Cake Decorating Basics: How to Torte Your Cake
When Do You Need to Torte Your Cake?
That's a question I see a lot. I also see, "What is torting?" I'm going to explain this to you, in detail, so you can start making your very own professional looking, and tasting cakes, that you can be proud of.
Torting is simply a word for cutting a thicker cake into more layers, and adding frosting, or a filling in between the layers. If you torte completely depends on your preference—if you're making the cake for yourself, or your client's taste, or if you're making the cake for someone else.
There is a specific method you need to use to torte if you're going to use a wet filling, and I'll show you that as well. Wet fillings include jams, preserves, curds, sweet sauces, or anything that's going to be more wet than buttercream. These wet fillings have a habit of bleeding and running out of the sides, but that's totally preventable.
The general rule of thumb is if your cake is 2 inches or taller, you want to torte it. My layers are all 2 inches in height, so with a 4 inch cake I end up with 4 equal layers. However, I do have clients who do not like that much frosting to cake so I'll leave them alone. I also have some clients who enjoy more frosting to cake, so I'll torte them twice. This makes my 2 inch cake into 3 equal layers. A two layer cake ends up becoming a 6 layer cake. Does this make sense? I hope so, I'm trying to be as descriptive as possible. Lucky for you, I have tons of pics and a video on torting to help you out.
Step 1: Work With a Cool Cake
You must start with a completely cooled cake. If you're anything like me, you're impatient and you hate waiting for a cake to cool down completely in order to finish it up. So, I've figured out that I can put it in the freezer and have it cool in about 15 minutes flat. However, you don't have to do the freezer thing at all. If you have patience you can simply let your cake cool at room temperature until no residual heat remains. This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours, depending on the size of the cake and the temperature of your kitchen. I'm in the south, so my kitchen is almost always hot. It takes forever and a day for my cakes to cool down unless I put them in the freezer.
Before you grab any tools to torte your cake, use your bare hand to touch the center of the cake. If it is room temp to the touch, it's good to go. If there is any warmth to it at all—Wait! It is not ready to be torted or filled.
You'll want to touch both the top of the cake and the bottom of the cake. It has to be completely cooled from the top to the bottom. Absolutely zero residual heat! You have to make sure of it!
Step 2: Get a Bread Knife
I touched on the importance of a sharp serrated knife in my previous article. However, I'll emphasize the importance here as well. As with leveling, you do not want to use a dull knife. You also do not want to use a straight blade knife. I don't care how sharp it is, a straight blade knife will not do the job properly. I know, I have more than my share of very large razor sharp knives. I've tried to use them—they do not work. You need to invest in a super sharp bread knife.
You can also use a cake leveler to torte if you happen to have one lying around. However, I do not like using the cake leveler because there are too many cons to using that tool. A very sharp, long, serrated edge bread knife will never let you down!
The Sharper the Knife, the Better
Step 3: Find the Halfway Point
With your cake out of the pan and on some sort of cooling apparatus, find the halfway point of the cake. I simply place the cooled cake on a cardboard round and keep a spare cardboard round for the top and bottom of the layers to rest on.
Score the halfway point all the way around the cake so you'll have a nice guide to go by. Scoring the cake is extremely important if you're using a leveler, as the leveler likes to rip through the caramelization on the outside of the cake. Once you have the cake scored all the way around the halfway point, you can start cutting to begin your torte.
Step 4: Cut Through Evenly
This is going to go the exact same way as leveling. The process is identical. If you didn't catch that article, I'm going to go into detail here again for you.
Anchor your elbow to your side with your knife firmly grasped in your hand, blade level to the cake and completely stable. Place your non-dominant hand on top of the cake to guide the cake around and against the blade of the knife.
Spin the cake with your non-dominant hand against the knife. Do not saw the cake, simply spin it around. The knife will make it's way through the cake on it's own, cutting completely level if you will keep your arm anchored against your waist. Remove the top and place it on a different cake board. Now, you can fill and torte it and restack it as a single layer.
Torting With a Wet Filling
In order to ensure that your filling is not going to bleed through the cake layers or melt out to the outside of the cake, you're going to need to do a couple of things.
First, you need to apply a thin layer of buttercream to the top of the layer. This is going to create a barrier between the wet filling and the cake.
Once you apply your thin layer of buttercream, you'll need to create a dam. You can do this with fondant or buttercream, depending on the type of cake you're creating. Stacked cakes are notorious for bulging from the layers, and that's from the weight of the layers pressing down on the frosting. A fondant dam will keep this from happening completely, while a buttercream dam isn't always 100% fail-safe.
What you want to do is create a rope around the outside edge of your layer, using buttercream or fondant. I'll insert a picture so you can know what I'm talking about.
Once you've created your dam, you can fill the center with your filling and you've now ensured that you will not have bulging sides once your cake begins to settle. Place the top layer of cake on the top of the bottom and you're ready to crumb coat!
First Thin Layer of Buttercream
Create a Dam
Add the Filling
Pop the Top Back On
Now You Try
Torting your cakes adds flavor, moisture, and a wow-factor to the finished product. There's really no limit to what you can add as fillings when working with cake. I've seen everything from sour patch kids to pulled pork. I know, gross... But it worked for them!
If you want more frosting and filling to cake, torte more layers into your cake. It's just as simple as the first was. Just remember the thinner you torte the layer, the more fragile it's going to be. The cake I used in this tutorial was simply a 6" round. On larger rounds you may want to invest in a cake lifter to save from destroying the cake. They're pretty good to have around, especially if you plan on doing wedding cakes. However, if you don't have a cake lifter handy you can absolutely use another cardboard round to lift the layer. I've done this before I bought the cake lifter and it worked well.
So that's it! Now you know how we put all those delicious fillings into our cakes. You can do it, too! Let your imagination run wild and let me know what flavor combinations you come up with!