Crumb Coat

Start with a Crumb Coat for a Smooth Cake Finish

March 18th, 2010 by Lori Ellis

Crumb coating a cake certainly does not make any cake decorator overly excited, but it can be the difference between a perfectly iced cake and one that is, well, “crummy.” It is a step that is often omitted for the sake of time. You know this if you have ever had crumbs in your icing; a crumb coat is to icing like a primer is to paint. It is a foundation that will provide the perfect base for your masterpiece.

Simply put: crumb coating is a very thin layer of icing that will “glue” any crumbs down. The key is thinning your buttercream icing to a consistency that will not tear your cake as you spread it on.

When thinning your buttercream start with small amounts of water until you reach the desired consistency. I would not recommend glazes as they tend to remain very sticky. Be sure that your cake has completely cooled. You will want to level and tort it, and have it ready to be decorated.

Start by spreading a thin layer of icing onto the cake. Don’t worry if there are crumbs in the icing, this is expected. The icing layer is so thin that you will see the cake and crumbs. Smooth the icing as best as you can and let it dry. The crumb coat needs to be dry to the touch before you put the final layer of icing on.

Crumb Coating a Cake

Once the crumb coat is completely dry, you are ready to continue icing and decorating. At this point you would continue icing the cake as you normally do. The crumb coat will hold in all of the loose crumbs that could have easily caused you to have fits!

Since chocolate cakes tend to have more crumbs, starting with a crumb coat can make icing and decorating chocolate cakes so much easier! A crumb coat can also serve as a sealer on a cake in the event that you are not able to decorate it immediately. This also will help keep your cakes moist.

When decorating a cake with stars you may want to first put a thin layer of icing, the same color as your stars, on the cake. This will help your cake not to show through the stars. This is not technically a crumb coat as much as it is a base coat.

For this application you do want to make sure that your base coat of icing covers the cake. When covering a cake with stars the key is to have stars that are consistent in size and very close together, this will lessen the chance of the cake showing through.

While we are on the subject of crumbs, let me give you a few hints to keep the crumbs minimal:

  • Bake Easy™ Non-Stick Spray! This convenient non-stick spray helps your cakes release with fewer crumbs. Just a light, even coating does the job.
  • Cake Release – there is no need to grease and flour your pan with this step-saving Wilton idea.
  • If you still grease and flour your cake pans, be gentle on the flour as extra flour will cause crumbs.

While you can certainly see the benefits to crumb coating your cake I would like to let you in on a little “tip.” A big “tip” for that matter! The Cake-Icer Tip! One of the sure fire ways to perfectly ice your cake every time is by using adecorating bag and tip #789 (the Cake-Icer tip).

It is so easy; just set your cake on a Trim ‘N Turn® turntable and go around the cake with a ribbon of icing that is thick enough to ice the cake and cover any imperfections at the same time. Using a bag and tip to ice your cake is an excellent way to minimize crumbs.