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What is a crumb coat?

Crumb coat being applied

A  crumb coat is a term that comes up fairly often for those of us who like to bake cakes, but it is not often well defined in recipes. Sometimes, it isn’t mentioned at all, although anyone who has ever tried to frost a cake and ended up with lots of crumbs stuck in the frosting would certainly find that knowing how to apply a crumb coat is handy skill to have.

A crumb coat is name of a very thin layer of frosting that is applied to a cake before the final frosting is put on. This coating essentially traps all the loose crumbs on the surface of a cake in a thin, sticky layer of frosting. With the crumbs secured, your final layer of frosting will glide on smoothly and cleanly, without picking up a single crumb from the cake itself. The crumb coat is made from the same frosting that will go on the rest of the cake, so there is no need for a special batch of frosting or an additional recipe. There is no special technique in applying it: just use an offset spatula or knife to apply the frosting and smoothing it down until you can see the cake underneath. I like to allow the crumb coat to set up for a few minutes (although it doesn’t make that much of a difference in the end), then apply the rest of the frosting, pulling it lightly across the base layer. The coat will work with any spread-on frosting (pour on glazes and ganaches don’t generally need a crumb coat) and dedicating a small amount of your frosting to it will usually make a big difference in the presentation of the finished product.

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18 Comments
  • Martha
    August 11, 2009

    I thought a crumb coat is what you have after you eat a cupcake while driving.

  • Nutmeg Nanny
    August 11, 2009

    Great tips! I have found that some of my baking books completely jump over this step. I find it very useful and necessary.

  • Shannon
    August 11, 2009

    Thanks for explaining this! I had not heard of a crumb coat before, but I know this is going to make worlds of difference for my carrot cake, which always ends up with bits of cake stuck in the otherwise lovely frosting.

  • The Trinigourmet
    August 11, 2009

    What a wonderful tip. This is also going to make a difference in my cakes 🙂

  • Kevin
    August 11, 2009

    I will print this for my wife. It is sure to help in her baking in the future and I’m sure she will appreciate your advice.

  • linda
    August 12, 2009

    newbie to ur site…really enjoy your body of work…
    thanks for this reinforcement tip…actually just read your “moist” cake tip & bookmarked your decorating tips to read!! thanx.

  • chef barbie
    August 15, 2009

    a baker friend of mine calls this dirty icing the cake and she puts WAY more than a thin coating of icing. and the fondant on top of that.

  • Emily
    November 19, 2009

    Thanks for the tips! I plan on making a cake just for fun to try out all the fondant and dirty icing tips i’ve been getting! Can not wait to get in to the kitchen!

  • Kristan
    December 2, 2009

    What about a whipped icing. What would you use for a crumb coat for this icing that does not crust over? Would you use buttercream?

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