Thursday, August 2, 2012

How To Level And Fill A Cake

Not the best picture, but you know, it's a cake. So it's full of sugar, and it can look ugly if it wants to.

 In theory I know lots about baking.  I mean I went to school for it, I grew up watching every cooking show with my mom, and pouring over her books for hours.  I even read about it all now on blogs, and books and really anything I can get my hands on.

  But as with everything else I know all about, I never do it right.  Like this cake I am going to show you all.  You are not going to see it finished, because it was so bad, I cried for hours about it.  I hate making cakes, and I should know better than to ever make one for anyone other than my family.  But as I did, I might as well make an educational post about it.  No pictures of me crying though, those are just for me.  

  So in this post, I am going to show you the steps you need to know to level and fill a cake.  Then I will tell you how to frost it, sort of, no pictures because again, it's hard to take pictures when you are crying.


  So to start you need to make a cake. 

  I know, mind blowing right?  Seriously though, make a cake, in two pans.  Or if you have a really deep pan you can use one.  Either way.  Try to find a nice firm cake.  A box cake mix is very airy so I find they are super hard to handle and stack.  So home made works best.  I recommend the one I used from Sugarlicious, in this post I share both the chocolate and vanilla.
Here are my two cakes, and my table covered in cake making stuff. I need a house just for that stuff, think Hubby would buy me one?
  Once your cakes are baked, you let them fully cool and get your icing ready.  If you are in a rush you can pop the cake pans in the fridge to speed things up.

So this is how you level it, and imagine my hand resting on top there, but I was taking a picture.  

See, nice and level.
  Firstly will need to level your cakes.  Start by putting your cake on a level surface, you want to take a serrated knife and place your hand on the top of the cake.  Slowly use the knife to saw around the cake to remove the top domed part.  Move slowly and take your time.  Do this for both cake halves.  If you baked a cake in a deep pan or you want more layers just split the cake the same way by slowly sawing the cake all the way around.  Most cakes are not stable enough for you to pick up, so slide a cake board under the slices when you are moving it.

  Once you have done this, you can start filling it.  I use cake boards because they are easy to move.  If you are doing this for home, feel free to do this on a plate or even on a cake stand. I also don't use a turn table, I think it is just my height, but I prefer to use a lazy Susan, which kills me, because I am the laziest Sue you will know.  So it works for me.

  So to start, put a blob of icing on your cake board, this will give your cake something to hold onto, and not allow it to slip around on you.  Then place your first cake layer, bottom side down.  The bottom side is the side that was in the bottom of the pan, it will be the flattest part.
Yep, that is a picture of an icing blob on a cake board.  I know, this is why you keep coming back.
 Then you fill your cake.  Depending on what filling you are going to use, you may or may not need to pipe an icing dam.  An icing dam is basically a thick ring of icing you pipe to hold the filling in.  I use this when I am using a loose filling or fruit or whatever.  For this cake I didn't need this.

  When you fill the cake, try to make the filling nice and level.  Then take the next layer of cake and slide it onto the bottom layer, making sure that the cut off leveled side is on the bottom.  That way the most even side is facing up.

See nice and level, sort of.

  Then you would be all ready to decorate.  If you were making a cake with more layers just do the same thing and repeat. Not too bad.  If you do not level your cake, they can slide off, or even break.  So take the few minutes you need and level it.  And keep the scraps they are perfect for cake balls.  

  So that is as much as I am going to show you as the next part of this cake was tear filled and I don't want to relive it.  Just so you know, I will not be making another cake any time soon.

  But if you are going to ice it and not be in tears, start by doing a crumb coat.  This is a thin layer of icing, which catches all the crumbs and you let it set up.  Once that is set, you go back and do a thicker layer of icing.  A nice trick to get a smooth finish is to ice your cake, then let it chill for a little bit.  Then go back over it with a spatula that you dip in hot water.  Just dip the spatula, wipe it off on a towel then smooth the icing.  Works great.  Usually.  Anyway, just be aware, no matter how bad it looks, it will still taste good, promise!

All ready to decorate, but you know, it went down hill from here. So just pretend it turned out. Because we all know it so didn't.
I am linking up HERE.
The Mandatory Mooch
The DIY Dreamer


Erin said...

I've never leveled cake before (because I don't bake cakes very often) but wondered how other cakes were so pretty while mine always looked like a dome. Sorry yours didn't turn out but what the heck - I'd eat it. It's cake after all! Or just mash it all up and make cake balls =o)

Natalie D. said...

I love your blog. It's so honest. I can't say I've cried over baking, but people always want me to make them things and half the time they don't turn out like I planned. But I keep baking anyway. That's the beauty of it. It can be in shambles and still taste good...sugar is sugar. Just wanted to let you know I appreciate seeing the "real" side of baking sometimes. So all was not lost! :)

Tam said...

LOL I love you post with humor. mmm.... cake. I'll eat it even if it's not pretty.

I like round cakes - I put them on a dinner plate which of course are a bit concave. So I put the rounded side down. Then I can layer the second layer with the flat side against the flat side with the rounded top up. Because I don't care if the top of the cake is flat. LOL Who said a cake has to be flat on top anyway??

Christine said...

haha You're hilarious!!!

Love the post, very helpful! I will refer to it next time I make a layer cake :)

Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer.. From Dream To Reality :)

Trish - Mom On Timeout said...

Great tips! The crumb coat is really important if you want it super perfect. Sometimes I just don't care ;) Thanks so much for sharing at Mom On Timeout!

The Mandatory Mooch said...

Thank you so much for linking up to Tasty Thursdays last week. Hope to see you again this week!! The party is live at

Nichi – The Mandatory Mooch