Cake Decorating Blog

How to Crumb Coat a Cake

A well done crumb coat can change the final look of a decorated cake, bringing its overall effect from “neat” to “WOW!”

Crumb Coated Cake

So, what is a crumb coat?

A crumb coat is the base coat of icing on a cake. It is also referred to as “dirty icing” a cake. Generally there are at least two layers of buttercream icing spread on a cake: the first is the crumb coat, which seals in the crumbs.

The crumb coat makes sure no cake crumbs get into the second layer of icing, which would make your cake look dirty or rough.

Once the crumb coat is in place, you can then add an additional second coat to give it a nice uniform look, without worrying about stray crumbs. When you’re learning how to properly ice a cake, the crumb coat is the first place that you start.

Now let’s begin! Here’s how to crumb coat a cake.


Preparing your icing

Before you begin, make sure your icing is stiff. You should be able to scoop it up with your spatula and turn it upside down over the bowl without it falling or sliding back into the bowl. The icing should hold its shape perfectly.

Step 1: Level the cake

Leveling a Cake

The first thing you need to do is level your cake. All cakes need to be level, or your cake will crack and not hold its shape.

For smaller cakes I use a leveler, which can be found at a craft store or here on Craftsy. If you don’t have one, you can use a long serrated knife to very carefully cut the top off your cake.

Step 2: Stack the ;layers

Once you have topped all of your cakes, you are ready to start stacking!

Prepping the Cake Board

Start by spreading a thin layer of icing on your cake board. This way your cake will stick to the bottom of your cake.

Piping a Buttercream Filling Filling a Cake

Place your first layer on the board. Then, spoon or pipe your buttercream (or other filling) in the middle. Spread the icing carefully using an offset icing spatula.

Always add more icing than you think you need. It’s much easier and cleaner to remove icing then add it.

Filled Cake | Erin Gardner | Craftsy

Once your icing is nice and flat, you can continue stacking your cake layers.

Once you get to the top layer, place the last cake layer on top upside-down, so that the bottom of the cake layer becomes the top of the cake. This will greatly reduce the amount of crumbs you encounter.

Step 3: Coat the top of the cake

One of my tricks to getting a really nice crumb coat is to have an extra, empty bowl nearby. Anytime I get crumbs on my spatula, I wipe the icing into my extra bowl. This makes sure that my real bowl full of buttercream is totally free of crumbs.

Crumb Coating the Top of the Cake

Start by smoothing a thin layer over the top of the cake.

Step 4: Coat the sides of the cake

If any buttercream from the layers overflowed, you can spread that over the sides of the cake.

Crumb Coating the Sides of the Cake

Then, you can start adding additional icing to the sides of the cake. Always start with more than you need. Lift some of the icing from your bowl and spread it over the side of the cake. Hold your spatula at 90 degrees against the cake, and use your other hand to turn the turntable to apply the frosting evenly.

Note: If you find your cakes are sliding around and won’t stay stacked properly, stack them as best you can and then place them in the fridge to harden the buttercream. After about 20 minutes, they should stay put and you can continue crumb coating your cake.

Step 5: Smooth the crumb coating

Smoothing the Crumb Coat

Once you have a nice thick coat of icing, hold your bench scraper or flat icing spatula flat against the side of your cake. Then turn the turntable and the scraper to make a nice, smooth coat of icing.

Step 6: Smooth the top

After finishing the edges of the cake, you will have peaks on the top edges of the cake.

Buttercream Sticking Up Over the Top Edge | Erin Gardner | Craftsy Cleaning Up the Top Edge

To get rid of these peaks, move your offset spatula in a swiping motion, pulling the buttercream from the outer edge toward the center of the cake. 

You now have a nice crumb coat! What next?

Whether you plan to decorate with buttercream or fondant, a second coat of icing can make a huge difference.

This second coat doesn’t need to be thick, it just needs to even out the blemishes that are always part of a cake.

Start by refrigerating your crumb coated cake. You want it nice and chilled. Leave it in the fridge for atleast 20-30 minutes to get the buttercream nice and firm. This helps the cake hold its shape when adding the second layer of buttercream.

Frosting the Sides of the Cake

Once your cake is chilled, pull it out and cover it with buttercream, using the same frosting method described above. Cover it evenly with buttercream using the offset spatula and then use the bench scraper to smooth the edges.

Smoothing the Sides with a Bench Scraper


Place it in the fridge to chill. I always let mine chill for about 20 minutes so that the buttercream hardens. Then I wrap it in at least two layers of plastic wrap and place it back in the fridge to chill completely overnight, before covering it with fondant or adding other decorations. 

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Lois Delaney

That buttercream looks yummy – what is the recipe for it please?

Jean Blythman

Help I am having trouble with my fondant. I have buttercreamed the cake so it’s smooth chilled it applied the fondant, it either rips goes all wet and sticky. I don’t know what to do.

Mary Myers

Kneed it in corn starch or powered sugar, it keeps it together better. Don’t forget to cover it with platic wrap to keep it moist as it hardens quickly. Hope this helps. It did me.

Patent Box solicitor

Oooh, I love this. The self-challenger in me is encouraging me to try and add two more layers to the cake… do you think that’s possible?


Hi there, the whole thing is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts,
that’s actually good, keep up writing.


You said you wrapped your cake in 2 layers of plastic wrap and put it back into the fridge to chill overnight. Just out of curiosity, how do you wrap a cake that’s with crumb coating? Wouldn’t the crumb coat be ruined?


It says to put in fridge for 20/30mins first to set then wrap in plastic


Yes I’m curious about that too. Also what is the purpose of the cling wrap? Is it so fridge smells font contaminate it or sonething else?


The plastic wrap it to keep the cake fresh and air tight so it doesn’t dry out at all and to protect it from anything else in the fridge. 🙂


first let it sit by itself in the fridge for 20 minutes, then put two layers of plastic wrap. the 20 minutes hardens the surface of the frosting


Thanks for such an informative article. I just have a couple of questions.

1) You used stuff icing for just the crumb coating or for the second blemish removing layer too?

2) Also is the stiff icing used just for crumb coating a fondant cake or for regular butter cream cakes also?

3) what consistency of icing do you recommend for a smooth butter cream cake after crumb coating it with stiff icing?



Thank you for asking! I use the same buttercream for both the crumb coat and the final coat and whether it is for a fondant cake or a buttercream cake.
Here is the link to my american buttercream icing. and here is the link to my no-cook swiss meringue buttercream.
I hope this helps!


l chilled my butter icing in the freezer for 30mins i after covering it with fondant, the fondant begins to sweat out as if it is placed in the fridge . pls why is it like that and what can l di next time to avoid such occurence


That is a great question! Once you take a cake out of the fridge it will get condensation on it especially if you live in a humid climate. There are 2 options, the first it to let it sit until the cake comes to room temperature and the condensation dries or if your cake is crumb coated and you need to cover it in fondant you can quickly try to cover the cake before it starts to form condensation. I usually keep my crumb coated cake in the fridge until I have my fondant rolled out and every thing is ready to cover my cake. Once my cakes are covered in fondant I do not put them back in the fridge. I also make sure to not put fillings in my cake that need to stay refrigerated if I am covering them in fondant because condensation will cause the fondant to get sticky and and cause the fondant colors to “bleed” making a huge mess. Buttercream cakes will also form condensation but I just pull them out of the fridge about 1-2 hours before delivery to let them come to room temperature before taking them outside for delivery.
Good luck!

Amit Vohra

Hi Wendy,
You said, to avoid condensation, let the cake come to room temperature , if that is allowed, it will also cause the butter cream to soften and when applying fondant, the butter cream will not hold shape and just slide away.
please assist.


I find that whenever I put my cake into the fridge to firm up, by time it’s done, my buttercream crusts in the bowl and is very hard to spread onto the cake. How do I avoid this?


Hi, Michelle, I am sure this is too long past the fact, but, for others who read this, I suggest covering your bowl of buttercream with plastic wrap. This will protect if from drying out.


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How do I stop my cake from absorbing the moisture from the buttercream and making the cake dense instead of fluffy sponge.


How can I stop my sponge cake from absorbing the moisture from the buttercream, making the cake dense.


Hi if anyone can help when I’ve baked my cake and I come to do my crumb coat my cake starts crumbling really bad and my iceing is soft but chunks ckeep cooking off x


Did you chill your icing?

Wendy McGowan

Hi Kristi,
No, I do not chill my icing. Buttercream should be at room temperature while you are working with it. You can keep it in the fridge over night but then let it come to room temperature again before using it.
Thanks! And sorry for the late response.

Wendy McGowan

HI Lulu,
I know this is a really late response and I apologize, but if your cake is crumbling that badly it is most likely your cake recipe, not the buttercream that is at fault. Maybe try a new recipe or check the recipe again to make sure it is correct. Also when applying buttercream start with a large amount on your spatula. It is easier to remove icing than to apply it. Hope this helps!


Hi, my fondant keeps sticking when rolling out and after covering the cake it cracks, what am I doing wrong.?

How do I have that glossy shine on my fondant


Wendy McGowan

Hi Zee,
There are lots of great Craftsy classes that discuss how to apply and work with fondant. There are also other Craftsy blogs that offer great info about rolling out fondant. You may want to try using corn starch on your countertop or table and rotate your fondant often while rolling it out to make sure it is not sticking to you countertop.


Question, can you put it in a plastic cake container instead of plastic wrap?


Hi Kristi,
Sorry for the late response, yes, you can put it in a plastic cake container if you choose. The plastic wrap is just to try keep the cake from drying out and protect it from tasting like a fridge.

Kayla Eve Hurst

I’ve heard that if you put a little coat of crisco on some non-latex gloves and then pull your fondant like you’re doing Laffy Taffy that it would keep it from sticking and cracking is this true?


Hi kayla,
Yes and no. Yes, Crisco will help your fondant stay soft and keep it from drying out and cracking while you work with it. If fondant is too dry add crisco or shortening, if your fondant seems too soft you can add some powdered sugar. You do need to be careful though because adding too much shortening can make your fondant too soft and can cause it to crack and fall apart. I also answered no because you don’t really want to pull it like taffy. I find it better to knead it like dough. Pulling it like taffy and incorporate air bubbles, so when you go to roll out your fondant you have lots of tiny air bubbles. You can pop these bubbles using a push pin and then continue rolling out your fondant, but starting with smooth fondant is much easier. I hope this helps! Also, make sure to keep really good track of your push pin, you don’t want to loose it in your fondant and have to start all over again!


do i need to make extra icing for the crumb coat? i know i need about 4 cups to frost my cake,but does the crumb coat require more than that because it’s another layer?


Looking all over the internet for an answer to my question and hoping you can help me. My last few cakes I’ve been making for my kids/family have ended up in the garbage and had to buy store bought last minute because the cake is soaked like I’ve run it under the tap. It’s been humid but my cakes have been completely cooled before decorating. I use my mothers icing recipe(shortening, margarine or butter, vanilla, milk and icing sugar) and icing is stiff before spreading. I’ve just done a crumb coat on a bikini cake and where I’ve cut the cake for shaping is soaked and most of the icing has run off in a matter of 5 minutes or less. What am I doing wrong? If you can send me your email, I’ll send pictures to show what I mean


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