Learning how to frost cakes will instantly take your desserts to the next level. It’s the icing on the cake – literally!
Baking cakes is tricky enough, but for many of us, frosting them is even more difficult. We covered techniques for frosting cupcakes back in March, but what about an actual layer cake? Whether it’s keeping crumbs out of your frosting, or spreading it on smoothly, we’ve got a few pointers to help you do it just right.
Start With a Cool Cake
Before you can even begin to frost your cake, it needs to be completely cool. This is because a cake that’s still warm can actually melt your frosting and make it slide right off, which will totally mess up any design you had in mind (and that’s definitely no fun). Once your cake has cooled for at least 30 minutes, you can start to assemble it. Pipe or spread ¼ to ⅓ of your frosting across the top of one layer and sandwich the other layer on top of it.
TIP: if you’re worried about your cake slipping, stick a small amount of frosting on the serving plate and place your cake right on top. The frosting will act as a glue to keep the cake in place!
Then Add the Crumb Coat
The crumb coat is an essential step to frosting your layer cakes, but lots of people don’t even know about it! When you’ve assembled your layer cake, what you do is this: take a small amount of your frosting and spread a very thin coat around the whole cake, but especially along the sides. This traps the crumbs and keeps them from getting into your top layer of frosting, which is the part that people will see. Once you’ve spread the crumb coat on, stick the cake in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, or until the crumb coat is firm. Then you can start on the real thing!
Make the Frosting Nice and Smooth
There’s many creative ways to frost a cake, from simply spreading the frosting on the cake with an angled spatula to creating a complex pattern. This technique, however, is a great way to create a smooth and sleek look. If you’re a perfectionistic baker – you know, the kind who likes their cakes to have that completely smooth look – you’ll love this trick! What you’ll need is a piping bag with an extra-wide flat tip (like Wilton or Ateco #789), a non-quilted paper towel, an icing smoother, a fondant smoother, and an angled spatula.
Start off by spreading a layer of frosting on the top of the cake with your angled spatula. Then put your frosting in the piping bag (with the tip in place), and pipe it around the sides of the cake, starting from the bottom. Once that part’s done, take the icing smoother and begin running it along the sides of the cake at an angle, smoothing it out slowly and carefully. Then take the angled spatula and blend the frosting on the sides with the frosting on the top, correcting hard-to-reach places along the way.
Smooth the top of of the cake with the angled spatula, and then use the non-quilted paper towel and fondant smoother (which despite the name is not just for fondant!) for final corrections. Gently lay the paper towel on top of one section of the cake and press the fondant smoother over it. Do this on all parts of the cake until it’s completely smooth. And you’re done!
There’s so many more looks you can make with your frosting, whether it’s with a simple buttercream or a cream cheese frosting, but the smooth and sleek look is a timeless classic that can never go wrong. However, if the above technique seems a bit too advanced for now, then just use an angled spatula and evenly spread the frosting on the cake, starting with the top of the cake, and then the sides, blending it all together in the end. You can even make little swirls and swooshes if you feel like it – this creates a really cool textured look like this:
TIP: If you don’t have an angled spatula, you can use a non-serrated butter knife for spreading your frosting!
And lastly, to make any look even better, you can buy piping tips in fun shapes and pipe borders along the edges of the cake – or even add sprinkles. The possibilities are endless!