you finish the crumb coat, you will want to chill the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes until the buttercream is set. This helps the buttercream firm up so when the cake is frosted, the crumb coat stays intact, keeping the crumbs trapped and the cake firmly stacked.
Step 7: Ice the cake
After the crumb coat has chilled, it is time to add the final layer of buttercream frosting! Add buttercream to the top of the cake and smooth it out using an offset spatula. Then, work your way down, applying a thick layer of buttercream to the sides of the cake. We will be scraping a lot off, so adding a thick layer of frosting is a must!
Step 8: Smooth the buttercream to get a perfect finish
Use a cake scraper or bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake. Hold the cake scraper at a 45-degree angle to the cake and slowly turn the cake turntable to create a smooth finish to the sides of the cake.
This step takes some practice and patience. You may have to do several passes to achieve a smooth finish.
Be sure that your buttercream is smooth and free of air bubbles before applying it to the cake. You can mix your buttercream with a spatula for a few minutes to remove any air bubbles.
Smooth the top edge of the cake by using an offset spatula to pull the buttercream to the center of the cake. Another option to create a very sharp top edge is to chill the cake for 30 minutes and using a sharp knife to carefully cut off the excess buttercream.
Step 9: Decorate
Now that the cake is filled, stacked, and frosted, it is time to decorate! Be creative with different piping tips, sprinkles, ganache drips, or whatever you would like!
Step 10: Chill
Once your cake is decorated, you will want to chill the cake. Chilling the cake allows the buttercream to firm up so the top and sides of the cake and the decorations stay intact and perfect! You can store the cake in a cake box or cake carrier. This will prevent the buttercream from taking on any “smells” that may be lurking in your refrigerator.
I do recommend serving buttercream cakes at room temperature for best results, so be sure to remove the cake from the refrigerator about an hour prior to serving.
And that is it! You have filled, stacked, frosted and decorated a layer cake! The process is simple but can take some practice. But in this case, practice is DELICIOUS!