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Top Tools for Frosting a Cake

Want to know how pastry chefs get perfectly frosted cakes every time? Aside from practice, it all comes down to tools. Here are some go-to items you’ll need in the kitchen:

  • Small Offset Spatula - These small 8 or 9 inch spatulas can be used at each stage during the decorating process.
  • Turntable - A cake turntable (which can double as a lazy susan) makes frosting cakes a breeze as the movement of the turntable does half of the work for you.
  • Icing smootherThese smoothers come in many shapes, sizes and materials. Make sure your smoother is crafted at a 90-degree angle with clean, sharp sides to help create perfectly crisp edges and smooth sides to your cake. 
  • Piping bags & tips - The piping bags allow for cleanliness & control while the piping tips make the process much more enjoyable and original.
  • Cake board - Setting your cake on a cake board as you start to build and frost the finished creation is essential. This will make picking up and positioning the cake throughout the decorating and serving process an absolute breeze.
  • Cake leveler - Using a cake leveler dedicated to cake creations ensures that the cake is level on both the top and the sides for a polished, professional look. 

Step by step process for frosting a cake

  1. Before starting the decorating process, make sure that your cake layers have cooled completely and are been trimmed so that they are flat, even layers. 
  2. Place the first cake layer onto a cake board, using a tablespoon of buttercream to “glue” it in place so that your cake does not slide around during the decorating process. 
  3. Start by adding an even amount of frosting on each layer and smooth out the frosting with your offset spatula. Use a keen eye or a cake leveler to ensure that the cake is straight and level before continuing. 
  4. Once your cake layers have been filled it’s time to start frosting! Fill a piping bag with buttercream frosting and pipe onto the assembled cake starting from the base to the top, using the turntable to fluidly rotate your cake as you pipe. 
  5. Grab your icing smoother and with even pressure, drag the smoother against the side of the cake with your dominant hand, while your other hand slowly moves the turntable against the smoother. As you slowly and carefully smooth the buttercream, take plenty of moments to wipe any excess buildup of buttercream from the smoother. 
  6. If you have a particularly moist cake where excess crumbs are making the process a bit messy, you may want to scrape the buttercream quite thin on the sides of the cake and pause here to place the cake into the fridge for about 30 minutes. This is a crumb coat - locking in the crumbs onto the interior of the cake so that your buttercream stays nice and smooth. If your buttercream is a bit soft and challenging to work with, you can also pause here and place the cake in the fridge so that it has a chance to firm up before moving onto the next step. 
  7. As you continue to smooth out the buttercream, icing will build up on the top of your cake - using your offset spatula, swipe the buttercream down onto the top layer until the top is flat and even.
  8. Once you’ve smoothed the side of your cake, you may notice a few pockets of icing that need to be filled. Use your offset spatula to fill in each pocket, then smooth out the buttercream until you’re satisfied with the overall appearance. 

Tips for decorating and serving your finished cake

  1. Decorate your cake with additional buttercream by choosing a variety of piping tips, or use your offset spatula to create a spiral pattern to create more intrigue, personality and excitement! 
  2. For added flavor and texture, you can decorate the top or sides of your cake with sprinkles, nuts, fresh fruit, caramel, chocolate - anything that you’d like!
  3. Once decorated, chill the cake before serving - place the frosted cake in the fridge to set before serving. Leave the cake overnight for the tastiest results.

Tips for frosting a cake with homemade buttercream

  • Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting it. Frosting a warm cake is a recipe for disaster, so make sure to give your cake ample time to cool before assembling. To make the process move along faster, allow the cake to cool in the cake pan for about 10 minutes before inverting it onto a cooling rack. It should be good to go in about 30-40 minutes after removing from the oven.
  • Don't completely fill your piping bag. Try not to fill your piping bag more than ¾ of the way full. This will allow you to have more control when decorating and will prevent the frosting from escaping through the top creating quite the mess.
  • To cool cakes quickly, pop them in the fridge. Frosting a cake that is quite moist can sometimes present a challenge while frosting. Pop the cake in the freezer for about 15 minutes before frosting to give it a firmer exterior. Next, work with a thin layer of icing known as the crumb coat; it doesn’t matter if some crumbs get stuck in it. Pop the cake with the crumb coat in the fridge for 15 minutes to secure all the crumbs in place, then finish icing with your tasty buttercream. 
  • Feel free to break it into smaller tasks. Baking is supposed to be fun and therapeutic, not stressful! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, break the recipe down into smaller tasks ahead of time or take a break. Stop what you’re doing, pop the cake into the fridge and come back to it after you feel up to the task! Truly, the break will do wonders for your peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy the process! 

Ready to start decorating? Head on over to the recipe for making your own Buttercream Frosting and put these tips to use!