6 Food-Stylist Tips to Make a More Beautiful Cake

updated Apr 1, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

For people who are new to baking, cakes can be a bit intimidating. Between the making, assembling, and frosting, it’s a big project. Plus, we all want a beautiful cake! It takes a bit of extra time, but with just a few simple steps, you can end up with a stunning cake that’s as pretty as it is delicious.

Here are six important tips for making a more beautiful cake at home.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Weigh out the batter for perfectly-even layers.

To make sure that your cake layers are completely even, weigh out your batter into each pan. To do so, weight your mixing bowl before you make the cake, jot down the weight, and then prepare your batter. Weigh the bowl with the batter in it, subtract the weight of the bowl, and divide that amount by the number of layers you want to bake and add exactly that amount into each pan. If you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, you can also use a measuring cup to evenly divide the batter into each pan.

Read more: How to Divide Cake Batter Evenly Between Pans

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Cool the cakes after baking.

Cooling your cake layers might sound obvious, but it’s one of the most important steps. Before you remove your cakes from their pans, let them cool for at least 30 minutes. Then, remove them from their pans and cool them on a wire rack until they’re completely cool. This will take about 30 more minutes. This helps the cakes firm up so they don’t fall apart when you trim them, and it’ll make sure that any frosting you apply won’t melt.

3. Trim the layers and assemble them upside-down.

To prevent your cake from coming out lopsided, make sure to trim each layer before assembling. We find that using a serrated knife to trim the domed tops off works best, and that building the cake cut-side down makes them more level and easier to frost. The trimmed tops are prone to ripping when being frosted. The layer that came out the flattest should be used as the top layer to help create a flat and level surface.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Give your cake a crumb coat.

A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that goes on before the final layer. The goal is to trap all of the cake crumbs in the crumb coat so none of them end up in the final layer of frosting. To do so, simply build your cake and use a very thin layer of frosting to frost the outside. Don’t use too much, as you’ll want to save a majority of the frosting for the final beauty layer. A thin layer is all you need to trap the crumbs.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Chill your cake once more.

This final chilling is to firm up the crumb coat so it doesn’t mix into the final layer of frosting. Transfer the crumb-coated cake into the fridge and let it chill for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. This way you can add the final layer of frosting without worrying that any crumbs will get into it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

6. Apply frosting from top to bottom.

Now that the cake is crumb-coated and chilled, it’s time for the fun part. This is the step where you apply the remaining frosting and make it look pretty. We like to use a small offset spatula to apply the final layer of frosting to get those picture-perfect swooshes. We also find that adding all of the frosting to the top of the cake, then slowly working it down the sides of the cake works best. The trick is to work quickly with swift, long motions. You can go back and mess with the final layer of frosting, but often, the less you mess with it the better it looks.

Ready to get baking? Here are some of our favorite cake recipes.

Welcome to Pretty Delicious, a series where our in-house food stylist shares his favorite tips, tricks, and hacks that you can use in your own kitchen. With just a little bit of food-styling know-how, you can make food that’s as pretty as it is delicious.