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Can you put too much simple syrup on a cake?

Everything you needed to know about simple sugar syrup for cakes and cupcakes, including how to prepare and flavor the syrup, why and when to use it, and how to utilize it.

Can you put too much simple syrup on a cake? 

If you’re a frequent reader, you may remember that I posted a brief article a while ago with 5 techniques to help keep your cakes moist. It was never really intended to be an important post on the blog, it was more of a quick filler post between a couple of bigger tutorial posts I was working on. Nonetheless, it proved to be really popular; evidently, people want to know how to prevent a dry cake. Who could blame them? Despite my hate of the letter “m,” I adore a moist cake.

After all, I like my jokes to be dry and my desserts to be moist.

One of the tips I gave in that post was to use a simple syrup on your cake layers, and quite a few people asked me to elaborate on that. “Go big or go home,” as they say. So here it is: “The Definitive Guide to Sugar Syrup for Cakes,” as I’m not so modestly calling it.

Syrups of various types are often used on cakes in bakeries and patisseries, but many home bakers have never heard of them – or have heard of them but are unsure how to make them or put them on a cake.

Using sugar syrup on cakes is far from a new or novel idea, pastry chefs have been doing it for years. For as long as there have been pastry cooks, perhaps. They do it to keep the cake moist as well as to add flavor. And those are all great reasons why cake syrup is also an excellent addition to any home baker’s repertoire.

They’re also very useful in cake decorating, both for keeping the cake moist while spending time decorating it (also super useful for keeping naked cakes from drying out!) But, the syrup may also be used to glue cake decorations or to make fondant cling to ganache.

I’ll attempt to cover all you need to know about simple syrup for cakes in this article, but if there’s anything specific you’re searching for, here’s a convenient table of contents for you to jump to where you need to go.

Let’s get started with a brief Question so you have all the information you need before we get into the sugar syrup recipe and flavors.

Sugar Syrup FAQ


I’ve got the recipe card for you with all the details below, but making the syrup is really as simple as the name: equal parts water and sugar are boiled together to dissolve the sugar, and once it’s cooled to room temperature you can brush it on each layer of your cake as you’re filling it. It’s so simple and failsafe (as long as you don’t burn yourself) that I’m even included cup measurements in the recipe.

Yeah, She Who Refuses To Write Her Recipes in Volume Measures has thrown away her scales on this one. Because, unlike in baking, a little variation in the syrup ingredient amounts is really not going to matter much here.


While the term “need” is strong, there are various reasons why you would wish to add syrup to your cakes. You may have slightly overbaked your cake, resulting in a dry result. In this situation, the syrup will replenish the moisture that has been lost.

Or you might be decorating a naked or semi-naked style cake, in which case the cake won’t be fully covered in icing and there is the potential for moisture loss as the cake sits. It’s a good idea to sprinkle a little more syrup around the borders of those sorts of cakes since that’s where they’ll dry out quickest.

If you’re decorating a cake a little bit further in advance than usual, then adding some syrup can help improve the keeping qualities of the cake. It will not dry out, and the additional sugar may assist to limit bacterial development.

I don’t put syrup on every cake I make, but it’s always helpful to have it on hand if I need it.


This is entirely dependent on the size of your cake layers, but aim for one to three teaspoons each layer. You’re really just trying to moisten the top of the cake layer, and the syrup will soak in, moistening the whole layer as the cake sits.

It might also depend on the kind of cake you’re making. Lighter cakes like sponges and butter cakes (or devil’s food cake) will soak up more syrup than a denser cake, like a chocolate mud cake.

If you find that your icing is sliding around on the syrup when you’re trying to spread it, then you probably need to either use a little less syrup or give it a few moments to soak in before adding your layer of icing. This occurs more often with thicker cake recipes since the syrup doesn’t sink in as fast.

You may also try diluting your syrup with adding water to make it easier to absorb.


I won’t claim it doesn’t contribute any sweetness to the cake; after all, it is composed of sugar. No, it will not make your cake sickly. It’s a thin layer of syrup, and the quantity of sugar added to each layer will be minimal.


Only if you overdo it. If you’re concerned about this happening, then make sure you’re only adding a thin layer of syrup, and check your first cake layer to make sure the syrup is soaking in fully before you add your icing and continue to layer up your cake.

How Do I Put the Syrup on the Cake?

You have a few alternatives here, and you may choose whatever is the most convenient for you. When I fill the cake, I just brush the syrup onto each layer with a pastry brush. You may also use a spray bottle, and spray each layer. In the video, I demonstrate both of these choices. Some individuals prefer to put their syrup in a squeeze container, similar to the sort used for cookie decorating. The remainder of the procedure is the same regardless of the option you choose.

Step One: Divide your cake/cakes into layers. Most of the cakes I make have four layers of cake and three layers of filling, but you can do however many layers you like.

Step Two: Apply your syrup using a pastry brush, spray, or squeeze bottle. If the cake is already moist, then a thin layer of syrup should be sufficient – you don’t want your cake drowning in moisture. If your cake is a little dry, add a little extra. You’re really just aiming for the syrup to comfortably soak into the cake, don’t add so much that it pools on the surface and can’t soak in.

Step Three: Place a layer of your cake filling on top. Repeat until your cake is all layered up.

Check out the video to discover how to apply the syrup with a brush or spray bottle, as well as how much syrup to use on each layer.

How to Make Sugar Syrup

This is the recipe for the basic cake syrup. Scroll down for ways to flavour the basic simple syrup.

Ultimate Guide to Sugar Syrup for Cakes ~ A complete guide to using sugar syrup on cakes, including why you should, how to make it, how to use it, plus over a dozen ways to flavour your syrup. ~ by Sweetness and Bite
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups hot water

Make the simple syrup:

  • In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Place over medium-high heat, and stir until most of the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until all of the sugar is dissolved. If there are a lot of sugar crystals on the side of the pan, brush them off with a pastry brush dipped in water.
  • Allow the syrup to cool before using.

How to use on a cake or cupcakes:

  • Use a clean pastry brush or small spray bottle to apply the syrup to each of your cake layers as you fill your cake. Use just enough to gently wet the surface. It should simply dissolve in the cake.
  • While applying your syrup with a pastry brush, pour a tiny bit of syrup into another container or cup and dip your brush into that to avoid getting crumbs in the remainder of your syrup.

Storing the syrup:

  • Simple simple syrup may be kept in the refrigerator for many months in an airtight container, jar, or bottle.Fresh components, such as fruit, in syrups do not keep as long, generally just a week or two.

Sugar – I like to use caster sugar to make syrup as it dissolves faster, but regular granulated sugar will also work just fine. Golden or unprocessed sugars are also excellent for syrup since they provide a little caramel flavor.

Disclaimer: Any nutritional information presented is a computer-generated estimate and should only be used as a guide.

Ways to Flavour Sugar Syrup for Cakes:

Here is when things start to become very interesting and imaginative. You can flavour the syrup in so many ways to compliment your cake. The options are endless, but I thought I’d put together a bit of a list to give you some ideas. The majority of the alternatives start with the basic syrup formula, although a handful contain additional modifications.

Vanilla Syrup

Vanilla really is the ultimate flavour base for any dessert, and syrup for cakes is no exception. It goes well with practically every cake flavor.

You have various possibilities for incorporating vanilla flavor into your syrup. One alternative is to add vanilla extract to your cooled simple syrup. Another option is to use vanilla paste. A teaspoon of either will enough. If you happen to have vanilla pods on hand, just break open one pod and add it to the syrup after the sugar has dissolved. Let it to boil for a minute, then remove from the heat and set aside the syrup with the pod to cool.

You can even store leftover syrup with the vanilla bean still in it, just pour the whole lot into a bottle or jar with a lid. The flavor will continue to permeate.

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon simple syrup – mix into the cooled syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste + 1 teaspoon simple syrup – add to cooled syrup
  • Simple syrup + 1 vanilla pod – split the pod in half and add to syrup once the sugar is dissolved. Let to infuse as the syrup cools. You can either leave the pod in the syrup when you store it or remove it. You may also filter out the seeds if desired.

Citrus Syrup

Citrus, ah, citrus. Fresh and (maybe… hopefully…) tart, there is nothing like a lovely lemon cake, or a bit of lime to add a little zing to your day. You have two choices here: add the grated zest to the syrup or replace part of the water with freshly squeezed juice.

  • Before boiling, add 1 teaspoon (or more!) finely grated lemon, lime, or orange zest to the simple syrup.
  • Replace some (or all, if you prefer it mouth-puckeringly sour) of the water with your favorite citrus juice.

Coffee Syrup

If you need a little pep in your step… or in your cake… coffee syrup may be the answer.

  • Simple syrup + dissolve 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder (or more to taste)
  • Straightforward syrup, but with espresso instead of water. The amount will depend on how strong you want the flavour.

Peppermint Syrup

It’s hard to go past the fresh flavour of peppermint with the rich smooth flavour of chocolate. You can make a simple peppermint flavoured syrup to use on your next chocolate cake by adding a few drops of peppermint flavouring oil or extract to your simple syrup. Since peppermint oils and extract vary in intensity, you’ll have to taste it to make sure it’s minty enough. You want it to taste minty, not toothpaste-like.

  • Let simple syrup to cool before adding peppermint extract or oil to taste.

Liqueur or Spirits

Try spiking your syrup with a little alcohol to give your cakes a kick. I love Amaretto liquor with chocolate cake, and Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) is also delicious with chocolate. Instead, use Cointreau syrup with a citrus-flavored cake or Kahlua syrup with a coffee cake.

  • Simple syrup + 2 – 3 teaspoons of your favorite alcohol or liqueur (add more if you’re feeling adventurous.) If you add it to the syrup before you boil it, some of the alcohol will evaporate as the syrup boils, if you want to keep the alcohol, then add it to the syrup once it has cooled.

Honey Syrup

Fancy some honey in your syrup, sweetie?

  • Prepare the basic simple syrup, but decrease the amount of water and sugar to 1.5 cups each and add 1 cup of honey.

Chocolate Syrup

This is useful if you’ve prepared a chocolate cake that hasn’t turned out as chocolatey as you’d want. This chocolate syrup, coupled with a nice rich ganache or chocolate buttercream, and you’ll have the chocolate overload cake of your dreams.

  • Simple syrup + 1 – 2 tablespoons of excellent quality cocoa powder. Make the syrup and allow it to cool slightly, then stir a few teaspoons of the syrup into the sifted cocoa to make a smooth paste. Stir the paste into the remaining syrup. If desired, add a dash of vanilla extract.

Ginger Syrup

Ginger might be an acquired taste, but this ginger syrup will complement any spice-flavored cake or even a deep, dark chocolate cake for all you dark chocolate + ginger fans out there.

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, coarsely grated. Before cooking, add the ginger to the syrup. Let to cool and infuse, then drain out the ginger if preferred (leave it in for an extra ginger kick)
  • Simple syrup + 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. Remove from the heat and swirl a teaspoon or two of the syrup into the powdered ginger to produce a smooth paste, then stir the paste back into the remaining liquid. Since ground ginger varies in intensity (some can knock your socks off! ), you may need to alter the quantity.

Caramel Syrup

My body weight would be around 85% caramel if I had my way. If you share my sentiments, try this caramel syrup on your next cake. It imparts a rich flavor to practically any cake flavor.

  • In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugar (2 cups). Pour in 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to ensure the sugar has dissolved. With a pastry brush soaked in water, brush down the edges of the pan. Boil without stirring, until it turns a rich amber colour (check out my caramel sauce recipe for more info on the stages to look for when making caramel). When it’s done, take it from the fire and stir in 1 cup of warm water. Be cautious since it will most likely spew and spray. If the sugar crystalises a little bit then return the pan to the heat and stir until it dissolves. If necessary, thin the syrup with additional water. Let to cool completely before using.

Butterscotch Syrup

The extremely buttery relative of caramel. You know, that cousin you’ve always liked more than the other cousins. Because butter.

  • Use half of the ordinary sugar with brown sugar to make simple syrup. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved then remove from the heat and add 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 grams) of butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1-2 tablespoons of whipping cream. Everything should be properly mixed once the butter melts.

Fruit Flavoured Syrups

Well, there are a million* different fruits in the world, but you may change and adapt this in any manner you like; these are just some suggestions for fruit-flavored cake syrups.

  • Replace part or all of the water in the simple syrup with fresh (or high-quality bottled) fruit juice.
  • Replace part or all of the water with prepared fruit-flavored tea/herbal tea instead of simple syrup.
  • Simple syrup, add a handful of fresh or frozen berries to the syrup after the sugar has dissolved. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat. Allow to cool, then blend in a blender or with a stick mixer until smooth. With a fine strainer, strain the mixture.

Keep in mind that syrups with fresh or frozen fruit added to them don’t last as long; I’d guess a week or two in the fridge at most.

*I have not really counted the amount of fruits in the globe, so this may be an exaggeration for impact.

Chai Syrup

There are few flavours as warming as a little chai spice on a cold day. Or a hot day, because chai is delicious anytime. Depending on what you’re using it for, you may prepare it with or without real tea. Note that you may change the kinds and quantities of spices to suit your preferences.

  • Simple syrup, once the sugar has dissolved add:
    1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
    4 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed
    5 whole dried cloves
    1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
    1 star anise
    1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
    2 black tea bags
    Simmer the syrup gently for five minutes then remove from heat. Leave for 15 minutes, then remove the tea bags and leave the syrup (with all the spices) until cool. Strain.

If the idea of chai syrup over a cake makes you want a cup of chai, my buddy Elien has a handmade chai latte syrup recipe that will warm your heart.

Another wide topic, but one worth exploring given the variety of flavored extracts accessible these days. From fruit flavors to bubblegum and cotton candy, there is an extract or oil to complement almost every cake. I like the LorAnn flavorings, although there are many more brands to choose from.

  • Let simple syrup to cool before adding extract to taste.

Since flavouring extracts and oils vary in strength, you’ll need to add them to taste. LorAnn flavors are quite concentrated, so use just a drop or two at a time.

Can you put too much simple syrup on a cake?

So there you have it: everything you ever wanted to know about sugar syrup for cakes (and maybe even some things you didn’t realize you wanted to know).

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Related Questions

  • How much simple syrup should you put on a cake?

    HOW MUCH SIMPLE SYRUP SHOULD I USE FOR A CAKE? This is entirely dependent on the size of your cake layers, but aim for one to three teaspoons each layer. You’re really just trying to moisten the top of the cake layer, and the syrup will soak in, moistening the whole layer as the cake sits.

  • Does simple syrup change the taste of cake?

    No. It will enhance the sweetness in your cake but not alter the flavor.

  • When should I add simple syrup to cake?

    The simple syrup is added after everything has been cooked and the dessert has been assembled.

    1. Coat each layer of cake with the simple syrup as you assemble it. Most people use a pastry brush to do this, but you could also use a spray bottle. …
    2. Allow the mixture to soak into the cake.
    3. Top with homemade frosting.
  • What happens if too much liquid in cake?

    If too much of a closing agent, e.g. liquid, is used, the cake produced has a ‘close’ texture. In other words, it is thick, tough, and rubbery.