Reading Between the Layers: The Do’s and Don’ts of Cake Fillings

Raspberry and chocolate ganache cake by Juniper Cakery

Photos via Juniper Cakery

For an everyday birthday cake, picking a filling is simple: Just think about what tastes good and you’re done.

But if you’re tackling something more ambitious and need it to hold up like a professional cake, you might need to work a little harder to find the right filling. Here’s how to get the results you want — and avoid an epic fail.

DO consider the weather

When it’s really hot out, proceed with caution. Custard cream fillings are far too likely to go all melt-y in warm weather; better to go with ganache and ganache-buttercream hybrids instead. (The serious amount of chocolate in ganache acts as a stabilizer.)

Whipped cream and cream-cheese frosting are two more choices to avoid on a steamy day. No one wants to eat a cake smothered in warm white glop.

DO think about your cake’s journey

Consider where your cake is headed and how you’re gonna get it there. If there’s a significant drive involved, plan accordingly. Preserves, cream cheese, creme patisserie and whipped cream are definite no-nos because they’re unstable and slippery.

DO get fruity

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

Fresh fruit can be your friend, lending structure and support in between your layers. This approach is popular for “naked” layer cakes, but it actually works well for any style.

If you’re using strawberries, place even-size, heart-shaped halves in concentric circles. This method will make every bite taste ah-mazing and prevent your cake from drooping in the middle since the strawberries will prop it up.

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, caramelized apples, mangoes and passion fruits are also great cake fillers.

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.
  • Also, if you’re covering your cake with buttercream, take care not to fill your cake with too much of the same; too much buttercream is a bit of an overload!

DON’T overcomplicate your fillings

Overfilled peach and white chocolate cake by Juniper Cakery

This is especially true if you’re making a carved cake. Steer clear of quirky buttercreams like two-tone, confetti, chocolate chip or fruit-filled. Once you begin carving you don’t want to have to deal with anything hard, squishy or potentially messy in between your layers.

DON’T be generous to a fault

Overfilling a cake, especially in warm weather, can cause layers to slide around. You’re better off underfilling a teeny bit, leaving a gap around the edge so there’s room for the filling to spread out.

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.

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