Reading Between the Layers: Layer Cake Filling Ideas… Dos and Don’ts

Posted by on Apr 5, 2014 in Cake Decorating, Food & Cooking | Comments


When it comes to filling cakes, there’s lots of choices out there and most of us are driven by our taste buds, so selecting a cake filling can be an exciting process! For professional cake decorating, however, it’s important to remember that different layer cake filling ideas can alter structure, melt in warm weather, or even become inedible.

Here’s a list of layer cake filling ideas (with dos and don’ts) to help you whip up perfect cakes every time.

Raspberry and chocolate ganache cake by Juniper CakeryPhotos via Juniper Cakery

DO predict the weather

Unreliable weather forecasts are the bane of a cake decorator’s existence as they have the potential to ruin that fondant masterpiece you’ve just spent 20+ back-breaking hours on. In warmer months make ganache and ganache/buttercream hybrids your best friend by suggesting them to clients as an alternative to cream fillings. They both call for a considerable amount of chocolate in their recipes, which moonlights perfectly as a stabilizer, making them less likely to melt.

Hot weather combined with a big outdoor event never bodes well for cake decorators and caterers! Don’t make things harder on yourself by suggesting or planning a beautiful four-tiered creation for a July wedding…covered in cream cheese! Not only would this create a visual nightmare as it melts in the heat, but would you like to eat a cake smothered with gloppy warm cream cheese (or whipped cream) that’s been sat in the sun for 4 hours or more?

See also our tips for hot weather cake decorating.

DO think about the venue

Where your cake will be displayed and how it will travel there can heavily influence the filling. Sometimes cakes have to travel quite a distance and the idea of them sliding around in the back of a vehicle is a cake decorator’s nightmare. Think about what you’re filling your cakes with and how. Preserves, cream cheese, creme patisserie or whipped cream are definite no-nos; they’re unstable, slippery and the dairy options aren’t going to cope well with any heat.

Filled chocolate layer cake by Juniper Cakery

DO remember that sometimes it’s what’s on the outside that counts

What icing is on the outside of your cake will influence your choice of filling on the inside. Is your cake to be covered with fondant, royal icing, ganache or buttercream?

  • Fondant adds weight, so think about keeping your filling or crumb coat stable and firm.
  • A good soft yet firm ganache makes the perfect crumb coat for precarious cakes as they stiffen when the melted chocolate begins to set.
  • One part cream to two parts chocolate (for dark chocolate) will create a luxuriously smooth and silky covering that won’t allow a stacked layer cake to slide around as easily as cream, jam or soft buttercream would.

Strawberry jam and whipped cream filled Victoria Sponge Cake by Juniper Cakery

DO get too fruity

If you’re creating naked layer cakes, like a Victoria sponge, that doesn’t need icing, you can experiment with fresh fruit fillings.

Strategically decorating with pieces of fresh fruit can look beautiful! Strawberries are a favorite, as they can look like little love hearts. Lay them in a circular pattern from the outside in so when you cut into your cake each slice will look wonderful. This method also prevents your cake from drooping in the middle as the fruit acts as support. Also, cut all of your fresh fruit pieces evenly to avoid your cake looking lopsided when layering.

Other fruits to consider are blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, caramelized apples, mangoes and passion fruits, all of which would make luxurious drizzles, sauces and preserves to pour over your cakes.

Strawberry preserve and whipped cream filled cake by Juniper Cakery

DON’T overcomplicate your fillings

Two-tone, confetti, chocolate chip and fruit-filled buttercreams are just a few you should steer away from if you’re planning on creating a carved cake. It’s tempting to include quirky fillings, especially for a children’s party, but you’ll pay for it during the carving process. Once you begin carving you want it to go as smoothly as possible (pun intended), so hitting a hard chocolate chip or a squishy fruit chunk would be a nightmare. Two-toned and confetti buttercreams are fun additions to normal layer cakes, but carving into them would prove messy! Gorgeous colors could become a murky brown as you’re working and the sprinkles used to create the otherwise lovely confetti look would act as extra crumbs to battle.

Overfilled peach and white chocolate cake by Juniper Cakery

DON’T be generous to a fault

Being overly generous when filling your cake will certainly please but it’ll also compromise stability. Lashings of tasty fillings certainly make the mouth water but overfilling your cakes, especially in warm weather, would create an inedible disaster. Remember the weight of the next layer (and even tiers) will naturally cause your filling to spread, so leave a small gap around the outside of your layer as this will naturally fill when you place your next layer on top.

DON’T be too eager

Wait until your layers have cooled before you fill your cake! We know building and stacking a cake is exciting, but patience is a virtue, because if you add any filling while your cake is still hot you will be left with a sugary mess.

For lots of fantastically delicious flavor combination ideas try Jenny McCoy’s Creative Flavors for Cakes, Fillings & Frostings class.

Do you have any tips and tricks of your own?