Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sandwiching cake layers together

Here are some tips for sandwiching together cake layers. It may sound easy, but it’s not great when you end up with a completely wonky, lopsided cake with the layers sliding past each other and everything falling apart. Case in point:

This cake. I made this quite a few years ago now as you may be able to tell from the quality.
The blue icing was completely the wrong consistency, as you can probably see from the picture, so the green layer kept sliding off the purple layer (which you can’t even SEE because of the blobs of icing tipping over its side). Icing consistency was one of the many problems with this cake, the others being my lack of access to three cake pans of equal size, and a lack of adequate food colourings. Something which was NOT a problem was the taste, but even still this experience put me off any further attempts at a rainbow cake. Perhaps in the future I will return to this challenge.

But anyway, here, I hope I can give you some tips to avoid common problems when sandwiching layer cakes together.

Firstly: baking
If you don’t have two (or even three, or more) equal sized cake tins, don’t worry! It is usually better to bake one taller cake and cut it in half lengthways, than to bake two different-sized cakes and try to trim one down to size. See the rough edges of the green cake above to confirm why this is a bad idea.
If you DO have two equal sized cake tins, try to fill them with equal amounts of cake batter.
Usually, when I bake two “equal sized cakes”, they do NOT come out of the oven equal. This could be because of my dodgy oven, or because I am the worst at filling cake tins equally. If you also have this problem, choose the best out of the two to be your ‘top’ slice. Then trim the top off the other one using a breadknife, so that you have a flat surface.
Alternatively, if you want a really flat top, trim both of your cakes, and flip the top one upside down – once again giving you a flat surface!
In the picture above you can see that I have only trimmed one of the cakes (you can also see that not all of the cut-offs made it into the photo… I’m not even going to pretend that it wasn’t me who ate them). 
Secure your bottom layer in place
Always secure your cake to the cake stand! Just use a small dollop of icing as ‘glue’ – this will make things easier when you come to ice your cake; no slipping or sliding around on the cake stand.
Spread your sandwiching icing
Start by putting a great big dollop of icing in the middle of the bottom layer – use as much as you like, within reason. (If you’re using a thick icing like I have here, you can use a lot and it will still hold its shape. If you’re using a thinner, more fluid icing, you shouldn’t use too much as the top layer will be prone to slide around). 
Try to spread from the middle of the dollop, outwards, using a knife/spatula/back of a spoon. There shouldn’t be any need for the spoon to touch the outer ‘section’ of the icing – the bit that will be on show once the cake is sandwiched together – and leaving these parts of the icing untouched gives a nicer finish to the cake. Of course if you are going to cover the entire cake with icing anyway, it doesn’t matter how the edges look.
Top with the second cake
Carefully top with your second cake layer, and you’re done! It can take some practice to be able to get the top layer in the right place on the first try, but you can normally just push it into the right place if you didn't quite place it centrally the first time.

I will post at a later date about completely covering a cake in icing, as this is not easy to do neatly either. I hope this particular post was not way too obvious or patronising and that you were able to learn something from it!

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