How Not to Ice a Layer Cake: 5 Lessons

I pride myself on being a pretty good amateur baker, but I definitely have my faults.  Probably my biggest issue is impatience and/or moving too fast.  I just want to tackle it all...yesterday.

Recently, I made a cake for my friend Lindsay's birthday.  I told her that I wanted to practice my layer cake-making skills and try my hand at some fancy decorations.  The actual cake baking and layering went well; the fancy decorations went so-so.  That was totally my lack of preparedness though!  

I don't want you to go through the same issues, so here are my lessons learned:

1.  Distribute the batter evenly in same-size tins.  I made Lindsay's cake using this chocolate cake recipe (my favorite!) and it's tried and true.  I had four four-inch tins, so I used my ice cream scoop and put one scoop in each tin and then repeated it until all of the batter was used.  Make sure it's even and smoothed out.

2.  Level out each cake.  If you do step one, it makes this step easier.  If one of your cakes is really uneven, take a large knife and straighten it out.  Make sure your cakes are cooled completely though.  You don't want them falling apart on you.

3.  Make your icing "stiff".  If you want a good consistency, make sure that your icing is super thick.  It should have very stiff peaks and stand on its own.  In a few weeks, I'm going to be sharing my own vegan buttercream recipe that will solve all of your cake problems!  In the mean time, when in doubt, add a little more powdered sugar.

4.  Have enough icing on hand.  This may sound like a no-brainer, but trust me, it's not.  Double your icing recipe.  Have enough icing to ice each layer and then another batch to do fancy things with.  When I was icing Lindsay's cake, I iced the layers - no problem - but didn't have enough to do fancy things with.  I totally underestimated the amount of icing I needed.  For every 4 inch cake layer, I needed at least 1/2 cup of icing.  That's 2+ cups of icing, just for the bare minimum.

5.  Don't do it all in one day.  This may come as a surprise!  One thing that I did right was do the layered icing the first day and the fancy icing the second day.  If you try to do it all at once, you rush and make a mistake.  Or you have a creative meltdown.  Both have happened to me!  Have a plan for both icing and decorating.

These items may seem like normal things to know, but these are good things to revisit.  If you want to have a (somewhat) seamless cake making experience, think about these things before you bake!