Masking a cake
What is takes to perfect masking a cake
One very important task that needs to be mastered is how to mask a cake as quickly as possible and at the same time to come up with a perfect end product that is ready for display.
Masking is not difficult if you put the time to master the technique. For example, to cut an 8-inch cake in four layers sounds easy and straight forward, but once you try it (as a beginner), you will notice that some spots have been cut more thinly than others. There is only one thing you can do to correct this.
Practice cutting cakes. Spend a few months just cutting and masking cakes and you'll become an expect in no time. That's one job that is and always will be in demand in pastry shops.
What you need to begin masking a buttercream cake
- Revolving cake stand
- Serrated long knife
- Offset spatula
- Straight spatula
- Cake board, one inch larger than the diameter of the cake
- Flavored simple syrup
- Buttercream of your choice
- Piping bag with round or star tip
- Decorating comb
- Roasted nuts of your choice (optional)
Standard procedure for masking a cake
(photo: crumb-coating a cake)
- Remove top crust of sponge cake.
- Remove crust form the side of the sponge cake.
- Remove crust form the bottom of the sponge cake.
- Cut the sponge cake in 3 layers (optional: or more). Start cutting the cake to about 1/4 of the cake deep, rotate the cake and repeat all around.
- Place the first cake layer on the workbench and apply simple syrup.The amount of syrup you use depends on the sponge cake recipe used.
- Add the first buttercream layer using a plastic scraper to drop the buttercream onto the cake layer. Use an offset spatula to spread out the buttercream evenly all throughout the layer. Make sure the buttercream slightly oozes out past the cake.
- Place the second cake layer on top of the buttercream. Make sure it is level before proceeding.
- Apply simple syrup.
- Apply the second layer of buttercream the same way.
- Place the third and final cake layer (the underside of the cake downwards; towards the buttercream) on top.
- Apply simple syrup on the top and final layer.
- Move assembled cake onto a revolving cake stand in order to mask the cake.
- Add the final buttercream on top of the cake (better to add too much than too little). Spread, flatten and smooth out the buttercream by pressing the spatula onto the buttercream and rotating the revolving cake stand.
- Mask the sides with whatever buttercream is oozing out the cake layers. Mask the side a second time, using additional buttercream if the sponge cake is visible.The angle of the spatula is very important. It should be 90deg or perpendicular to the cake.
- At this point, scrape off any excess buttercream all around the edge of the top layer, by using a spatula. Scrape towards the middle of the cake.
- Make sure the cake is sitting exactly in the center of the revolving cake stand.Place the decorating comb 45 degrees to the cake and rotate stand towards the decorating comb.
- Remove excess buttercream for the final time from the top of the cake.
- Remove any excess buttercream between the revolving stand and the cake by placing a spatula in between the cake and the stand, and at the same time spinning the stand.
- Slide the cake onto a cake bord from one edge. Once half the cake is on the cake board, lift off the cake from the revolving stand side and continue sliding it onto the cake board.
- Holding the cake board on the palm of your hand, apply a thin layer of roasted almonds, half way up from the side of the cake, all around. Tap on the underside of the cake board to remove any excess nuts from the cake board.
- Apply a border around the top of the cake using a round or star tip.
NOTES: Turntable is mainly used for masking only, although you can use it for cutting cake layers.
The finished cake is placed onto a cake board.
Procedure for masking a wedding cake
- Place cake onto a revolving cake stand.
- Remove a thin slice from the top surface of the cake. To create an even layer, first, create a guideline all around the cake using a serrated knife. Once you have the guideline, as you are rotating the cake keep cutting the cake going deeper and deeper into the cake's center, until all section has been cut.
- Shave off the bottom surface of the cake, same way as you did the top.
- Clean revolving cake stand so that it is crumb-free.
- Place the first cake layer on the revolving cake stand.
- Apply simple syrup on the first cake layer.
- Add buttercream and spread it using an offset spatula.
- Repeat for all remaining layers of cake, except the top layer.
- Cover the cake with plastic wrap (for home bakers) and refrigerate the cake just to firm up the buttercream.
- Remove a thin layer from the edge of the cake all around, while maintaining the cake's circular shape.
- Ensure that the cake has the same height all around, standard size of an 8-inch cake would be about 9mm (3.5 inches) of height.
- Apply simple syrup and then apply a thin layer of buttercream on the top final layer of the cake (called CRUMB COATING)
- Spread some buttercream all around the sides of the cake. (called CRUMB COATING)
- Use a metal rectangular bench scraper to remove excess buttercream from the sides, and make sure the sides of the cake remain perpendicular to the revolving cake stand.
- Do the same for the top surface of the cake. Pull the excess buttercream (using the scraper) but make sure you pull the buttercream towards the center of the cake. (called CRUMB COATING)
- Refrigerate the cake for at least one hour or until the buttercream is firm.
- Mask the top and sides of the cake in a similar manner as we did when crumb coating the cake.
- Again, use a metal bench scraper to make sure the sides of the cake are perpendicular to the cake board all around.
- Freeze the cake for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Repeat above step with a heated and dried metal bench scraper (dipped in hot water). You should hardly remove any buttercream from the cake at this point. Place in fridge temporarily.
- Apply some buttercream or melted white chocolate (depending on the color of the sponge cake) onto the cakeboard to serve as glue.
- Lift the cake off of the revolving cake stand using a straight spatula and the left palm of your hand (if you are right-handed) and transfer it onto a clean cake board. Make sure the cake sits perfectly in the center all around.
- At this point you can make your cake border. Once you make a cake border all around the top and bottom edge of the cake, your cake is ready for display.
Tips & tricks when masking a cake
- To apply some simple syrup on the cake layer, you can use a plastic 'ketchup' bottle instead of using a brush. It is much quicker to apply.
- Measure the actual amount of buttercream that you use on each layer so that all layers are identical in thickness.
- Use a bit of white melted chocolate as glue to glue together the cake to the cake board.
- To ensure that the cake has the same height all around, use a ruler and toothpicks.
- You can use a level to check the finished cake for straightness.
- Excess buttercream scarped off of a cake should not be mixed in with the 'clean' buttercream, because all of the buttercream will be contaminated with cake crumbs. Use another bowl for this buttercream.
- If you want to have an absolutely white buttercream, use shortening instead of butter, but you will be compromising on taste.
Terminology used when masking cakes
Crumb coat is the initial or base coat of icing (usually buttercream) that is thinly applied on 2 or more layers of cake. This is to seal in all cake crumbs before the final coat of buttercream (or whatever you are using,eg; fondant, ) is applied.
Masking refers to the second coat (final coat) of icing (usually buttercream) covering the cake (top and sides).
Cake drum vs cake board
Cake drum is a cake board that is thick and strong that may be round or square in shape and comes wrapped in silver foil. Cake boards are used to hold cakes, while cake drums are used to hold heavier cakes such as 3-tier wedding cakes.