pretty layer cake is usually frosting around the sides—filling in gaps, spreading at an awkward angle, working fast enough so that the icing doesn't slide onto the countertop... But if you want to keep the process stress-free, try leaving the sides un-frosted. It can be just as pretty. This technique works great if you have a fluffy filling, maybe one dotted with fruit or nuts. You'll have plenty of frosting, since you don't need it for the sides, so add a little extra in between each cake layer to make it dramatic. Then plop some on the top, and you're finished.
We think it also looks nice to have two different textures and colors, like a frosting in the middle and a ganache on the top. In fact, chocolate ganache is the perfect icing to use in this situation. It drips beautifully down the sides, eliminating the need to do anything else. Here are the recipes pictured above: • Chocolate-Orange Layer Cake, from Cooking Light (top). • Ginger-Pecan Cake, from Martha Stewart (above). Is this anyone's go-to technique? Any other tips? Related: How to Frost a Layer Cake (an easy tutorial if you do want to go all out) (Images: John Autry; MarthaStewart.com)