Have you ever had a fiasco with your cake filling? I have. Between it bulging out between layers or straight up oozing out of the sides because it’s just too thin to withstand the weight of gravity, I’ve seen it all. The thing is, the filling and stacking process is arguably the most essential part of building your cake’s foundation. If your cake filling is unstable in any way it can throw off the entire outcome of your cake, and if you’re anything like me (perfectionistic to a fault), that can be totally devastating.
Over the years, I’ve come to depend on two different approaches to filling and stacking cakes, since in my opinion, there are two different types of cake fillings. There are stable fillings like buttercream and then there are less-stable fillings like soft consistency chocolate ganache, salted caramel, jam, lemon curd, etc. Whatever you’re using to fill your cakes these days, I’m about to show you my way of filling and stacking layer cakes. Here’s a quick video to show you the methods I’ve come to love before you read all the details below:
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Before You Start Filling & Stacking
No matter what kind of filling I’m using, I always start by placing a cardboard cake circle that’s the same diameter as my cake layers onto the turntable. Then, place a small dab of buttercream onto the cake circle before adding the first cake layer on top. The little swipe of buttercream acts as “glue” to keep the bottom layer in place.
Using this cardboard cake circle method not only keeps your bottom layer in place, it makes your cake easier to work with overall and easier to transport from the turntable to a cake stand or box once it’s finished.
After you’ve got your bottom layer secured to the cake circle, follow either of the methods below depending on the type of filling you’re using.
Filling Cakes with Buttercream
Filling a cake with buttercream is super straightforward as long as you’re working with the right consistency of buttercream. My vanilla buttercream recipe is the perfect consistency for filling and frosting cakes as-is, but if you find that your buttercream collapses underneath the weight of the above cake layer and starts oozing out of the sides, it will need to be made thicker. That could mean adding extra powdered sugar to your buttercream or cooling it in the refrigerator before whipping it back up, depending on the type of buttercream you’re using.
To fill a cake with buttercream, simply add a few spatula scoops full onto your cake layer and smooth it down with an angled spatula until it’s about ½ inch thick (or however thick you prefer your filling to be).
It’s super important to make sure your buttercream filling is as level as possible, so be sure to get down to eye level and check to see that it’s nice and even before adding your next cake layer.
Filling Cakes with Soft Fillings (Ganache, Caramel, Jam, etc)
If you’re using a softer filling, like chocolate ganache, lemon curd, salted caramel, or really anything that could easily ooze out under the weight of a cake layer, I recommend creating a buttercream dam around the edge of your cake layer before adding your filling to the center.
To create the dam, you’ll want to use a medium or stiff consistency buttercream (these notes after my vanilla buttercream recipe detail how to create those consistencies). Add the buttercream into a piping bag and snip off about ½ inch opening, then pipe a dam around the cake layer that’s about ¼ inch from the edge of the cake.
Fill in the center of the dam with your filling. This method basically gives your filling a nice bumper to hold up the weight of the cake layer, keeping your softer filling nice and secure inside.
Smooth down your filling until it’s level with the top of the dam, then place your next cake layer on top.
Stacking Cake Layers
After placing your cardboard cake circle down and filling the bottom layer of your cake using either of the above methods, place your next layer of cake right side up on top. Be sure to get down to eye level to make sure it’s centered with the bottom layer.
Then, repeat the process of adding and smoothing the filling before placing the next layer on top.
When adding your top layer, flip it upside down (so that the bottom of the cake layer is the top).
By adding it cut-side down, it greatly reduces the amount of loose crumbs that end up in your crumb coat and final cake finish.
Creating Structure for Tall Cakes
My go-to cake height is 3 layers, typically 6-inches in diameter. Between the filling and frosting, my cakes end up being between 5 and 6 inches tall. The higher you fill and stack your cakes, the less sturdy they will become due to the weight of the above layers and the nature of gravity. If you want to make an extra tall cake, you’ll want to use the barrel method to add extra structure. This involves adding supports via dowels/boba straws and extra cardboard cake circles to even out the weight of the cake. While I don’t yet have my own tutorial on this method, this is the method I’ve used with success and point readers to all the time.
Want more Cake Basics? Head here to see all of the posts and learn the methods of caking I’ve come to love over the years. I’m cheering you on every step of the way!