Hello everyone and welcome to my tutorial on crumb coating a cake. I often get asked by friends and family how to crumb coat a cake and to get a nice smooth finish on the cake, so here is one of my techniques.
I know you are excited to jump into decorating your cake, but I need to clarify a few things about frosting. First, there are many different kinds of frosting, the kind Americans generally use is an American buttercream. This is the ultra sweet frosting made with powdered sugar, butter and sometimes shortening. There are also Meringue buttercreams which are a little more difficult to make, but totally worth it. For this tutorial, we are using an American buttercream.
Before you begin, make sure your frosting is stiff, you should be able to scoop it up with your spatula and turn it upside down over the bowl without it falling or sliding back into the bowl. The frosting should hold its shape perfectly.
So, what is a crumb coat? That is a good question. A crumb coat is the base coat of frosting on a cake. Generally there are 2 layers of frosting spread on a cake, the 1st is the crumb coat. It seals in the crumbs, so that no crumbs can get into the second layer of icing and made your cake look dirty.
These are the tools I use to crumb coat a cake. A leveler, an off-set spatula and a scraper. All of these materials can be picked up at a craft store near you or on line. I also use a turntable and I ALWAYS have a separate empty bowl, which I will explain in a minute.
The 1st thing you need to do is level your cakes. All cakes need to be leveled or you will get cracked cakes that will not hold there shape. I use a leveler which I bought at a craft store for about $4. If you do not have one you can also use a long knife and very carefully cut the top off your cake. If I have to use this option, I use the longest NON-serrated knife I have. I do not like to use serrated knives on cakes because the tear the cake and make more crumbs.
Once you have topped all of your cakes, you are ready to start stacking. Start by spreading a thin layer of Frosting on your cake board so it will stick to the bottom of your cake.
Place your 1st layer on and plop a big dollop of icing right in the middle! That was a weird sentence. Anyway, spread the icing carefully. I think of spreading frosting like spreading peanut butter on bread, you have to be very careful or it tears the bread, same with cake and frosting. Always add more frosting that you think you need. You can always take off frosting, and it is much easier and cleaner that trying to add frosting.
Once it is nice and flat like the picture below, you can stack the second cake. If you only have 2 cakes, turn the cake over so the bottom of the second cake is now the top of the cake. This will greatly reduce your amount of crumbs.
As you can see, i repeated everything for the second cake and flipped my top cake so it is upside down.
Once you have filled your cake, use your off set spatula to smooth your excess frosting into the cake. This is where you fill any gaps on the sides, if there are any and make sure your layers are stacked properly. This is also the time to get out that extra bowl I told you to have ready.
One of my tricks to getting a really nice crumb coat is to have my extra bowl. Anytime I get crumbs on my spatula, I wipe the frosting into my extra bowl. I always make sure to keep my frosting bowl crumb free, by putting my crumb covered frosting into a separate bowl:) It is the best way to reduce crumbs, I promise!
Note the angle of the spatula in the picture above. You want to keep you spatula at a 90 degree angle while spreading frosting.
Now that we have spread the excess frosting around and off the cake. See my square pan has my crumby frosting in it (Above) We can begin spreading on the crumb coat. Again always start with more that you need. I like to spread frosting on the sides of the cake, then the top. Turn your turntable with one hand while you hold your spatula at 90 degrees. To get this right, it can take a while. if you see gaps of holes, fix them and keep going. Once you have a nice thick coat if frosting, use your scraper and hold it flat on the turntable so it is against the side of your cake (sorry I forgot to take a picture of that) then turn the turn table and the scraper will make a perfectly smooth coat of frosting.
After finishing the edges of the cake, you will have peaks on the top edges of the cake, use you scraper or spatula to draw the peaks into the center of the cake, Then smooth again.
Once you have finished the crumb coat you are ready to cover the cake in fondant, or if you are making a buttercream cake, let the cake rest for a few minutes in the fridge and the coat it again the same way.
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial! Please let me know if you have any questions and enjoy caking!