For cakes worthy of a close-up

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If you’re an avid baker, you know that even the most seasoned home cooks can struggle with icing cakes. After you’ve expended hours of attention and care on mixing, preparing, and baking your cake, the icing step is where it can all go wrong. No matter how smooth the surface and adroit the hand, crumbs—pesky bits of cake that detach from the layers and mix into the icing, creating bumps and lumps and disappointment—can ruin the whole experience. Luckily, Mary Berry, our favorite British cake enthusiast and former judge of the television show The Great British Bake Off, has a genius icing strategy that will make those crumb worries a thing of the past.

Mary Berry’s icing technique doesn’t have anything to do with changing the sorts of icing or cake you’re using. Instead, it calls for an unexpected ingredient—jam—which you brush over the surface of the cake as a barrier layer between the cake and icing. This extra layer, in addition to being a delicious, sweet, and flavorfully complex touch, allows the frosting to glide smoothly over the surface of the jam, altogether erasing the issue of crumb-dotted cake icing. Mary Berry shared this layering tip with BBC Good Food along with 9 other time-tested baking strategies (all of which we’ll be studying and adding to our kitchen techniques asap). 

If you make your own jam, you’ll have plenty of ideas and flavor options to choose from, but we're convinced that raspberry, apricot, grape, peach, and blackberry jams would be lovely additions to decadent cakes. If you’d like to make your own, check out our go-to jam recipes. For those who would rather buy a jar, we rounded up our favorite store-bought peach jams, any of which would do the job beautifully.

When you adopt this strategy, your cakes will be sweeter than ever, and your cake icing will be as smooth as can be—which sounds like a Great British Bake Off champion cake if ever we’ve heard of one. If you’re looking for recipes with which to try this icing technique, we’d suggest browsing our Best Chocolate Cake Recipes and Favorite Holiday Cakes for desserts that would be perfectly complemented by a touch of jam.

WATCH: Lane Cake

Would you consider adding a layer of jam to your cakes before icing them? Let us know if you try it!