This December, we’re going to show you how you can achieve great taste using everyone’s favorite treat: chocolate. This content was created in partnership with Food52.
It’s so easy to phone in a cake these days. When it comes to celebrations, we’re quick to outsource dessert because it saves time and a bit of sanity. But there’s no reason for a layer cake to drive you to the edge: Homemade cakes are too good, too thoughtful, and too beautiful to turn away from — and the biggest secret is that they’re easier to assemble than anyone lets on. So put on your apron, pick out a pretty cake stand, and grab hold of your spatula. You’ve got this under control.
The most fundamental component of a great layer cake is a well-baked cake. First, be sure to prepare your pans properly: Line two pans of equal size with parchment paper, butter them generously, dust them with flour, and gently tap out any excess. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans, give the pans a tap on the counter to remove any excess air bubbles, and bake as instructed. And always let the cakes cool to room temperature before you turn them out!
Live.Love.Lux Tip: When baking two layers of cake at once, you can always count on even heat distribution between oven racks with the convection technology in your Electrolux wall oven.
1. Using a small offset spatula or a paring knife, loosen the sides of the cake by sliding it around the perimeter of the pan. Wrap a cardboard cake board or plate the size of your pan in plastic wrap and place it on top of the cake. With one hand on either side of the pan, flip the cake over and gently tap on the bottom of the pan until the cake loosens and slips onto the cardboard round. If you have any trouble, slip the cake in the freezer and try again in 10 minutes.
2. Once the cakes are out of their pans, place them on a sheet tray or a large plate and put them back in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight; if the latter, wrap the cakes in plastic so they don’t go stale. This step will prevent excess crumbling and breakage when you cut them into layers — fewer crumbs also makes it easier to frost the cake seamlessly.
3. Next, level the cakes: Use a serrated knife to shave off the dome on top of each cake. (Save this — it’s the baker’s treat.) Keep your knife flat to ensure an even cut — any angle will create an uneven layer. Once the dome is cut off, use your plastic-wrapped cake round to flip the cake over and remove the parchment lining. The bottom of the cake is now the top, and you have two flush sides.
4. To cut the cake into layers, hold the serrated knife in your dominant hand and place the knife on the sidewall, halfway up the cake. Use your other hand to brace the cake and, steadily and evenly, saw the cake in half, making sure to keep the knife flat the whole way through.
5. Now it’s time to assemble. Place a dab of icing in the center of a cardboard cake round and place one layer on top. The icing will work as “glue” to hold the cake in place. If you have one cake round that’s uglier than the others, use this as your bottom layer. Place a dollop of frosting on top of that layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the frosting from the center to the edges using a half-circle motion. Continue until the frosting is distributed in an even layer. Place the next layer on top, and repeat, saving the flattest cake for the top and placing it cut-side down so that the bottom of the cake is facing up.
6. Once your layers are stacked, apply the crumb coat. Smooth a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake with an offset spatula. The layer should be very thin so as just to capture any loose crumbs that you don’t want to surface on the final layer of frosting. Place the cake back in the fridge for another hour to set.
7. You’ve reached the final step: It’s time to frost the cake and transform it into a beautiful, dinner party-worthy dessert. With a silicone spatula or a spoon, place a large dollop of frosting on top of the cake. Smooth the frosting evenly over the top of the cake with your offset spatula until the frosting peeks just over the edge. Place a bit more icing on the side wall of the cake and spread it evenly from bottom to top. Turn the cake (a rotating cake stand helps with this job) as you continue to apply more frosting -- you want the sides to be completely covered. Clean your spatula and use it to smooth the frosting and fill in any uneven areas.
To make things even prettier, cover the sides of the cake with shredded coconut or chopped toasted nuts. If you want the look of a bakery cake, fill a container with hot water, and dip your clean offset spatula in it. Wipe off any excess water with a towel and gently smooth the warm blade over the top of your cake at a 45° angle. You’ll be left with a shiny, flat, beautiful surface that — surprise! — you made all by yourself, no bakery required.