Want your homemade birthday cake to turn out just as beautiful as the one on the supermarket shelves? Our expert food stylist, Rishon, has all the tricks you need to make your layer cake look lovely (and still taste amazing). Sorry, grocery store bakery—you guys can sit this one out.  Compared to cookies or cupcakes, layer cakes give you ample room to decorate, whether you want to write a birthday message or top with colorful candy. Keep in mind, a layer cake doesn’t have to be difficult to look impressive—even Rishon loves using a boxed cake mix to create her show-stopping dessert. In this episode, Rishon makes a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, an iconic duo for birthday cakes.  After baking and cooling her cakes, she uses a serrated bread knife to cut off the dome, leaving a flat, even surface for easy stacking. Refrigerating the cakes overnight will make them firmer and easier to carve. For her first decorating tip, Rishon places a photo-ready, pretty cake stand on top of her rotating cake stand. This allows the decorator to have full mobility around the cake even when using a fancy stand.  And no, just because Rishon loves beautiful food doesn’t mean that she’s above using store-bought shortcuts. Shelf-stable frosting is a great product to use when you need your frosting to stay firm and not melt. Rishon likes to smooth a dollop on the cake stand to secure her bottom layer in place, being careful to put the frosting off-center so it doesn’t show when she takes a slice out of the cake.  The first cake goes on the stand trimmed side-up, then Rishon uses an ice cream scoop to measure an even amount of frosting into each layer. She levels the frosting out by keeping her spatula in one place and rotating the cake around smoothly. The second layer and third cake layers are placed trimmed side-down, with another layer of frosting in between.  Next, a crumb coat is applied to the top and sides of the stacked cake. A crumb coat is simply a thin layer of frosting that provides a barrier between the baked cake and the outer frosting. Don’t worry if this layer isn’t perfect—it’ll be hidden under the next layer of frosting. When it’s done, chill the cake for 15 to 20 minutes.  Rishon recommends ditching traditional party sprinkles and creating a sprinkle mixture that’s entirely unique to you. It’s a small amount of effort that gives your cake a bit of personalized flair. Rishon opts for a mixture of pastel pearls, sanding sugars, and jimmy sprinkles, but feel free to use whatever colorful candies catch your eye.  Once the cake has thoroughly chilled, Rishon places squares of parchment paper under the cake to keep her cake stand clean before applying a top layer of frosting. For an additional element of shine, she heats up a clean spatula with her blow torch and runs it along the surface of the frosting. Finally, she carefully applies a thick ring of sprinkles around the top and removes the parchment squares to reveal a clean base. If needed, she keeps culinary tweezers and a small paintbrush on hand for touch-ups.  Time to party!

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