Sometimes when you bake a cake and think everything went as usual, it just falls apart when you take it out of the pan!
Clearly, something didn’t go as usual, because this broken mess is not right.
Don’t toss it out yet! If you were baking a cake for an occasion or a friend, of course, go ahead and start again. That’s fair.
But, what can you do with your broken cake? I’ve had some experience with this problem and, since I hate to waste, I usually pull something together so my family can still enjoy dessert, in some form. Like when I tried to bake bite-sized candy cane-topped brownies but didn’t use the correct recipe and overfilled the cups. But I saved them! See how, here.
Sometimes you can piece it together, ‘gluing’ the smaller loose chunks into place with a smear of buttercream. True, it’s difficult to put a broken cake back together and cover it with icing because you’ll have crumbs everywhere, but depending on how broken your layers are, it might be worth a try.
First make a large batch of buttercream icing; enough to frost your layered cake, so about two or three cups. Divide it between two bowls, and set one aside, covered, for later. We’ll call that ‘Icing (B)’. Keeping this second bowl of frosting reserved means that when crumbs get into the first bowl that you’ll use for sticking the cake pieces together, as they undoubltedly will, you’ll still have fresh, clean, crumb-free frosting ready for the presentation layer.
Use a frosting spatula to spread some icing onto the broken edges, but try to touch the cake as little as possible; one continuous spread of thick icing is best, because you’ll end up with the least amount of crumbs. Fit the coordinating loose piece of cake into the edge and continue with the remaining edges and pieces until you have messy but assembled cake layers. Put each layer on its own plate and refrigerate for thirty minues. Don’t worry about the loose crumbs in the icing, that’s why we reserved some in a separate dish. (Remember Icing(B)?)
Next, use one-quarter to one-third of the reserved, not crumby, Icing (B) buttercream to sandwich the cake layers.
If you have messy buttercream remaining, use it to spread a thin crumb coat over the entire cake. Not the reserved icing, Icing (B) in the second dish, but any remaining icing from the patch job. If you don’t have enough, then add some from the reserved dish and continue to thinly cover the entire cake with a crumb coat.
Refrigerate the cake for an hour until the icing is solid and holds onto the crumbs. Once the cake and crumb coat are nice and firm, go ahead and ice with the reserved buttercream in the second dish.
Consider decorating the sides with additional buttercream, tinted and piped in any style, or adding sprinkles, chocolates or candies to detract from the pieced together-ness of your dessert. And you’re done.
Again, if this is a no-occasion cake for your household, those you’re sharing it with are probably just happy to have a piece of homemade cake offered to them!
Lastly, your cake probably still tastes great: it will go well with a morning coffee, whether the cake is pieced together and iced, or plain! All is not lost.