No pastry bags required

Whether you call it a layer cake, tiered cake, stack cake, or Mama’s secret recipe; making a layer cake is easier than it looks if you’re armed with the right strategy. We dare say the hardest party might be figuring out what kind of cake you want to make in the first place. Once your layers have cooled, follow these steps to learn how to stack a cake (or build a cake) like a pro. Just remember, when it comes time to stack the cake, keep a level head and you’ll ensure perfectly level layers.

Prep Your Cake Plate

Add four strips of parchment paper to your cake plate, creating a square with overlapping sides. You’ll want the cake to sit on top of the strips so you don’t get any icing or crumbs on the cake plate.

Set the Foundation

Add a dollop of icing to the center of your cake plate, then place your first cake layer on top. Consider this your foundation. The dollop of icing will help your cake stay put.

Create a Flat Surface

Gently slice off the top of each layer to create an even surface that allows for stacking—and no sliding.

Frost the First Layer

When icing between layers, don’t worry about overflow on the sides. You just want to make sure the entire top of the cake layer is iced, making the sides look pretty will come next. An offset spatula is the best tool for this, though a standard butter knife will work in a pinch.

Layer Up

Place the next layer cut-side down. You’ll ice the top just as you did with the first layer. Repeat these two steps (positioning cut-side down and icing) layer-by-layer until you’ve placed all your layers.

Give It a Coat

Now comes the fun part—dressing the cake—but, not so fast. You’ll need to create a crumb coat. This is essentially a nice smooth base that will keep all those pesky crumbs contained. Simply spread a thin layer of icing over the top and sides of the cake, then refrigerate for 15 minutes or until the frosting is set.

Ice, Ice, Baby

A revolving cake stand makes quick work of frosting a cake though it can be done with a standard cake plate or stand. It’s best to start with a dollop of icing on the top of the cake and work your spatula in a circular motion to spread the icing outward to the edge of the cake. Use your spatula to frost the sides next. This is where the revolving cake stand really comes in handy, though you can twist a stationary plate to ensure you hit all angles. Give the top and sides one final run to ensure the icing is perfectly smooth.

Finally, remove the parchment paper beneath the cake to reveal a perfectly clean cake plate that’s ready to make its debut. Slice, and enjoy. Just be sure to have the recipe on hand—you know your friends are going to want to make this one at home too.