We’ve all made our share of lopsided, crumbly, haphazardly decorated cakes. But follow our foolproof methods and you’ll be able to elevate your baking to a higher level, turning out gorgeously decorated multilayer cakes that look like they came straight from a fancy bakery.
Experts know that a beautiful layer cake starts with professional-looking cake layers. Proper pan prep ensures that the cakes won’t stick after baking. Grease the pans thoroughly and cut out parchment circles to line the pan bottoms. For extra insurance, you can also grease the parchment and flour the pans. It may sound like a lot, but it will give you clean-looking cake layers.
For layer-cake batter, we favor the reverse-creaming method, which results in velvety, flat-topped baked layers. Divide the batter evenly between the pans so your layers will look symmetrical when sliced and served. Tap the filled pans on the counter to release air bubbles that could cause tunnels in the cake. Bake them on the middle rack and rotate them halfway through baking to ensure evenly colored and baked layers.
Thorough cooling on a wire rack before assembly is vital for a cake that’s not soggy. If your layers do dome in the oven, you can use a serrated knife to gently slice with a sawing motion to remove the domed portion from each layer. Gently brush off any loose crumbs that might mar your filling, frosting, or glaze. To fill between the layers, dollop the correct portion into the center of the layer and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly all the way to the edges. Top with another layer, pressing gently so it adheres without squeezing the filling out the sides or compressing the cake.
To glaze a layer cake, set it on a wire rack set into a rimmed baking
sheet. This allows you to evenly coat the cake without excess glaze making a mess. To frost a cake, place strips of parchment paper under the edges of the cake. Once the cake is frosted, slide out and discard the parchment for a neat presentation. Whether glazing or frosting, cover the top first, then attend to the sides. Pressing decorations, like sliced nuts or toasted coconut, into the sides is one of our favorite tricks for making a layer cake look professional while hiding any imperfections.
1 Prepare cake pans by greasing them and lining bottoms with parchment paper circles.
2 Make cake batter using reverse-creaming method.
3 Divide batter evenly among pans; smooth tops with silicone spatula. Bake until light golden and toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool briefly in pans, then remove cakes from pans to finish cooling.
4 Place 1 cake layer on wire rack in rimmed baking sheet (if glazing) or plate (if frosting). Spread half of filling evenly over cake. Top with second layer, then spread remaining filling evenly over top. Top with third layer.
5 If glazing, pour glaze evenly over top and sides of cake and let sit until glaze is nearly set before adding decorations. If frosting, spread frosting evenly over top and sides.
6 Gently press decorations onto sides or arrange on top of cake. If needed, using two large spatulas, transfer cake to serving plate.