Many years ago, when I first ventured into “specialty” baking, I was given the gift of classes on cake decorating. At the time I was baking mostly cookies and brownies and wasn’t sure what I would do with the knowledge, but I knew I would have fun. I learned how to use frosting to make a basket-weave, flowers and leaves. It was pretty but didn’t seem very useful for a home baker. Until I learned some tricks.
I learned to stand a tipped decorating bag in a tall glass while you are filling it – it’s like an extra hand when yours are already busy. Another idea was to use icing as glue to cement the cake to a board so it won’t move in transport. I found out that a turning stand makes it easier to decorate a cake. A great tip was to flip the top layer of a layer cake over so you have a flat surface to frost. But my favorite trick was the crumb coat.
A crumb coat will make the surface of your meticulously decorated cake look beautiful. To crumb coat a cake you take some of your icing and thin it with water. It should be thinner than usual but not enough to tear the cake as you apply it. Spread this icing to make a thin layer on the entire exposed cake surface.
“Don’t worry if there are crumbs in the icing, this is expected. The icing layer is so thin that you will see the cake and crumbs. Smooth the icing as best as you can and let it dry. The crumb coat needs to be dry to the touch before you put the final layer of icing on. Once the crumb coat is completely dry, you are ready to continue icing and decorating.”
The crumb coat creates a barrier to hold crumbs down so your final icing will be smooth and crumb-free. This is especially important if you are frosting a chocolate cake with white icing. Even with white icing on a white cake you don’t want to have cake bits floating around in your decorations. It may seem like it takes unnecessary extra time, but it is so worth it. It helps make any cake into the perfect cake.