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How to Build a 4 layer Cake

Learn how to make the quintessential layer cake. I’ll teach you how to build a 4 layer cake that looks professional and elegant with no wonky layers or lopsided frosting.

A 4 layer vanilla layer cake

Unlike almost every page of Baking Sense, this post is not centered on a single recipe, but rather illustrates how to assemble a beautiful 4-layer cake. No separating layers, no unsightly brown edges and no lopsided cakes.

You can decorate the cake or do a casual “Betty Crocker” swirl. Either way your guests will be impressed.

How to build a 4 Layer Cake

tools for putting together a cake.
  • Gather your tools for building a layer cake.
  • A cake turntable is not necessary for building a layer cake, but it makes it much easier.
  • A long serrated knife is needed for trimming and torting the cake.
  • You’ll use an offset spatula and a bench scraper for icing the cake, although you can certainly ice a cake with any type of spatula or even a butter knife.
  • A pastry bush is used for brushing a layer of flavorful syrup on the cake layers. This is not a mandatory step but does keep the cake moist and flavorful.
Trimming the top and sides of a cake.
  • The brown crust on a cake that’s eaten without icing, like a pound cake, can be quite nice. But the crust can get gummy within an iced cake.
  • Start by using your serrated knife to trim off the domed tops of each  cake. By cutting off the domed top of the cake you’ll end up with a beautifully level and symmetrical cake that is as lovely to see as it is to eat.
  • Hold the cake on it’s side and use a steady sawing motion to trim the brown edges from the sides of the cake.
  • Flip the cake over and trim the brown bottom crust. You have a nicely trimmed cake.
a knife splitting  a cake into 2 layers.
  • Split each cake in two (this is called “torting) for a total of four layers.
  • Torting the layers creates a more balanced bite of cake with even layers of cake and filling rather than two thick layers of cake and one layer of filling.
A bowl of icing and a cake. Spreading frosting on a cake.
  • Place your cake layers on a cardboard cake circle or on a serving plate. If you are using a cake turntable set the cake onto the turntable. Gather your frosting and syrup if you are using one.
  • Brush the first layer of cake with syrup. In the bowl, separate the frosting into about 2 equal portions. Use 1/3 of one portion for the first layer.
  • Spread the frosting so it is even on the layer.
  • Continue with the other 3 layers, reserving about half the total frosting for icing the cake.
Icing a cake with vanilla frosting.
  • Start by covering the sides of the cake. Spin the turntable as you apply a thick layer of frosting.
  • Cover the top of the cake with the rest of the frosting. Spread so the top frosting meets the sides.
  • Use your spatula to swirl the frosting on the sides of the cake into a pretty pattern. Spin the turntable as you go. Try to keep the sides of the cake straight and you frost.
  • Swirl the frosting on the top of the cake, spinning the turntable as you swirl to get an even layer.
  • If you’d like to smooth-ice the cake like you see in a bakery, watch this video that shows how to ice a cake like a pastry chef.
  • No turntable? No problem. You can use the same technique with the cake on a plain plate. Just turn the plate like you would the turntable. It’s not quite as easy without a turntable, but it does work.
closeup of cake on a turntable.
  • Use the edge of a bench scraper or a butter knife to scrape away the excess frosting around the bottom of the cake as you spin the turntable.
  • Transfer the cake to a serving platter or cake stand.

Watch the video to see how to assemble a 4 layer cake:

beauty shot

If you find this information helpful, I’d love a 5-star review

a four layer vanilla cake on a white cake stand
Print Recipe
4.68 from 43 reviews

How-to: Build a 4 Layer Cake

This is the quintessential layer cake, simplified. Learn how to make perfectly beautiful layer cakes every time.
Prep Time2 hours
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time2 hours 30 minutes
1 cake



  • Trim the sides, bottom and top of each cake then split the cakes in 1/2 horizontally so you have 4 layers.
  • Flip the cakes so that the flat side of one cake is facing the bottom and the flat side of the other cake is on top,
  • Divide the buttercream in 1/2, reserve one 1/2 for icing the cake, use the remaining for filling
  • Place the bottom layer on your cardboard cake circle or serving platter. Brush the layer generously with rum syrup,
  • Place 1/3 of the filling buttercream on the layer and spread it evenly to the edges. Repeat with the next three layers.
  • Ice the sides and top of the cake with the reserved buttercream.
  • Serve at room temperature


serrated knife
Pastry Brush
Offset Spatula
Bench Scraper
Revolving Cake Stand

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Recipe Rating

Thursday 22nd of June 2017

You have great write up, I always read your blog. and I must say you are doing good job, plz do write like this.

Eileen Gray

Thursday 22nd of June 2017