Four Mistakes To Avoid When Making a Layer Cake

Layer cakes are at the top of a Southern baker’s list of culinary achievements. Avoid these snags so you can create a stunning masterpiece.

Patricia S. York
Praline Layer Cake
Greg DuPree

If there were a college curriculum in Learning How To Be a Southern Cook, the Senior-level class would be on Baking Stately Layer Cakes. Along with the ability to turn out moist pound cakes, juicy fruit cobblers, and savory chicken casseroles, a Southern baker measures her culinary value on the height and straight sides of her layer cakes. Producing such perfection takes trial and error, many lop-sided cakes, and perhaps even a few tears. But with patience and practice, you can acquire the talent to create such stunning and show-stopping desserts. To get started, choose one of these delicious layer cake recipes, have the proper sized pans and quality ingredients on hand, and start baking. Check out our tips below and you might soon find assembling a layer cake isn't as daunting as it looks.

1. Don’t stack uneven cake layers.

For various reasons, cake layers often bake with a domed top or uneven sides. It happens to the best of bakers, so don’t worry about it when your layers emerge from the oven looking a little lopsided. If you stack these uneven layers it will create an unbalanced cake with a high risk of falling over.

Do level and trim your layers once they are cooled. Use a long serrated knife to gently shave off the dome or uneven sides, leveling the layer. You may even want to chill the layers a bit before trimming; when the cake is cool and firm, it is less likely to crack or tear.

2. Don’t frost warm layers.

We must admit, we've gotten a little anxious and prematurely frosted a cake or two. To avoid a gloppy mess, practice a little patience and wait for the layers to completely cool.

Do give yourself plenty of time. When planning to bake a cake, factor in enough time for the layers to cool completely. Or consider baking the cake layers the day before you plan to frost it.

Layer Cake Filling How-to
Alison Miksch

3. Don’t allow leaky fillings.

Certain fillings are firm and stable enough to be spread across the layers of a cake. They won’t seep out in between the layers. Thinner fillings, like pastry creams and fruit purées, are so soft that, if not sealed, they will leak out and down the sides of the cake.

Do create a border for the filling. Use the same frosting you plan to use for the outside of the cake, and pipe a single ring around the outer edge of the cake layer. Then spread the filling inside the border; repeat this step for each layer of filling.

4. Don't skip the crumb coating.

Bumpy, crumb-filled frosting can mar the beauty of an otherwise perfect layer cake. If you want a smooth finish on your cake, but don't know how to make it happen, read on.

Do take the time to spread a crumb coating. Before applying the final layer of frosting around the outside of the cake, apply the crumb coating: spread an even, thin layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Cover the cake and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before applying the final layer of frosting. Check out this selection of creamy buttercream frostings.