parchment placed on cake standIt's a labor of love, and a chance to show your stuff. Make your layer cake gorgeous by assembling it with these simple steps.Place first layer

Patience makes perfect. Take the time to chill or freeze your baked layers before assembling the cake. The layers will be less fragile, and you'll have more control and better results with frosting. While they're chilling, line your serving plate with 2" to 3" wide strips of parchment paper.

Trim any dome from the top of the first layer so the cake is flat, then flip it over and place it on your serving plate cut side down.pipe dam illo

Pipe a rope of frosting around the outside edge of the cake layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes so it will become firm. This "dam" keeps frosting or filling from bulging out the side of the finished cake. After the dam sets, fill the top of the layer.place 2nd cake layer illocrumb coat cake illo

Trim the next layer and place it cut side down over the first. Chill the cake again, if it isn't cool to the touch.

Smear a very thin coat of frosting on the sides and top of the cake.

cake illo finish coat

This is called the crumb coat. It's fine if it looks messy, and crumbs are showing through. Refrigerate the cake until you can touch the crumb coat without leaving a fingerprint, 20 to 30 minutes.decorate cake with spoon

Once the crumb coat is firm, cover the top and sides of the cake with a finish coat of frosting. Gently remove the parchment paper strips.

Decorate and embellish to your heart's content.

This article appeared in the premier issue of Sift.

Susan Reid
The Author

About Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.