How to fill and cover a cake with buttercream or chocolate ganache

How to fill and cover a cake with buttercream or chocolate ganache

Danielle Wood

Start with smooth, cool, room-temperature buttercream. If you’re working with a particularly fragile cake, chill the cake layers first, wrapped in cling film (plastic wrap), to make them a bit more sturdy. If you’re not putting the cake directly on to a cake plate or stand, using a thin cake board makes it easier to move the filled and covered cake around. Attach the first layer, bottom side down, to the board, plate or stand with a small amount of buttercream.

You will need


Quantity Ingredient
angled palette knives in 2 sizes
an ice cream scoop
a rubber spatula
a small bowl
a cake board (same size as your cake)
baking parchment or a cake turntable


  1. Brush away any crumbs from the surface of the cake layer. Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to portion out your buttercream for the first layer. I find that 3 scoops work well for an 18 cm cake.
  2. Pile the buttercream up in the centre of the layer and spread it to the edges using smooth paddling motions with your small offset palette knife.
  3. Gently press the second cake layer on to the buttercream.
  4. Portion out the second layer of buttercream using the same number of scoops.
  5. Spread the buttercream to the edges of the cake as before.
  6. Continue to build up the layers, finishing with the bottom of the second cake facing upwards. If you are making a ‘naked’ cake without buttercream on the sides you can stop here, tidy up the buttercream with a clean palette knife and add a final layer of buttercream, or dusting of cocoa powder or icing sugar, on top.
  7. Spread a very thin layer of buttercream over the whole cake. This is called a ‘crumb coat’ and helps to seal in the crumbs so that your final coating is beautifully smooth and crumb free.
  8. Scrape any excess buttercream into a separate bowl so that you don’t mix any crumbs in with your clean batch. Once you have scraped off the excess buttercream and wiped the cake board, stand or plate clean, chill the cake for 30 minutes or until firm.
  9. Now that your cake is chilled, with all of the crumbs sealed in, pile a generous amount of buttercream on to the top of the cake and work it down the sides using a small offset palette knife. It can be quite messy at this point.
  10. For a rustic look, finish your cake by using your small offset palette knife to make short circular motions, scraping off any excess buttercream as you go.
  11. For a smooth finish use a large offset palette knife held to the side of the cake at a 45-degree angle. Turn the cake while keeping your hand still and scrape off the excess buttercream as you go – wipe off your palette knife each time you bring it back in contact with the cake.
  12. For the top, work from the sides into centre of the cake, scraping off the excess buttercream and cleaning your palette knife as you go. To make the finish really smooth, dip your palette knife into warm water, dry it off and smooth around the sides and top. Neaten up the plate that your cake is sitting on.
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