Cake Decorating Blog

How to Crumb Coat a Cake

Sometimes learning and perfecting the basics is the best way to get ahead in this world! A well done crumb coat can change the final look of a decorated cake, bringing its overall effect from “neat” to “WOW!” 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.

That way no crumbs can get into the second layer of icing and make your cake look dirty or rough. You can then add an additional second coat to give it a nice uniform look. 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.

Supplies Needed to Crumb Coat a Cake - Tutorial on Craftsy

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  • Your cake (it should be well chilled)
  • A leveler, or a long serrated knife
  • Offset spatula
  • Scraper
  • Turntable
  • Buttercream of your choice
  • A clean, empty bowl or extra cake pan

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. The first thing you need to do is level your cake. All cakes need to be level or you will get cracked cakes that will not hold their shape. For smaller cakes I use a leveler which can be found at a craft store. If you do not have one you can use a long serrated knife to very carefully cut the top off your cake.

Baked Cake, Ready for Its Crumb Coat - on Craftsy Slicing Off the Top of the Cake

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

Cakes with Tops Removed

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

Preparing the Cake Board

Place your first layer on the board and plop a big dollop of icing right in the middle. Spread the icing carefully. Always add more icing than you think you need. It is much easier and cleaner to remove icing then add it.

Adding the First Layer of Icing

Once your icing is nice and flat, you can stack the second cake. If you only have two cakes, turn the cake over so the bottom of the second cake is now the top of the cake. This will greatly reduce the amount of crumbs you encounter.

Flattening the Icing - How to Crumb Coat a Cake

As you can see, I repeated everything for the second cake and flipped my top cake so that it is upside down.

Adding Top Layer to Stacked Cake

Once you have filled your cake, use your offset spatula to smooth your excess icing into the cake. This is where you fill any gaps on the sides, if there are any, and make sure your layers are stacked properly. Now is also the time to get out that extra bowl.

Beginning to Crumb Coat the Outside of the Cake

One of my tricks to getting a really nice crumb coat is to have an extra bowl. Anytime I get crumbs on my spatula, I wipe the icing into my extra bowl. I always make sure to keep my real bowl full of icing “crumb free,” this way. It is the best way to reduce crumbs.

Have an Extra Bowl on Hand for Icing

Now that we have spread the excess icing around and off the cake, we can begin spreading on the crumb coat. Again, always start with more than you need. I like to spread icing on the sides of the cake, then the top. Turn your turntable with one hand while you hold your spatula at 90 degrees. If there are gaps or holes, fix them and keep going.

In Process of Icing Cake with Crumb Coat - on

If you find your cakes are sliding around and won’t stay stacked properly, get them stacked 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. Once you have a nice thick coat of icing, use your scraper and hold it flat on the turntable so it is against the side of your cake. Then turn the turntable and the scraper to make a nice, smooth coat of icing.

Finishing Edges of Iced Cake

After finishing the edges of the cake, you will have peaks on the top edges of the cake. Just use your scraper or spatula to draw the peaks into the center of the cake; then smooth again. You now have a nice crumb coat! But let’s not stop there. I find that putting fondant on a cake is like wearing spandex pants, it’s just not going to hide the blemishes no matter how much you want it to!

So what do we do? We make a really beautiful second coat of buttercream. It 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 will help the cake hold its shape when adding the second layer of buttercream. Once your cake is chilled, pull it out and cover it with buttercream.

Cake Iced with Buttercream - How to Crumb Coat a Cake

Cover it evenly with buttercream using the offset spatula and then use the bench scraper to smooth the edges.

Smoothing the Crumb Coat on the Cake

You now have a beautifully smooth crumb coated cake!

Using a Scraper to Smooth the Crumb Coat on the Cake

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. You are now ready to create all sorts of amazing cakes! 

Did you know Craftsy's YouTube Channel is full of free, quick video tutorials?

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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. 🙂


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?


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