*set squareWhen my niece asked me to make a three-tier baby shower cake for her friend, my reaction was—three tiers for a baby shower cake! A bit over the top. But she was having none of it, so a three-tier cake it was. If you fancy getting creative with cake decorating and having a go at this yourself, read on for my detailed tutorial. You can always change the colour to blue or pink for a boy or a girl. As we didn’t know, we went for lemon.
(I’ve included some affiliate links in this post, shown with an asterisk (*). If you click on them and make a purchase, I get a bit of money in my back pocket, to help towards future creations to share with you on my blog.)
As there are a few stages to this three tier baby shower cake tutorial, I have split it into sections and pictured the tools needed per section (along with labels for some of the less familiar items).
Preparing The Cakes
I baked three different sizes and flavours of cake using round cake tins. A 10” vanilla cake, a 7” chocolate cake, and a 5” banana cake.
Tip – If you want to bake the cakes ahead of time, you can freeze them. Ensure they are airtight by wrapping with ample cling film, and tin foil.
Once cooled, cut each cake in half, then, using a spatula, stick the bottom layer of each cake to a cake board of the same size, using the buttercream or ganache as glue. Fill the vanilla cake with buttercream and jam (I made sure that the jam was not applied too close to the edge, to prevent it mixing with the outer buttercream when applied), the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, and the banana cake with buttercream. Then crumb coat the vanilla and banana cakes (a crumb coat is a watered down, thin buttercream coating that helps prevent crumbs mixing with main buttercream layer when applied) and put them in the fridge to set for around ten to twenty minutes (until the crumb coat doesn’t come off on your fingers when you touch it).
Covering The Cakes With Buttercream And Ganache
Next, cover the cakes with the buttercream using a spatula. Put the cake on a *cake wheel if you have one (this is not essential but will make the job easier). Scoop some buttercream onto the top of the cake, and spread it with your spatula using a rocking motion. Don’t pull the spatula away from the cake or you will risk a layer of the cake coming away with the buttercream. When the top is covered, load your spatula with the buttercream and apply it to the edge of the cake, holding your spatula vertically, and once again using a rocking motion.
When the cake is covered, put it onto your worktop, get your *set square and place the bottom edge flush to your worktop and the side edge flush with the side of your cake, then move your set square around the cake, letting it scrape the excess buttercream off, leaving your cake sides straight (wipe the set square clean every now and then so you don’t get a build up). If you see gaps on your cake, add some more buttercream to them and go over the area again with the set square. Next use the spatula to smooth the top of your cake by pulling the buttercream around the edges in towards the centre. Again, leave in the fridge to set.
If you’re doing a chocolate cake, apply the ganache in the same way as the buttercream. You won’t need a crumb coat, or to use the set square for the ganache, just use the spatula and your eye (I don’t mean literally!) to make it straight (you can also do this with the buttercream if you don’t have a set square). I leave my ganache to cool for a while before applying to the cake, as it will be a little thicker and easier to handle. Put the cake in the fridge to set.
Covering The Cakes With Sugarpaste (Fondant)
The next stage is to cover your cakes with sugarpaste (fondant). In my opinion the best sugarpaste to use for cake decorating is the supermarkets own (ready to roll icing). I think it is more pliable and easier to work with than the branded ones (and cheaper!). I started off with around 750g for the 10″ cake and 400g for the 5″ cake (but you won’t end up using all of this as you will trim some off). First, measure the side, across the top and down the other side of your cake (I use a piece of string for this). This is how wide your sugarpaste circle needs to be.
Next, knead your sugarpaste for a few minutes to make it pliable, then sprinkle your work surface with plenty of icing sugar or cornflour. You can use *guide rings on your rolling pin to ensure an even thickness. Roll your sugarpaste out, rotating it regularly to ensure it doesn’t stick to your surface and is an even shape, until it is the required width of your string, and thickness of your guide rings (or about ½ cm thick). If you get any air bubbles, prick them with a pin.
Next brush your cake with water, then fold the sugarpaste over the back of your rolling pin (as you would with pastry when making a pie) in order to lift it, and place it over the top of your cake. Smooth the sugarpaste on the top of the cake with flat hands, and then, starting from the top edge, using the cups of your hands, manipulate the sugarpaste so it is flush and smooth against your cake. Lift the skirt of the sugarpaste to eliminate folds, then carry on gradually down and around the cake using the same method (trim off some of the excess sugarpaste along the way if you feel it is dragging down).
When you get to the bottom, use a pizza cutter and trim the sugarpaste close to the edge of your cake. Run a cake smoother along the bottom edge of the cake board to define it, then using a sharp knife, trim what is left of the excess sugarpaste. Hold the knife flat underneath the cake board. If your cake is smaller than your cake wheel, lift the cake onto a small food can to carry out the last two steps. After this, polish your cake with a cake smoother.
Stacking The Cakes
Next, how to stack the tiered cakes. First spread some melted ganache onto the centre of the cake drum base (I will be doing a separate post soon on how to cover a cake drum) and put the bottom tier onto it. I use straws as dowels (dowels are used to support the cake and prevent it from collapsing) for my cakes. I find them cheaper (free if you use KFC ones, which are also thicker than your bog standard straw) and much easier to cut.
Push 4 straws into the centre area of the bottom and middle tiers, and cut them flush with the top of the cake (once one is cut, use it as a guide for the other 3 straws to ensure they are all level). Spread some buttercream or ganache on the centre of the cake as glue, and (eyeing where is roughly the centre) drop the next tier on top from a low height, holding it underneath on the edge of the board before you do so (once in place, you will be able to move it slightly if it is off centre).
Decorating The Cake
Once your tiers are stacked you can move onto the decoration. I placed my cake topper onto the cake using edible glue (I will be doing a separate post soon on how to make the elephant). For the sugarpaste spots, stripes and band, colour around 100g of yellow and 200g of grey sugarpaste. Keep the sugarpaste wrapped in cling film until you are using it, to prevent it from drying out.
Tip – Use *Black powdered colouring to colour your sugarpaste grey. Using black gel colouring will result in the sugarpaste drying a green or purple shade.
Top Tier – Sugarpaste Circles
Sprinkle some icing sugar onto your work surface, and using a small rolling pin, roll half of the yellow sugarpaste about a ¼ cm thick. Cut out circles using a small circle cutter or a large icing nozzle. Repeat with the grey sugarpaste (using about a quarter of it). I cut the grey circles slightly smaller than the yellow ones, and cut about 8 of each colour. Using edible glue or water, paint the back of each circle, and stick randomly to your top tier.
Tip – I use a small amount of water, mixed with a small amount of *tylo powder to make my edible glue.
Bottom Tier – Sugarpaste Stripes and Band
For the bottom tier stripes, calculate the measurements to ensure even spacing around the cake, and make pin pricks where each stripe is going to go (you also need to ensure you don’t end up with 2 grey or yellow stripes next to each other when you get to the last two). Then roll out the coloured sugarpaste (the other half of the yellow and another quarter of the grey), and cut into ½” x 12cm (this was the measurement from the top edge to the bottom of my bottom tier cake once stacked – adjust this measurement if necessary) strips using a ruler and a pizza cutter. Then roll each strip up, paint the cake with glue in the area the stripe is going, and then roll it back out onto the cake (picking the strips up without rolling them can cause the strip to stretch and get misshapen).
Tip – Start at the front of your cake, then if you do have any spacing issues, they will be at the back where no-one can seen them.
To make the band around the bottom of the cake, measure the circumference of the cake and roll out and cut the sugarpaste, the same as was done for the stripes, but on a larger scale. My band was 3/4″ wide. I made the length in 2 strips otherwise it would have been too long to handle. I cut the bottom of the small stripes already on my cake so as to leave a 3/4″ gap below them for the band. Brush some edible glue around the bottom of the cake and roll the bands on, making the joins near the back and at the side where the bow is going. I then glued the bow on the band (I will be doing a separate tutorial soon on how to make the bow).
Middle Tier – buttercream swirls
Make a batch of buttercream (250g unsalted butter and 500g icing sugar), and colour it with the yellow gel colouring. Then load it into a piping bag, with a 9mm star piping nozzle attached. Start from the top side edge of the cake, pipe each swirl from the centre, outwards, making each swirl around half the width of the edge of the cake. Once the top side row is finished, pipe the bottom side row, and then the very top row (on the horizontal edge of the cake). Then pipe small star shapes in between each swirl to cover any gaps.
To make the letters for the writing on the cake board I used *tappit cutters (I will be doing a separate post soon on how to do this). To finish off the three-tier baby shower cake, I stuck a matching ribbon around the cake drum with double sided sticky tape.
Other Baby Shower Cakes I Have Made