As with any aspect of cooking or baking, icing cakes successfully takes practise and experimentation. Giving your cakes the perfect final touch with beautifully applied icing is often the most daunting part of making your cake creations, but the more you practise your icing skills the easier this process will become.
Below are some top tips on how to ice your cake like a pro.
Start With A Crumb Coat
A crumb coat is a thin layer of buttercream that’s applied to your cake prior to another icing. This initial layer sticks the crumbs that may come away from your cake together and will give you a smoother surface that is easier to work on later. Crumb coat is crucial to the icing process if you’re aiming for a clean and professional finish to your cake.
Simply mix up a batch of delicious buttercream, you can use a hand mixer or stand mixer for this, to ensure you achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency. Using an offset spatula or palette knife, spread a thin and even layer over the sides and top of your cake to lock in those crumbs. Once you’ve finished your crumb coating, allow this to chill in the fridge for around 15-20 minutes.
Once your cake has chilled it’s now ready to be iced and decorated! There are a number of icing techniques that you can choose from, however, some tend to be overly complicated and time-consuming. Often the most simple icing techniques can be just as impressive when done well.
Using a cake comb is a quick and easy way of giving your icing the wow factor without having to spend hours using a piping bag. Cake combs come in a variety of different patterns and sizes and are perfect for using with soft buttercream icing.
Start by applying buttercream to your cake using a spatula, don’t worry too much about leaving lines or bubbles in your icing. The aim here is to get a good layer of buttercream that is relatively even onto your cake. Once you’ve applied an even layer it’s time to clean up your icing using the cake comb. Simply hold the comb next to the side of your cake at a 90-degree angle, then drag your comb lightly around the entire cake.
Squeeze & Spin
This is a great technique for those looking to use a piping bag to decorate their cake, but are not yet ready to attempt an overly technical design. As well as a piping bag, this technique calls for a cake turntable.
Fill your piping bag halfway. Starting from the centre of the top of your cake begin to squeeze out your icing whilst gradually rotating the turntable. This will eventually create a beautiful spiral pattern that’s sure to impress family and friends.
If you’re trying to create a real showstopper then this final icing technique is for you. Start by covering your cake in a layer of buttercream before cleaning up the edges with a bench scraper or cake comb. Hold your bench scraper or spatula at a 90-degree angle and try to get your edges as clean, straight and smooth as possible. Once your sides are smooth even out the top of your cake then chill your cake in the fridge for 15-20 minutes or until your buttercream is firm.
Now comes the fun part. Fill a squeeze bottle, piping bag or jug with chocolate ganache and begin to pour your chocolate ganache around the top edge of your cake. It may take a few attempts to get a feel for how much pressure to apply when squeezing your bottle or how quickly you pour and the length of drip this creates. You’ll want to work quite quickly so that the chocolate ganache doesn’t cool too much and become firm and hard to work with. Once you’ve added drips to the entire edge of your cake fill the space that’s left on the top with the ganache to finish.
With a few simple cake decorating tools and the tips listed above, your cakes will be looking more professional in no time at all. Don’t worry if your icing attempts aren’t perfect the first time around, cake decorating is all about having fun, experimenting and being creative!