How to Crumb Coat a Cake

If you’ve ever looked at a layer cake recipe, it probably says to crumb coat the cake in part of the instructions. What is crumb coat for a cake? How do you crumb coat a cake? And when to crumb coat a cake? All these questions and more answered, as well as a step by step on how to crumb coat a cake.

If you want to learn how to make beautiful layer cakes, then crumb coating a cake is an important step in the process! Cakes like my Black Cocoa Oreo Cake, Simple Salted Caramel Cake, or my Eggless Birthday Cake all require you to crumb coat the cake before finishing.

So, let’s dive into what is crumb coat for a cake, when to crumb coat a cake, and how to crumb coat a cake! Don’t be intimidated, because while it may sound fancy, crumb coating a cake is actually very easy. I am going to walk you through it!

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What is crumb coat for a cake?

A crumb coat for a cake is exactly as it sounds – it’s a coat of frosting that is put on to hold in all the crumbs – Crumb Coat. Cake is moist and fluffy, it’s part of what makes it so special. But, because of its texture, it can easily break. So, when you are smashing frosting up against it, what do you think it could do? Break off!

So, a crumb coat is added to cakes to hold in all the tiny crumbs that break off during the frosting process. Crumb coating is the first step in frosting a layer cake. After the crumb coat is put on a cake is usually refrigerated or frozen for a few minutes to set that frosting and hold in the crumbs. Then, the final layer of frosting is added on, and no crumbs will get into it because it’s all be sealed into the crumb coat.

When to crumb coat a cake?

So, crumb coating a cake is not always necessary. First, crumb coating is only for layer cakes. It doesn’t apply to sheet cakes or loaf cakes. Why? Because those cakes just get a single layer of frosting on top, there really aren’t many crumbs to conceal, as the frosting usually just sits right on top of those types of cake.

Second, if you are making a naked cake, then crumb coating also does not apply because the cake layers will be showing through. So, when you make a layer cake, you are basically just adding one coat of frosting in a specific way. For more tips on naked cakes, check out my post How to Make a Naked Cake.

And last, a crumb coat is only necessary if you don’t want crumbs to be seen in your final layer of frosting. If you’re just baking my Best Friend Ever Cake because you just really want some cake, then by all means, skip the crumb coat and just go for it! Okay so now that we’ve ruled out sheet cakes, loaf cakes, naked cakes, and if we just don’t want to do it, when do we actually add it?

A crumb coating is the first layer of frosting added to the cake. I prefer to freeze my cake layers when putting together and stacking layer cakes. I find this makes it much easier to deal with for the crumb coat and the final layer. If you are new cake baking, I highly suggest you try this tip, as it makes learning to stack and frost layer cakes so much easier.

So, after the cake layers have been frozen for 15 to 20 minutes, and the frosting is made, then it’s time to start stacking and crumb coating. When you have multiple layers of cake, you will place the first cake layer on your cake spinner or stand, then top with frosting, spread it out, and top with the next cake layer. Repeat that until you have all the cake layers stacked.

Then, once they are all stacked, you’ll add a bit more frosting to the top and the sides and start sealing in the cake with frosting. You are now crumb coating! You want to use as little frosting here as possible because it’s best if this coat is very light, just enough to hold in the crumbs. That can be challenging for a beginner baker, I know, but that is what you should be working up to. Using just enough frosting for the crumb coat so you have plenty for the finished layer.

After you have the crumb coat finished, back into the fridge or freezer with that cake to set for a few minutes before the final layer of frosting goes on!

Can you crumb coat a cake the night before?

This is a great question, because if you’re prepping for a party you may want to think of things you can do ahead of time. I would not recommend crumb coating a cake the night before, and instead just making the whole cake the night before if you have to.

Crumb coating uses a small amount of frosting, like I noted above. It does not cover the entire cake; it just holds in the crumbs. So, if you just crumb coat a cake and leave it, the cake will be at risk of drying out as there is cake exposed. Plus, whenever you make frosting, you will make enough for both the crumb coat and the finished layer, so it just makes more sense to finish the entire cake.

If you do have to make a cake the night before a party, be sure to just store it in a cake dome or in the fridge and it will be just fine until the next day.

How to crumb coat a cake with whipped cream?

I know whipped cream is really the best with cake! If you want to use whipped cream for your cake instead of frosting, that is okay. But, I would recommend using my Whipped Cream Frosting and not just straight whipped cream. My Whipped Cream Frosting is made for cakes, so it has more stability than traditional whipped cream, even though it will taste just like whipped cream with your cake!

If you do make my Whipped Cream Frosting and want to use it on a layer cake, you can crumb coat it just like you would with traditional frosting.

What do you use to crumb coat a cake?

There are many tools that help when crumb coating a cake. If you are getting serious about baking layer cakes, then I highly suggest that you buy these tools as it will make your life so much easier!

Tools You Need to Crumb Coat a Cake

Cake Spinner

A Cake spinner (or also known as a turntable) is needed to spin the cake to easily press frosting into the sides of the cake. Trust me, this tool is totally worth it! I cannot frost a layer cake without this tool. There are many types of cake spinners, but even when I owned a bake shop, we just used the simple plastic ones. I thought they were always the best, and they are the least expensive! Get my favorite one here.

Straight Spatula

A straight spatula is a long metal spatula that you can use to frost the cake. There are flat spatulas and angled ones. Which kind you like is totally personal preference. I prefer the flat ones, like the Ateco Straight Spatulas. But, some people prefer angled ones like this Wilton Icing Spatula.

These help for both crumb coating and especially for frosting your finished cake! You can make a smooth cake with this spatula or even do textures like stripes or swirls very easily.

Cake Rounds

Cake rounds make layering and stacking cakes a lot easier, but they are not totally necessary. The two tools above are much more important than cake rounds, in my opinion. If you are buying cake rounds, try to buy one that are actually 1 to 2-inches bigger than your cake. You want them to be larger because then you can easily frost the cake to the round and still have a way to grab it!

If you are photographing cakes and you don’t want the cake round to show, then you should buy the same size cake round as the cake. This way, you can frost right to the edge, and while there is a cake round under there, it will appear there is not. This is what I do for all the photos I take. But, if I am making a cake for a friend or bringing to a party, I use a larger round.

If you don’t have a cake round, you can use parchment paper below your cake in the same way as a cake round! I also do this at home as well, and it works just great. It also makes your cake look a little rustic having it on a piece of parchment paper.

Popular Size Cake Rounds

6-inch Cake Rounds
Use for 6-inch cakes if you want no cake round to show.

8-inch Cake Rounds
Use for 8-inch cakes if you want to gift the cake or make it easy to move around.

9-inch Cake Rounds
Use for 8-inch cakes you want to gift or make it easy to move around. You can also use this for 9-inch cakes you are photographing or don’t want to see the cake round on.

10-inch Cake Rounds         
You can use for 8-inch or 9-inch cakes if you want to gift or make it easy to move around.

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So, now that we’ve learned when to crumb coat a cake, what is crumb coat for a cake, and all the tools that are needed to crumb coat a cake, it’s time to learn how to crumb coat a cake!

Step 1

Have your cake baked and cooled. Make sure you have your cake layers baked and they are completely cooled. Also, you should have your frosting made and ready.

You should also prepare your cake spinner at this time. If you are using a cake round, then you will take two pieces of tape (packing tape or painters’ tape) and fold them over to create a tape circle (like you’re making your own double stick tape). Place one of them in the middle of your cake spinner. Place the other one directly below it but going in the opposite direction. Place the cake round (or piece of parchment paper) directly onto the tape and press down so it’s secure.

For example, if you place the first tape circle horizontally, so the holes are the right and left side, then place the second one vertically so the holes are on the top and bottom. You want them going in opposite directions because you want your cake round (or parchment) to stay in place. If you are pushing and pulling on the cake (which you will be), you don’t want it to just rip off. This trick helps because it keeps you from pushing off your cake round from the spinner if you use too much pressure.

Step 2

Once the cake is cooled, you can freeze it to make stacking and crumb coating easier. I do this every single time, I feel it’s necessary for stacking, crumb coating, and finishing a layer cake!

Just place your cake layers (still in the pans) in the freezer. The trick is not freeze them completely but freeze them so they are firm. Having cake layers that are too frozen will make your frosting freeze as you’re frosting the cake, which makes it more difficult.

But having a firm cake layer will make stacking and crumb coating easier because you can apply more pressure without breaking the fragile cake. The magic number is usually somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer.

Once they’ve been in the freezer for that long, remove the cake pans and then cut out your cakes. I do this using just a butter knife and go around the sides of the pan and then pop your cakes out by turning the pans upside down. If you notice that the middle is still a little warm, feel free to put them back in the freezer until it’s firm. While the cake is in the freezer, you should use that time to make the frosting. You want the frosting to be freshly made right when the cakes come out. So, you can make it when you put the cakes in and re-whip as needed if it sits for a few extra minutes

Step 3

Once your frosting is made and the cakes are firm, place a dollop of frosting onto your cake round (or parchment) and place the first cake layer. Place your first cake layer on top of the frosting dollop and press down firmly. If your cake is firm, this will be no problem, another reason why I like to semi freeze the layers. 

Make sure you are putting your cake flat side down (the bottom of the cake). This is important in this step because the bottom of the cake is going to be flatter than the top. Cakes rise and can create small domes on the top. While the bottom of the cake was in the pan, therefore, having that perfect flat bottom. You especially want this for the first layer on the bottom as it will prevent you from having to fill in with frosting on the bottom if the top part is not completely flat.

how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial
how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial

Step 4

Add a generous amount of frosting onto the top of the cake layer and spread evenly. If your cake does have a small dome or is a little taller on side than the other, this is where you even it out with frosting. You can use a little more on either side to make sure that it’s perfectly straight now.

This is where I use the Ateco Straight Spatulas, as it makes it really easy to add and spread the frosting easily! So much easier than a traditional spatula that is flimsy.

how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial

Step 5

Immediately after you get the frosting how you want it, add the second cake layer. It’s important to work quickly when you finish frosting, as you want the cake layers to stick to the frosting and don’t let the frosting dry out.

Try to make sure when you add that second layer of cake that you place it as evenly as possible on top of the frosting. You can do this layer bottom side up or top side up, it doesn’t matter (as long as you have more than 2 layers!).

how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial
how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial

Step 6

Once you have the second cake layer on, then repeat the process above by adding frosting, making sure it’s even and then adding the third cake layer. If this is your top cake layer, then be sure to place the cake upside down (opposite from the first cake layer!). This is because we want that perfectly straight bottom and sides to actually be on the top of the cake, so it looks perfectly straight.

If the cake is a little domed, as it probably is, you want to place that on the bottom as you can fill in with frosting very easily. This is just another easy trick to making a perfect looking cake.

how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial

Step 7

Once your cake is stacked, then you’re going to add a little more frosting to the sides and smooth it. The trick here is adding as little frosting as possible. You just want to coat the cake; you don’t want to have a thick layer of frosting.

You also want to save all the frosting you can for your last coat of frosting. So, using as little as possible is best for this step. After the sides are done, move to the top and coat just enough so there is no cake showing. You’ll see cake coming through the frosting, but it should all have a thin layer of frosting on it. 

how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial

Step 8

You are done! You have successfully crumb coated your cake. You can now put it back in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to let it harden before adding your finishing frosting.

how to crumb coat a cake, step by step tutorial

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Make sure to check out post How to Make a Naked Cake, which I’m sure you’ll love too! And, share it with someone who you think may also like it!

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