Cakes: Straight and Crumb-coated

Can you tell that I like to make cakes? That I like to talk about cakes? And that I like to make and talk about cakes probably more than I like to eat cakes? I honestly do cook much more "real" food than desserts; if you know my husband and/or children you'll see that they're all thin... which means I don't serve them cake and dessert at every meal.

But if any occasion comes up that could possibly warrant a cake, by golly I'll bake one!

Tomorrow is my mom's birthday; we all met for dinner at a restaurant tonight and I brought the cake:
I don't have a picture of the inside since it was cut at the restaurant by our server and I didn't have my camera on me. But it was four layers of chocolate cake with white frosting between each layer.

I'm not very good at roses and it had been several years since I'd done any, but it was fun to do some to put on this cake. Also I need some serious help with leaves. But it turned out okay.

So today I would like to tell you how to make a gorgeous, straight-sided cake, and how to make the frosting look nice.

Let's say you've baked two 8" rounds. Right before assembly time (which in my case means after the cakes have been baked, cooled, frozen overnight, thawed out, and unwrapped), slice part of the "dome" off the top. I always make sure my top layer is the prettiest "bottom" of one of the rounds, so that it makes a nice flat surface and square edges.

I always slice both of my rounds in half, so that I end up with four layers. Just use a long, thin, very sharp and preferably serrated knife to do this. Slice it as straight and evenly as you can, otherwise you'll end up having to match the cuts up perfectly so your cake isn't lopsided. For the bottom two layers, you can either put the round right-side-up or upside-down. For this cake, I put it right-side-up so that the nice flat bottom of the cake was on the bottom. I've done it both ways though. Then, my top cake was upside-down (matching up my slices) so, my two rounds were top-to-top; dome sides together.

When you spread your filling or frosting between each layer, make it nice and even... OR, make thicker on one side to account for any crookedness. Your BEST FRIEND when spreading frosting is an offset spatula. I don't know what I'd do without mine; a couple of times my kids have put it away in the wrong drawer and I've had a small heart attack when I've thought it was missing.

When you're frosting any cake, but especially when you're frosting a chocolate cake with white icing, you're going to be stressed out about the crumbs getting in the way & showing. It's a total nightmare when making choc w/ white.

The solution is so simple; I was so happy when I learned about this: do a crumb coat. This cake's crumb coat is shown below:

See? I just frosted it without abandon; not a care in the world for how many dark crumbs were contaminating my pretty frosting. A crumb coat is just a thin layer of frosting that seals in the crumbs. Just be sure to set aside enough "uncontaminated" frosting for the final layer! The crumb coat is also a good time to make the sides nice and straight, and to fill in all the ridges between layers of cake. This particular frosting had a lot of butter in it, which meant it set up nice and firm after leaving it in the fridge for a little while. After about 45 minutes in the fridge, the crumb coat was set firmly enough to apply the rest of the frosting to the cake.

Application of a crumb coat requires more frosting and more time/planning, but it will really help the prettiness of your cakes.

Next post: the recipe for this particular cake!

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