Let’s take it right back to basics for a minute. It’s all well and good being able to make an awesome sugar rose or a fondant bride and groom but if your actual cake isn’t spot on it’s going to distract from your awesome sugarcraft skills!
You want a great foundation for all of your cakes, both round and square.
Do you have a favourite cake shape?
Let me word that better.
Do you have a least hated cake shape?
My least hated cake shape is round. My most hated cake shape (aside from numbers) is square! Too many edges.
Some people love squares though. They love sides and edges. I don’t get it either.
In this video, I show you, in detail, how to fondant round and square cakes, so you get to see a bit from both sides of the “Cake Shape Argument”. I will also affiliate link to the products I use so if you need them you can see where to get them.
I’m going to go step-by-step from start to finish so this is a long and detailed tutorial, hang on in there with me. Even if you take away one eye-opening thing that makes your cake life easier then it’s a good day!
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When I bake, I always bake each layer in two tins so the cakes are more evenly baked ie. So it doesn’t burn on the outside whilst being raw in the middle.
Before you get to actually start covering your cakes you need to level each cake layer.
When cakes rise in the oven, they very rarely (NEVER) rise evenly.
There is normally a certain degree of ‘dome-age’. If you are getting huge peaks and your cake layers have large cracks running across the centre of the top, you need to turn your oven down a bit.
I bake in a fan oven at 160 but I know other people who bake everything even lower. You will need to leave your cakes to cook for longer than before but they should come out much more evenly baked and without big cracks and ‘dome-age’ on the top.
As I said before, all cakes, no matter how beautifully they have baked, will have some sort of peak on top, even if minor.
This peak will need to be trimmed away. To do this, you can either use a large knife, a steady hand and a very even eye. Or you can use a cake leveller (my hand’s in the air!).
Cake levellers are actual genius. When I first started cake decorating they didn’t even exist and I was AWFUL at levelling cakes with a knife. SO bad.
Then cake levellers were a thing and they brought sunshine to my life.
Cake levellers are like a cheese wire on a frame, which has notches up each side so you can adjust the height of the wire.
When you get the wire to the height you want, you just need to saw it through your cake. It will remove anything above the wire leaving you with a very impressive, level, even cake.
Zilch hard work or stress involved there.
There is a stunning piece of equipment that exists called the Agbay. This is a piece of kit that is majorly on my wishlist and has been since I first saw it. It does precision cuts through your cake and, depending on which one you buy, can cut several layers in one go.
It is pricey so it’s only a purchase for those super keen on cake decorating and wanting to take it to the next level. You need to make sure it’s worth the investment.
One day, guys.
When your cakes are levelled, you need to cut straight through the centre of each cake, again using your leveller.
Now you will have four layers of cake, from your initial two layers.
How to fill and crumb coat your cakes.
1) Get a board the same size as your cake.
I use thin cake boards. This enables me to be able to move the cake around easily, place the cake on an iced board and not have the fondant go all sticky and gloopy underneath, and to be able to safely stack a cake if need be.
Spread a little bit of buttercream (my vanilla buttercream recipe is here) onto your cake board and then lay your first layer of cake onto the board. Press down lightly so it sticks to the buttercream.
2) Add your filling.
In the UK, vanilla cake with jam and buttercream is where it’s AT. Everyone loves a classic English Victoria Sponge and it accounts for probably 80% of my cakes. That’s a guess. My maths is bad and my stats are worse! I do a lot of vanilla cake though.
My first layer is, nine times out of ten, jam, curd, or preserve but it could be buttercream too.
Whatever you fill your cake with, you want to use a cranked palette knife to spread fillings. A cranked palette knife will keep your hand well away from the cake and it’s a much easier angle to work with than trying to do it all with a straight palette knife.
Spread your filling right to the very edges of your cake so whoever gets a corner piece isn’t left without! That wouldn’t be fair. I’d be giving the stink eye if I got a corner piece with no filling.
When you have added your first layer of filling, place a layer of cake on top, making sure it’s central and give it a light press down.
Then we can add a big dollop of buttercream.
You want to be generous here.
Not only because it’s delicious.
The more generous you are with your buttercream, the easier it will be for you spread a nice clean layer of buttercream, and not one riddled with crumbs.
With more buttercream, you can use buttercream to push buttercream towards the edges of the cake layer. Does that make sense or have I ruined everything by overusing the ‘B’ word?
It will look much nicer when you slice through a cake that has beautiful, clean, white layers of filling than one that has layers packed with cake crumbs. I’d still eat it, it’s cake! But my rock bottom standards are not to be assumed suitable for the rest of the population.
Then you can add your next layer of cake, another layer of filling (I do a second buttercream layer) then your top layer of cake. Each layer of cake you add you want to give it a little press down to make sure it has stuck itself to the buttercream layer a little bit.
This is red velvet cake but still… look at those layer of buttercream. Yes please!
3) Add your crumb coat.
In order for your fondant to stick to your cake and for your cake to be nice and smooth and not bumpy you will need a good foundation for your fondant, and this foundation’s name is Crumb Coat.
I am a big fan of smart mats when it gets to the point of adding my crumb coat. I use them for every cake because it makes moving them around so much easier. I don’t have to touch the cake and risk messing up my crumb coat at all.
Spread a layer of buttercream around your cake, covering every part of it. This doesn’t need to be a thick layer. This is only the beginning, my friends.
If you get a collection of buttercream on the edges of your cake, smooth it out by drawing the buttercream in towards the middle of the top of the cake (and for a square cake into the middle of each side so your corners are sharp). Try to keep your edges crisp and not covered in lumpy buttercream.
At this point you need to chill your cake to firm up your crumb coat. You can do this by either putting the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes, or in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
You ideally want to chill the buttercream without making the cake inside too cold. If you put the cake into the freezer for an hour, it would completely chill the cake inside so that when you bring it back out there would be condensation forming, which in turn will make your fondant sticky and difficult to handle.
When your first layer of buttercream is chilled, you can apply a second coat. This is where the real foundation making is going to happen.
You can work on your edges and make sure everything is nice and level. I tend to work only with a palette knife but if you like using a side scraper then do what is best for you. I do sometimes prefer a side scraper, particularly with square cakes.
When you have your final crumb coat on, your cake is ready for you to apply your fondant.
I tend to chill my cake whilst I am getting my fondant ready so the last crumb coat I applied is nice and firm.
How to fondant round and square cakes.
1) If your cake has been chilling, bring it out of the fridge or the freezer and apply a thin layer of shortening all over the cake. In the UK this is Trex, in the US it’s Crisco. You only need a very small amount though, if you apply loads, the shortening will actually prevent your fondant from firming up which makes moving and decorating your cakes more difficult.
2) Knead your fondant until it is soft and pliable. I haven’t kept it a secret that my favourite fondant in the world is Massa Ticino. This stuff is so strong! It makes life a whole lot easier and it smells gorg!
3) To roll out my fondant, I use cornflour to stop my paste from sticking. You can use icing sugar if you prefer but I find cornflour to be more non-stick, and no, it doesn’t make the fondant taste bad.
4) Roll your fondant out with a large non-stick rolling pin and frequently lift and turn your fondant so that you can tell if it’s starting to stick and you need to add more cornflour.
5) You can estimate the right size for your fondant by holding your rolling pin next to the side of the cake and holding your thumb where the cake comes up to. Double this measurement because you know it is the same height the other side, then add on the distance across the top of your cake. You then know roughly where your fondant needs to come to on your rolling pin for it to cover your whole cake.
6) Place your rolling pin in the middle of your fondant and fold it back in order to lift it up easily. Line one side of the fondant up with the side of your cake and lay the fondant over your cake.
7) Work to get the top inch or so of fondant attached to the sides then you can start working your way around the sides of the cake.
8) For a round cake, start where there is most fondant, lift the pleats out and then lift the excess fondant in towards the cake as you press the fondant lightly onto the sides of the cake.
9) Continue to work your way around, lifting any pleats out but always using the excess fondant to your advantage. Don’t put unnecessary stress on the top edge of your fondant by trying to stretch the fondant down when there is plenty you can use already at the base of the cake.
10) For a square cake, I tend to start at the corners and then come in to the middle of each side working out any pleats, and again lifting any excess fondant towards the sides of the cake. Continue this process for all four sides.
11) For any shape cake it is important to ensure that the fondant right at the very base of the cake is completely attached to the cake. If it isn’t, when you come to trim the excess fondant away, you may find the fondant that should be on your cake lifts away and you may end up cutting to high.
12) Once your fondant is on your cake, it is time to get your smooth on and this is where the real magic happens. Use your smoothers to buff all over the top and side(s) of your cake to remove any dents that may have been left from your hands. NB. This link is for one smoother only. I always use two so make sure you add two to your basket if you haven’t got a smoother already.
13) Use your smoothers to sharpen the edges of your cakes. Hold one against the side of the cake and then use the other one on top of the cake to pinch a small ridge of icing. Buff over the ridge to leave a smooth, sharp edge. For your round cake, work all the way around the top edge. For your square cake, work all around the top edge and also on each side edge and the corners.
14) Belissimo Flexi Smoothers are the last step to really polish your cakes off. Use these little wonders to buff along your edges to sharpen them even more.
15) You can then use a cranked palette knife to trim the excess fondant away from the base of your cake. Make sure you slice through the fondant and then pull it away. If you press the palette knife in and just pull away, it’s likely that you will pull the fondant away from the side of the cake.
Once these steps are complete, I leave my cakes to set overnight before I move them and start applying decorations. You can start decorating straight away if you want to but be careful not to mark your beautifully iced cake.
Let me know if you try the above methods for your cakes, I’d love to see how you get on!