Tools you'll need:
A standard 6 inch cake feeds about 4-8 people, but for those counting calories it's more like 8-12 peeps. For this session I chose to build a 3 layer red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Each layer, prior to baking, weighed out at 10 ounces each. So the resulting layers after baking came to approx. 2 inches thick.
Step 1: Create a leveled layer using a serrated knife. Do this for each cake layer and set aside.
Step 2: Using a round cardboard cake board 2 inches larger in diameter than your cake layers (e.g. a 6-inch cake needs an 8-inch cake board), add a dollop of frosting in the center and cover with a decorative cake doily. Add another dollop of frosting in the middle and place your first cake layer centered onto the doily. The frosting holds both the doily and the cake in place on the cake board and keeps it from sliding around when decorating. Cut 4- 3 x 8 inch strips of parchment paper and nestle them underneath the edges of the first cake layer. This acts as your drop mat for the excess frosting.
Step 3: A little baker's trick - lightly brush simple syrup on each cake layer before frosting. Simple syrup is used to keep cake layers moist for long periods. To make simple syrup, boil equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan on low heat until the sugar dissolves completely.
Step 4: With a spatula, whip your frosting to release excess air bubbles and smooth out the frosting. Drop a large dollop of frosting on the first layer and with an offset spatula, gently spread an even layer of frosting across top. You can allow excess frosting to spill over sides, you will use this to crumb-coat later. Add more frosting until you spread about a 1/4 inch layer on top.
Step 5: With the second layer, center over first layer, and with your hand firmly press down on cake to release trapped bubbles and settle the second layer into place. Brush with simple syrup and repeat step 4.
Step 6: With the last cake layer, brush simple syrup on the cut side then turn upside and place on top of the frosted second layer, pressing down with your hand once more to set layer into place. Bend down to check that the top of the cake is level with the cake stand. Press and move layers around if uneven.
Step 7: Using a medium dollop of frosting as well as using the excess frosting that has spilled out between the cake layers, with the bench scraper spread a thin crumb-coat over the sides and then the top of the cake. Return excess frosting to the frosting bowl. Make sure to fill any gaps with frosting or the trapped air will make the frosting "burp" when you're all done with the cake. Remove cake from turntable and place in the refrigerator or freezer until the frosting has firmed up, approx. 10- 15 minutes. The purpose of a crumb-coat is to create a "crumb-free" base for frosting your cake. Think primer!
Step 8: Remove crumb-coated cake from refrigerator. Using an offset spatula, add dollops of frosting to the sides of the cake and then to the top. Be generous with the frosting since a lot will be removed when smoothing the sides and top out. Once entire cake is covered in frosting, hold the bench scraper gently against side of cake. Rotate turntable while holding spatula in place. Once sides are smoothed finish smoothing top of cake. Take the bench scraper and pull frosting in from the edge of the cake toward the center. Just like smoothing the sides of the cake, firmly but gently position the bench scraper at a tilt with one tip of the scraper positioned in the center. Hold that center spot and rotate the turntable until a smooth and even layer is achieved. Return excess frosting back to the frosting bowl.
Step 9: Gently pull out the parchment liners from underneath the first cake layer and pipe borders on the top and bottom edges of the cake.
Refrigerate cake or keep in a cool place if not serving immediately. Cake keeps for up to 4 days.