FILLING AND CRUMB COATING
Its an awful feeling when you've spent most of the night working on a cake only to wake up and see that the shape has completely changed overnight! Where the sides were once straight, they now bow out and curve. Bulging is a decorator's nightmare and these steps can really improve your odds of avoiding it.
1. Use a cake board
A cake board is just a piece of food safe cardboard that is the exact shape of you layer. So if you have a 6 inch cake, you'll use the 6 inch cake boards. Place your first cake level face-down (crumbly part down) on a cake board that has a dab of buttercream on it just to make sure it sticks well to the board.
2. Fill bag with buttercream.
Use a ziploc bag with a generous tip cut off or an icing bag with a piping tip and fill it with buttercream. What is the difference between buttercream and regular frosting? Buttercream is thicker, stands up to temperature much better, and holds cake together more effectively.
3. Pipe a dam
Take you buttercream and pipe a thick line all the way around the perimeter of your cake layer. The point of this “dam” is to prevent any of the filling from spilling out of the layers. If it spills out it will cause the fondant to bulge on the sides, and you do not want bulging! Note: If you used parchment paper, make sure you have removed it!
4. Fill in the dam with filling.
Spread an even layer of filling over your cake but keep it within the buttercream dam and not so thick as to make your dam insufficient. If crumbs are making the spreading difficult, chill the layer first.*
5. Top with second layer.
Add the second layer of your cake face down. Make it as centered as possible. I then like to go back over the joint between the cake and “caulk” it with buttercream, using my off-set spatula to smooth down the sides.
6. Chill tier.
You now have a completed filled tier. Saran wrap it and chill it. Overnight is best, but an hour or two will do the trick too.
*Avoid “runny” fillings. Thin fillings will cause your cake layers to slide around and movement is your enemy. Think statue!
Or as I like to call it, the part I wish I could skip. Many people get impatient and skip this part and just do one layer of buttercream. Its tempting, I know, but a crumb coat really will improve the smoothness of your fondant. Little imperfections tend to be magnified by the fondant instead of covered up by it. Essentially, the crumb coat traps all the crumbs in a thin layer of buttercream so when you apply the second layer of buttercream it is crumb-free.
1. Buttercream top of tier.
Using an off-set spatula, apply buttercream to the top of your chilled tier. Then working from the center out, smoothing the buttercream evenly over the top so it is sticking out over the edges. This layer will be very thin and there will be crumbs in it. That's why it's called the “crumb coat”. Note: The cardinal sin in cake decorating is reinserting a crumby spatula in fresh, uncontaminated icing. Always get icing out with a clean spatula or serving spoon.
2. Buttercream the sides of the tier.
Apply buttercream along the sides of the tier and smooth it by running your off-set spatula along the outside at an angle that is even along the whole length of the side. During this step, you will “shear” off the left over buttercream hanging over the top. There will now be a lip of buttercream around the perimeter of the top of your tier. Using your spatula, gently pull the extra buttercream along the top of the tier, from the edge toward the center. Fade the icing into the top tier as you pull. Continue like this around the perimeter until the excess is gone.
3. Chill the tier.
Chill the tier until the buttercream crusts over and is relatively dry to the touch (about 20-30 minutes, but longer doesn't hurt).
4. Add second layer of buttercream
Add another layer of buttercream following the above steps, except this time there shouldn't be any crumbs. Remember to keep the layer as even and thin as possible and the sides as straight as possible. Using a turntable helps with this process. If you get down at eye-level and spin the turntable quickly, you will more easily notice uneven sides. If there is a lip of buttercream at the top edge of the cake, gently smooth it in and over the top of the cake from the edge toward the center.
5. Chill the tier overnight.
Chilling the tier overnight is not absolutely necessary, but it does make a difference. Cake has a tendency to settle, just like an old house. If it is chilled a long time, the settling tends to be less drastic (settling can really affect your fondant). You can saran wrap the tier after it crusts over, but most buttercreams are effective preservers and seal the cake pretty well as long as your refrigerator is sparkly clean and free of
Your tier is now ready for the fun part… FONDANT!
1. Cake board
2. Bag of buttercream
3. Pipe a dam
5. Second layer
1. Buttercream top
2. Buttercream sides
4. Add second buttercream layer (crumb-free)
5. Chill overnight
(More of a visual learner? See the video tutorials here.)