Last Updated on January 15, 2023
Today, we will guide you through how to ice a cake without crumbs. This layer is essential to help make your cakes level and look more professional!
What Is Crumb Coating A Cake?
Many people have heard about "crumb coatings", but still there is a massive misconception about what exactly it is.
Today, we will remove any and all uncertainties about what it is, why you have to do it, and how to ice a cake without crumbs.
To start, let's talk about what a crumb coating is. Essentially, a crumb coating refers to a very thin layer of frosting on the surface of the cake. Usually, a very pliable and soft frosting is used. It can be any type of frosting, but more often than not, it is made from a buttercream recipe.
Crumb coatings are also generally white in color.
Functions of a crumb coating
Many people skip this step. But knowing how to ice a cake without crumbs will help take your baked goods from amateur to expert!
The ultimate goal and function of the crumb layer are to create a smooth surface on the cake. It will help catch up all of the loose crumbs.
The smooth surface allows you to create beautiful decorations that again, just look a lot more professionally done. The crumb coating is applied and set before the final layer of buttercream is applied or the cake is covered with a sheet of fondant icing.
The white frosting also creates a "clean" surface to work off of. This will help hide the golden color of the cake. So, any colors that are potentially peeking through will be white, not brown.
Another lesser thought about the function of the crumb coating is to level out the cake. It helps fill the spaces between layers and can fill any holes from broken-off pieces of cake. Again, it creates a level, clean, texture-free surface to work off of.
How To Ice A Cake Without Crumbs - What You Will Need
Now that you have a better understanding of what a crumb coating is and why it will make your cakes look a thousand times better, let's move on to what you actually need to crumb coat a cake.
- Buttercream frosting
- Offset spatula (palette knife) or cake (bench) scraper
- Cake turntable, optional but recommended
To start, you will need a good buttercream frosting recipe. As we have mentioned, the frosting should be pliable. It needs to be able to easily glide over the surface of the cake. If it is too stiff, it will create more crumbs - the opposite of what you want!
It is also best if you use white buttercream frosting. It can also be a shade lighter than your top layer if you want.
This is an essential tool you cannot work without when it comes to how to ice a cake without crumbs. It will help you maneuver the icing better and create a much more even layer.
We recommend working with a larger spatula. It makes leveling larger sections much easier and eliminates lines.
You don't need a bench scraper (even though it helps a ton), but you definitely at least need a spatula.
A bench scraper will be handy when trying to create a level, 90 degree edge. You can place it against your flat surface or turntable.
This is a tool that will also come in very handy. Instead of having to struggle to turn the plate or cake stand, you can effortlessly turn the cake as quickly or slowly as you want.
From personal experience, buy a metal heavy-bottomed cake turntable. The plastic or lightweight ones don't turn effortlessly. Our cakes always used to come out wonky.
If you don't have a turntable or don't want to invest on one, you can place your cakes on a flat cake board or cake stand. It should not have a lip. Your crumb coating won't come out good.
So, once you have grabbed up your tools, let's look at how to frost a cake without crumbs.
1. Stack the layers
First, add a dollop of frosting on the cake board, turntable, or stand. Add the first layer. This will help secure the cake as you move it.
Then, add frosting between your layers. Make sure you stack them as perfectly aligned as you can.
Shape the cake as well if it is requires. This includes trimming the excess cake off the sides or carving it into the shape you want.
2. Add frosting to the top
Always start at the top. Add a good amount of frosting on the top. Then, using the offset spatula, smooth it out into a level layer of frosting on the top. Spread it outwards. Any excess frosting can fall off the sides.
3. Frost the sides
Once your top is level (it doesn't have to be even in thickness), you can add dollops of frosting around the side. Spread it evenly over the entire side of the cake.
4. Level the sides
Place your spatula or bench scraper at 90-degrees against the side of the cake. Then, turn the cake so that the tool scrapes off excess frosting and moves it to "unfilled" areas.
Every time you lift the spatula, you should clean off excess frosting. This clump of frosting is likely filled with crumbs now, which you don't want to spread to other areas of the cake.
5. Fill the gaps
Once you have done a couple of rounds, take a step back and assess your progress. Add more frosting to areas where there are still gaps.
How To Properly Ice A Cake - Tips And Tricks
- Never add a crumb coating to warm layers of cake. It will melt off and set in strange ways. Your layers should be completely cooled.
- Your crumb coating needs to be very thin. Some areas will be thicker than others (because you want a level cake). But, the layer overall shouldn't be extremely thick. Just like a naked cake, in some places the actual cake will peek through.
- The crumb coating should set in the fridge for about 1 hour before you add the final layer of frosting or fondant. The crumb coating will harden, which helps protect the cake from losing moisture as well.
- Cover the crumb coating with plastic wrap (very gently) when refrigerating the cake. This will help prevent it from becoming very dry if you store it for longer than an hour.
- A crumb coating can be applied a day or two before you want to decorate the rest of the cake.
In Conclusion - How To Ice A Cake Without Crumbs
If you still have any questions on how to ice a cake without crumbs, let us know in the comments below.
And, make sure to share this article with your fellow bakers so their cakes come out better as well.
Lindy Van Schalkwyk is a culinary specialist with a background in Advanced Cooking, Advanced Pâtisserie, Media Communications and Nutrition. She has gained invaluable experience in the culinary industry having worked in some of the top restaurants in Africa in 2016 and 2017. Her expertise in nutrition has enabled her to develop recipes for special dietary needs. In 2018, Lindy began working in the Food Media industry, focusing on recipe development, recipe writing, food writing and food styling.