Structure Matters: How to Stack a Cake

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Decorated cakes can be gorgeous, fun and awe-inspiring, but before the decorations are added, the cake must have a solid structure. No one wants to see a beautiful cake topple over or smash and crumble.

Three Layer Chocolate Cake

Let's go back to the basics to discuss how to properly stack a cake that stands straight and tall and is free from bulges and bubbles.

Three Layers of Cake Separated Out

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Freshly baked cakes that have been cooled and refrigerated overnight
  • A small offset spatula or small sharp knife
  • Your choice of icing
  • Parchment paper or wax paper
  • Cake boards that match the size of your tiers
  • Cake boards that are 12"-16" to go under your cake board to help make transporting cakes easier
  • Turn table
  • Bench scraper

DIRECTIONS:

STEP 1:

To start, your cakes should be fully chilled, but they do not need to be frozen. Use the small spatula or a small knife to run along the edges of your cake to release it from the pan.

Cake in Pans

STEP 2:

Turn your cakes over onto a piece of parchment or wax paper so they are upside down.

Running Knife Along Pan Edge to Remove Cake

STEP 3:

Peel off the parchment paper that was in the bottom of your pans to help your cake release (make sure that you have properly prepared your cake pans.)

Cakes Upside Down on Wax Paper

STEP 4:

Cut the tops off each layer so the cakes are flat on both sides. If your cakes are not flat it can lead to a weakness in the cake which can cause cracking or sagging.

For more help with this technique and to see it demonstrated, check out Joshua John Russell's FREE Craftsy class Modern Buttercream.

Removing Wax Paper from Back of Cake

STEP 5:

Smear a small amount of buttercream onto your cake board to help hold your cake in place.

Cake Layers Ready to be Iced

STEP 6:

Lay the first cake layer on the board and make sure it's centered.

STEP 7:

Place a large dollop of buttercream in the center of the cake, then using your spatula, gently smear the buttercream until it is flat all around the top of cake. You do not need a huge, thick layer of icing. It is, however, a good idea to start with a lot more icing than you will need. It's much easier to take too much icing off a cake than it is to add more when there's not enough.

One Cake with Dollup of Icing

Second Cake Layer Stacked

STEP 8:

Continue adding layers of cake and buttercream until you are finished, making sure to keep your cakes centered.

Stacked Chocolate Cake

Whether you are baking a yellow cake, white cake, or chocolate cake from scratch, it is important to know the fundamentals of the baking process, so that your cake will be the correct density for stacking. If you're new to cake baking, we recommend you take a look at The Wilton Method®: Baking Basics, which walks through baking a cake from start to finish and proper baking techniques.

SOME NOTES:

  • When filling a cake with buttercream, make sure the buttercream is thick enough to not be runny or fluid at all. You also don't want it to be so thick that it rips and tears your cake. You may have seen cakes with bulges of frosting under the fondant -- this happens because the buttercream is too thin and squishes out over time due to the weight of the cake and especially the fondant. Getting the consistency of your buttercream correct can greatly improve the overall look of the cake.
  • Chilling your cake before and after crumb coating can make a huge difference in your experience. Cakes are by far easier to work with when they are cold. For furthing tips on crumb coats, see our blog post on how to crumb coat a cake.

To learn to crumb coat a cake using ganache, check out Jessica Harris' Craftsy class, Clean & Simple Cake Design.

 

Do you have any further tips, or techniques you use for stacking cakes?

 

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