British Girl Bakes Logo
Free Cake Decorating MasterCourse | British Girl Bakes
Free MasterCourse
British Girl Bakes Logo
Free Cake Decorating MasterCourse | British Girl Bakes

How to Make Layer Cakes

In this tutorial I'll show you how to make layer cakes. Start by preparing your cake layers, then add your fillings without making the cake lean or bulge, and then prepare the cake for frosting. Follow these step by step instructions for beautiful, stable layer cakes!

Prepare cake layers

To make a layer cake of course you'll need cake layers! You can bake each one individually or bake tall cake layers and then divide each one in half. To divide cakes in half you'll need a serrated knife like a bread knife. It's really important to wait until your cakes have cooled completely before you cut into them. If they're still warm or hot they'll dry out so let them cool for 2 hours after baking before you do this.

There is no set way to divide cakes but I'll show you the way that works really well for me. Put a cake down on the countertop or a cutting board and use your knife to score around the middle. Spin the cake as you cut and when you've gone all the way around, the beginning of your line should meet the end of the line. This shows that you've made a level scored line around the whole cake.

how to divide cakes in half to make a layer cake

Then continue spinning as you gradually push your knife closer towards the middle of the cake. When you feel the knife moving effortlessly because you've cut all the way through, slide it out. I'm using my Very Vanilla cake for this tutorial.

how to divide cakes in half to make layer cakes

Now you'll have two cake layers instead of one! Do the same for all of your layers of cake to divide them in half horizontally. The advantage of four cake layers instead of two is that you'll have three layers of filling instead of one. This means more flavour and also a moister cake.

If you're won't eat your cake the day you bake it, it's a good idea to use simple syrup. Simple syrup keeps the layers moist and it's very easy to make! Measure equal parts of water and sugar, for example half a cup of each, and bring to a simmer. You can do this in a pan on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave. Let it cool before you brush or drizzle it over each cake layer. Pay special attention to the outer edge, which is where it will dry out first.

how to use simple syrup on layer cakes

Prepare your tools and ingredients

A turntable is not essential but it's helpful to make the assemble process quicker for layer cakes. You will need a cake board of any material: cardboard, acrylic, or a cake drum. This is important because it makes it easy to move the cake around later and it provides a flat surface when you are frosting your cake, which will help you get straight sides. More on that later.

Now let's talk about fillings. There are lots of different ingredients you can use to fill a cake like buttercream, ganache, caramel, fruit curds and jams. For anything that is runnier than buttercream, you will need a buttercream dam and I'll show you what that is for this cake.

How to assemble layer cakes

Attaching cake layers to a cake board

You'll need to attach your first cake layer onto the cake board. If you just place it straight down on the cake board, when you frost it you'll push the cake all over the cake board with your spatula or cake comb. To prevent that, take a little bit of buttercream frosting and spread it onto the middle of your cake board. This will act as glue.

how to attach cake layers to a cake board

Then press your first cake layer down onto the buttercream and it will hold it in place. Make sure the cake is centered in the middle of your cake board and then continue with your fillings.

Adding fillings to layer cakes

If you're using buttercream as a filling, spread it up to the edges of the cake. Then hold it at a 45° angle as you spin the cake to level it. This creates a flat surface for the next filling. I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream. If you're using a runny filling you should spread a very thin layer of buttercream over each cake layer first. This will stop fillings like caramel or jam from absorbing into the cake underneath.

how to spread filling onto layer cakes

If you add runny filling onto this, it will ooze out the edges of the cake and cause bulges in the frosting later. It can also cause all of the higher layers of the cake to slip so the cake doesn't stay straight. So what do we do? Make a buttercream dam.

Using buttercream dams on layer cakes

Spoon some more buttercream into a piping bag. You don't need a piping tip, just with a hole cut off the end of the bag. Only fill the bag half full so it's easy to grip onto. Push the buttercream down to the end of the bag and twist it at the top. It should be pressed tightly around the buttercream. This makes it easier to squeeze the buttercream out.

use a piping bag to pipe a buttercream dam around runny filling on layer cakes

Now pipe a ring around the edge of the cake layer like a dam or a wall . This will hold the runny filling in place so that it doesn't ooze out of the sides of the cake.

how to use buttercream dams

If you don't have a piping bag you can spoon buttercream into a sandwich bag like a Ziploc bag. Cut off one of the bottom corners and then squeeze the buttercream through that to pipe a ring or a dam around the cake.

Next, spoon your filling into the middle of this ring you piped. Spread it around to cover the cake, right up to the edges of the ring. This filling shouldn't be higher or taller than the ring.

how to use buttercream dams on layer cakes
how to fill a layer cake

The layer of buttercream spread underneath the filling will stop the filling from sinking down into the cake. The piped dam will hold the filling in so that the cake and frosting stay straight and smooth without bulges.

This is probably obvious but for cooked fillings like caramel or lemon curd, make sure they're cool before you add them to the cake. A hot or warm filling will melt the buttercream dam and completely defeat the purpose of it!

Assembling layer cakes

Place your next cake layer gently on top, not pushing down yet. Get down to eye level and spin the cake to check that this second layer is directly on top of the layer beneath. You don't want it to stick out to one side. A turntable is useful to spin the cake and check it from all sides.

how to assemble a layer cake

If you're using plain or flavoured buttercream for the filling then you don't need to use a buttercream dam. The only time you need a dam is when the consistency of the filling is loose or runny.

how to make a straight layer cake

Place your final layer of cake on top and spin the cake to check it's straight, nudging any layers over if they're sticking out to one side.

how to layer a cake

Preparing layer cakes for a crumb coat

The final step is to which is to smooth the filling around the sides of the cake wherever it's sticking out. You don't want those bulges to get in the way when you frost the cake later.

flatten filling bulges before frosting layer cakes

Since a layer cake is made up of several pieces stacked on top of each other, it's important that they attach to each other before you apply any pressure to them. Spreading frosting onto layer cakes can push the layers off-center and make the cake lean to one side. The most effective way to attach the cake and filling together is to chill them. 30 minutes in the fridge is ideal or if you're in the rush, 15 minutes in the freezer.

In the next part of this tutorial I'll show you step by step how to crumb coat a cake and in the final part how to frost a cake with super smooth frosting.

I hope this has been useful! Please ask me any questions you have in the comments and visit my cake school to learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs to take your cakes from beginner to professional.

Watch a video on how to assemble layer cakes here:
subscribe now

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

British Girl Bakes Logo
© Copyright 2024 • British Girl Bakes - All Rights Reserved