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Test Kitchen video tip: Frosting a layer cake

March 20, 2013|By Noelle Carter
  • Strawberry-coconut layer cake.
Strawberry-coconut layer cake. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)

If you’ve never tackled a layer cake, the whole process can be a bit intimidating ... and it can become a bit of a mess if you don’t know what you’re doing.

But assembling and frosting a layer cake is actually quite simple, so long as you have some patience and follow a few basic steps.

  1. Inspect your cake layers, leveling the layers if needed with a knife. One trick is to flip each cake layer, so the perfectly flat bottom becomes the top.
  2. If you want to flavor the cake between layers, pipe a border around the outer edge of each layer to contain the flavoring. This will keep the flavoring from leaking through and messing up the outer frosting.
  3. Carefully add each layer of cake, checking to make sure that the layers are level and even. A rotating cake stand makes this much easier.
  4. Place a crumb coat on the cake. This first coating of frosting on the outer layer will contain any crumbs to keep them from messing up the final layer of frosting. Place the cake in the freezer to firm, so the crumb coat hardens before frosting. Most cakes can be made ahead up to this point and frozen up to three months before frosting and decorating.
  5. To finish the cake, begin frosting from the top of the cake, working your way to the outer edges and down the sides. An offset spatula is great for keeping the frosting smooth and even.

Once the cake is frosted, it's ready for decoration. I'll cover some basic piping tips in a future post.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

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L'Angolo Café's strawberry-coconut layer cake

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling times

Servings: 10 to 12

Note: Adapted from L'Angolo Café in Los Angeles. This makes a 2-layer (9-inch) round cake. To toast the coconut, spread the flakes in a thin, even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees until lightly golden, about 13 to 15 minutes, tossing every few minutes for even toasting.

Cake

3 1/4 cups (13 ounces) cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

2/3 cup coconut milk

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

1/2 cup coconut flakes

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 (9-inch) round springform or standard cake pans. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine the milk and coconut milk. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter over medium-high speed until creamy. With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar, beating over high speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites over low speed, one at a time, until incorporated, scraping the bowl between additions. Beat in the vanilla, berries and coconut.

3. Alternately beat in the flour and milk mixtures, beating in one-third of each at a time, until all of the ingredients are incorporated and a batter is formed.

4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until the cakes are puffed and golden, spring back lightly when touched, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

5. Cool the cakes, still in the pans, 15 to 20 minutes on wire racks, then invert the cakes onto the racks to cool completely.

Filling

1 1/4 cups finely chopped fresh strawberries

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

In a medium, heavy saucepan, bring the strawberries, sugar and cornstarch to a boil. Stir the mixture constantly for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken, then remove to a bowl to cool completely. This makes about 1 cup filling.

Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk, or enough to thin frosting to desired consistency

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar, scraping the bowl as needed. Add a little milk, as needed, until the frosting is nice and creamy, but not too thin. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Cake assembly

Cakes

Frosting

Filling

2 cups toasted coconut flakes

1. Place one cake flat side up on a cake stand or platter. Pipe or spoon a thin layer of frosting around the outer edge of the top of the cake; this will keep the filling from spilling out as the cake is assembled.

2. Spread the filling over the top of the cake in an even, not too thick layer (you might not use all of the filling; we had about one-third cup remaining).

3. Gently place the second layer of the cake on top of the first. Frost the top and sides of the cake with a very thin layer of frosting to form a crumb coat, then refrigerate or freeze the cake just until the frosting firms up, about 1 hour.

4. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting, making sure the frosting is smooth and even. Coat the cake with the toasted coconut.

Each of 12 servings: 734 calories; 7 grams protein; 95 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 38 grams fat; 25 grams saturated fat; 83 mg. cholesterol; 62 grams sugar; 369 mg. sodium.

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