How to Crumb Coat a Cake

The crumb coat is an essential piece of the cake-making puzzle. Yet, many bakers – especially home bakers or those just starting in the baking world – might not do it. Crumb coats lock in stray crumbs and pieces of cake, creating a uniform look that’s easy to decorate. But how do you do it?

Crumb coating a cake is easy! All you need to do is apply a thin layer of frosting to the top and sides of your cake. Use a spatula or bench scraper to smooth it out. Double-check for any gaps or uneven areas. When you’re satisfied with the layer, stash it in the fridge to harden. 

My name is Michelle, and I’ve been baking cakes at home for the past ten years. I will admit that I didn’t always crumb coat my cakes, especially when I first started baking. However, since discovering this essential layer, I have never gone without it. 

Keep reading to find out how to correctly crumb coat your cake.

How to Crumb Coat a Cake in 8 Simple Steps

A crumb coat may seem unnecessary, but I promise you – you will notice the difference when you’re done decorating your cake. And don’t worry – it won’t take up too much of your time. Here’s how to get it done.

Step 1: Let Your Cake Cool

When applying a crumb coat, your cake doesn’t have to be chilled. It shouldn’t be fresh out of the oven and piping hot, either. That said, allow your cake to cool until it’s easily handled. 

This could take a couple of hours at room temperature. You can shorten the wait time by wrapping it and putting it in the fridge or freezer. Using the freezer, your cake should be ready in as little as 30 minutes.

Step 2: Get Your Materials

While waiting for your cake to cool, it’s time to gather the essential supplies! You’ll need a few items to get the crumb coat applied:

  • Desired frosting (buttercream is a standard crumb coat frosting option)
  • Offset spatula
  • Cake turntable (recommended), or a cake stand or flat surface

Step 3: Secure the Cake

No, I don’t mean you’ll need to use a stapler, zip ties, or anything else.

When I say “secure the cake,” I simply mean add a few dollops of frosting to your workstation. Then, place the cake right on top. This will keep the cake from wiggling around while you apply the crumb coat.

Step 4: Apply Frosting to the Top of the Cake

Before we get started frosting, decide whether or not you’re going to cut the cake into layers. If you are, do so before moving on to this step.

Now, using your offset spatula, apply a bit of frosting to the top layer of the cake (or the first layer if making a multi-layer cake). Use enough frosting so that there’s enough to cover the top of the cake but not so much so that it’s overly thick. 

Gently use your spatula to slather the frosting around the entirety of the top of the cake. 

If using layers, apply the next layer and continue this method until all layers have a top-crumb coat of frosting.

Step 5: Apply Frosting Around the Cake

Now that the tops are taken care of, it’s time to move on to the rest of your cake. 

Apply frosting to the sides of the cake. Using your spatula, gently spread the frosting evenly around the entire cake. Again, ensure the layer is not overly thick. Otherwise, it can be detrimental to the final appearance of your cake.

Remember – you’ll apply frosting/fondant/decorations on top of the crumb coat. This is not the final look, so you don’t need to be too concerned with how it looks.

Step 6: Smooth it Out

Once your cake is fully covered with a thin crumb coat (on the top and all around), you can move on to smoothing it out. 

You can smooth the crumb coat with your offset spatula. However, I highly recommend getting a bench scraper for the finest results. 

This process is most uncomplicated when you can turn the cake on a turntable while using the bench scraper to smooth it down, scraping off the excess frosting after each turn.

Visual learners, check out this video to see exactly what I’m talking about:

Step 7: Double-Check Your Work

Just because nobody will see your crumb coat doesn’t mean it should be bad. In fact, you want your crumb coat to be relatively “good.” Otherwise, it won’t serve its purpose of creating a smooth and crumb-free surface for your decorations.

That said, look over your crumb coat and make sure you’re happy with the result. 

The layer should be perfectly smooth and very thin – so thin that you can still see the actual cake behind it. Yet, there should be zero gaps. If you see any gaps, fill them with more frosting. Smooth over any uneven areas.

Step 8: Refrigerate

You did it! You finished your crumb coat. But your job isn’t over yet, which is probably very obvious, considering your cake doesn’t look Instagram-worthy.

But before you can continue frosting and decorating your cake, you need to chill it.

So, the final step in completing your crumb coat is to stash your cake in the fridge. This will harden the crumb coat, ensuring it’s easy-peasy to decorate in a few hours. (And in case you were wondering – no, you don’t need to cover the cake. The crumb coat will lock in moisture.)


Crumb coating a cake in eight simple steps? You bet! But hey, before you leave to give your cake a quick crumb coat, why not check out these frequently asked questions? They may benefit your crumb-coating adventures!

Do you chill cake before crumb coat?

While you must chill a cake before adding frosting, fondant, and other decorations, you do not need to chill the cake before applying a crumb coat. Just wait for the cake to cool down before applying the crumb coat. However, you can absolutely cool it quickly in the fridge or freezer if desired.

How long should you chill a cake before crumb coating?

Although your cake doesn’t need to be chilled before applying a crumb coat, it still needs to cool. You can wait for your cake to cool at room temp. However, if you don’t want to sit around waiting for your cake to be crumb coat ready, you can wrap it and place it in the fridge or freezer.

Does crumb coat need to be perfect?

Your crumb coat doesn’t have to be “perfect.” In fact, it should look a little so-so. As long as it’s thin and smooth, it’s designated a “perfect crumb coat.” Always remember that you’ll cover the crumb coat, so don’t worry too much about the finer details.

A Crumb Coat is Essential to Delicious and Beautiful Cake!

When it comes to baking a cake, you always want to complete the crumb coat. All you need to do is apply a thin and smooth layer of frosting to the tops and sides of the cake. Ensure there are no missing or uneven areas. Allow it to harden in the fridge before decorating. Yum!

Do you crumb coat your cakes? Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share with other readers? Feel free to add your comments and questions to the section below, and we’ll get back to ya!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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