Although it’s a bit boring and not as much fun as the decorating part, preparing your cake properly is extremely important especially if it’s for a special event such as a wedding. You can cut the brown crust off the outside of the cake if you wish so you do not get a brown line around the cake when it is cut. (Many people do this if it’s for a very special cake). I tend to leave it on but it is really up to you.
First of all you need to make sure your cake is nice and flat. Most cakes will rise in the oven when they’re cooking so once it has cooled, you need to slice the domed top off the cake. To do this you can either use a carving knife or a cake wire. This is a bit like a cheese wire which you drag through the cake.
Tip : Although not essential, if you have time, leave the cake overnight before decorating it. The sponge will have firmed up and be easier to work with.
Next turn the cake upside down so what was once the base now forms a nice flat top
Next you will need to slice your cake into two or three layers. Again you can use either a carving knife or a Cake wire.
Here’s a little tip to help you place your layers back in the same position. Make a buttercream mark on the side of the cake. When you come to reassemble the cake, simply line the marks up.
Separate the layers and place the base layer on your cake board. Dab a little stock syrup over the cake if you wish (the recipe is given on the website). This is not essential. It adds a little moisture to the cake so is useful for cakes that may not be eaten immediately. I would always use it on a wedding cake. The secret is to dab it on lightly. You do not want to soak the sponge.
Now spread buttercream over the cake. Although it is very tempting, to spread the buttercream nice and thick, don’t if you are going to cover the cake with sugarpaste. The weight of the sugarpaste can compress the cake causing the buttercream to bulge out of the sides spoiling your nice straight edges.
Now place the middle layer on top, lining up the buttercream mark you made earlier. Then repeat the procedure with the top layer of cake.
Now you need to crumb coat your cake to hold those pesky crumbs that get everywhere in check. If you’re using stock syrup, dab a little over the top of the cake. Then spread a thin coating of buttercream over the sides and top.
Once covered, place the whole cake on its board into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes so the buttercream can “set up” (harden).
Once the buttercream has set you now have various options. If you are covering the cake with buttercream, spread a second thicker coating of buttercream over the top and sides and decorate.
If you are covering the cake with sugarpaste, spread another thin coating of buttercream over the cake. This will act as the “glue” to hold the sugarpaste in place so don’t refrigerate it again as it needs to be soft and tacky.
Full details about how to cover a cake with sugarpaste, are given in the “Covering a Cake with Sugarpaste ” tutorial.