How to Smooth Frosting on a Cake I CHELSWEETS

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Like Swiss, Italian buttercream is based on meringue. But instead of one that’s fully cooked on the stovetop, the raw egg whites are warmed by the addition of hot sugar syrup. The heat helps them whip up lighter than they would when cold, but it doesn’t quite cook them through. Aside from that small detail, Italian behaves almost identically to Swiss in every way.

Why it’s great: Because stovetop cooking reduces the moisture content of liquid sugars like maple, honey, and golden syrup, Italian works well with sweeteners that would otherwise destabilize a Swiss meringue.

What flavors work best: Those based on liquid sugar, such as honey, agave, maple, or light molasses.

What to avoid: Some liquid sugars, like blackstrap molasses, may be unexpectedly bitter or high in sodium, so take care when experimenting with concentrated flavors.

How to customize: Flavor to taste with potent, low-moisture ingredients such as dark chocolate, espresso powder, peanut butter, virgin coconut oil, freeze-dried fruit, pure extracts, and essential oils.

The recipes:

Maple Frosting

Honey Frosting

Creamy Banana Frosting

Tip #6: Mix by Hand at the End to Get Rid of Any Pesky Air Bubbles

This final tip I think is the simplest, but also has the biggest impact.

Once I’ve made a batch of frosting and it’s the perfect consistency, I don’t stop there.

I aggressively grip a rubber spatula and work the frosting around the bowl by hand.

Now I know you’re thinking, but I just had my mixer beat my frosting on low for a long time!! Shouldn’t that have pushed out enough air??

The mixer is great, but this final step makes it silky smooth. There’s something about stirring by hand that a stand mixer can’t replicate.

I push the frosting back and forth and spread it along the sides of the bowl for a couple minutes.

Please watch the video that’s in this post to see what I mean.

If you do it right, it should be a pretty serious arm workout. I’m always tired by the end!

A batch of my caramel buttercream after being stir
A batch of my caramel buttercream after being stirred by hand with a rubber spatula.

Then, and ONLY then, is your frosting smooth and ready to be added to your cake. You should see a notable difference in texture, and your frosting should be free of any air bubbles.

This is also important to do when you make frosting in advance and let it thaw.

I find my frosting is straight up riddled with air bubbles once it’s thawed.

I usually go to town stirring it by hand, and find it’s nice and smooth after a few minutes of aggressive stirring.

Video

What is cake smoother?

Cake Smoothers and icing edgers give a fantastic finish to your cakes and are an invaluable cake decorating tool if you want to ice a cake like a professional! Use the spacers when rolling out marzipan and fondant icing (sugarpaste) to ensure your paste is even.

Part 3: Moving the frosted cake

Here’s how I move cakes neatly when I need to take extra care – using two palette or kitchen knives. The example shown below in the step photos and in the video is a Mirror Glaze Cake:



Palette knives or kitchen knives – Use eit
  1. Palette knives or kitchen knives – Use either 2 long palette knives or 2 kitchen knives (or one of each, as I do!). Slide them under the cake about 1/4 of the way through – one from the left and one from the right;

  2. Lift them at the same time then move the cake onto the rack/platter;

  3. Push off with a 3rd knife – Once the cake is on the rack/platter, leave the shifting knives in place under the cake. Now get a butter knife or small palette knife to help slide each of the shifting knives out neatly without making the ganache/frosting/mirror glaze untidy; and

  4. Voila! Tidy edges! (That’s just a smear on the cake platter you see in the above step photos.)

And there you have it. Now you have a beautiful cake with smooth frosting or chocolate ganache, ready to decorate as you wish!

Oh – and I can’t sign off without giving you a little preview of that Mirror Glaze in action….

It seems strange to write a post without inserting

It seems strange to write a post without inserting a recipe, but there doesn’t seem to be much value in writing out the above steps in a recipe card.

Perhaps I’m wrong. If you want me to abbreviate the steps in a recipe card – perhaps even with the photos – drop a message below and I’ll do it! – Nagi x

Tip #2: Mix on the Lowest Speed

When I make my American buttercream, I never mix on a speed higher than the lowest setting. I only move my lever to the stir option.

It sounds crazy, but mixing the frosting as slowly as possible also helps make it smooth by minimizing the amount of air that’s getting added in.

It also lowers the chance of you covering your entire kitchen with powdered sugar clouds.

While this isn’t possible for other types of frosting, you can still utilize this tip at the end of the process.

No matter what type of frosting you make, I recommend mixing your frosting on the lowest speed for a couple minutes with a paddle attachment at the end of the process.

This helps push excess air out of the frosting, which makes it nice and smooth.

Don’t be afraid to let your mixer run on low for a few minutes. It makes such a big difference in the texture of the frosting.

It’s pretty difficult to overmix your frosting, especially when you’re mixing it on a low setting.

Should I refrigerate cake after frosting?

But, First: Do I Need to Refrigerate My Cake? Most of the time, the answer is no. Most cakes, frosted and unfrosted, cut and uncut, are perfectly fine at room temperature for several days. … For frosted cakes, chill the cake uncovered for 15 minutes to harden the icing, then wrap it in plastic wrap.

German Buttercream

Unlike French, Swiss, or Italian buttercream, German buttercream starts with homemade vanilla pudding rather than whipped eggs. This gives it a dairy-forward flavor that’s creamy and mild.

Why it’s great: With its milky custard base, German buttercream has an ice cream–like quality that pairs beautifully with cake.

What flavors work best: Any unwieldy ingredient that would be difficult to incorporate into other buttercream styles without affecting their texture, such as coffee beans, whole spices, loose-leaf tea, hearty herbs, and low-acid fruits like banana.

What to avoid: Acidic ingredients of any kind.

How to customize: Add flavorful ingredients to the warm milk, cover, and steep to desired intensity, then strain. Be sure to re-measure the milk and top it off as needed, as some ingredients may absorb a few ounces of the milk.

The recipes:

German Buttercream

Cream Cheese Buttercream

Tools you’ll need for this method:

Okay… so here’s where we’re gonna start today. You’ll need a cake that is filled and crumb-coated and preferably chilled. You’ll also need the following tools:

Now… for the step-by-step pics and tutorial. But first – a few notes. These pictures were not taken at the same time as the video NOR were they all taken of the same cake. I’m sort of piecing together some photos from different cakes to give you the full picture Okay? Okay.

Baking Cakes in Advance

The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Baking cakes in advance and freezing them saves time and helps break the overall task into smaller, more manageable steps.

Once cooled, wrap the cakes tightly in plastic and transfer them to the freezer for up to a week. 

Working with frozen layers is easier. They won’t crumble as much, and the crumb coat will go on more easily.

Note that it’s best to freeze the cakes before you level them. Likewise, if you’re planning to split the layers to fill them, wait until after you take them out of the freezer. For one thing, you’ll save the trouble of having to wrap extra layers. But more importantly, less exposure to air will keep the cake fresher. Just make sure you have enough room in your freezer. 

You can also make buttercream in advance. Just store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it’ll keep for up to a week.

My favorite cake recipes:

2. Place approximately 1 cup of buttercream on top

2. Place approximately 1 cup of buttercream on top of the cake. This amount may vary for smaller or larger cakes but you will be scraping away extra or you can add more if needed.

3. Using your small offset spatula, spread the fro

3. Using your small offset spatula, spread the frosting toward the edges of the cake. Rotate the cake as needed until the top is evenly coated and you have a layer of frosting around ¼-inch thick.

If you don't have enough frosting, add more. But i

If you don’t have enough frosting, add more. But if you have more than you need, it’s perfectly fine if frosting hangs over the edges as you can see above.

4. Next, begin to add frosting to the sides of the

4. Next, begin to add frosting to the sides of the cake in small sections. Smooth it out as you go and rotate the cake until the crumb coat is completely covered.

The frosting does not need to be smooth at this po

The frosting does not need to be smooth at this point. You just need a good thick covering of frosting in preparation for the next step.

Now is where my secret weapons (aka cheap and not even all “cake” tools) come into play! And for just a minute, I switch to a green cake 💚.

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Variations

  • Chocolate Frosting without Powdered Sugar: This is the perfect topping for brownies. Just add in unsweetened cocoa powder and combine until smooth. If you’ll be using sweetened cocoa powder, you should use less sugar.
  • Cream Cheese Frosting without Powdered Sugar: Cream cheese frosting is simply delicious on carrot cake or red velvet cake. To make it, you’ll need to add softened cream cheese to your prepared vanilla frosting.
  • Buttercream Frosting Without Powdered Sugar: Buttercream frosting is creamy and sweet without being too sweet. If you don’t have powdered sugar, you can still make a light and fluffy buttercream frosting at home using regular granulated sugar.

Baking Tips

  • You can add food coloring to this recipe if you prefer. If using liquid food coloring, I recommend using just a few drops as it can thin out the frosting. For a darker color, gel food coloring is a great option!
  • This recipe makes about 2 and 1/2 cups of frosting, which is enough to generously frost a batch of 12 to 14 cupcakes. If you prefer less frosting, you can cut the recipe in half. This recipe will also make enough to frost a 9×13 cake or lightly frost an 8 or 9-inch layer cake. If you prefer more frosting for decorating, then I recommend multiplying the recipe by 1.5.
  • You can find my full tutorial for how to prepare your piping bag and frost cupcakes here.

How To Make Buttercream Frosting

To start, set your butter out ahead of time so that it can soften. This will ensure that the frosting is smooth and creamy. You will need two sticks of unsalted butter, which is equal to 1 cup or 230 grams.

Beat the butter with a mixer for about 1 minute, just until it’s nice and smooth. You can either use a handheld mixer or stand mixer for this recipe, either one works fine!

Next, you’ll mix in the powdered sugar. I ty

Next, you’ll mix in the powdered sugar. I typically only use 3 cups of powdered sugar for a batch of this frosting. Some recipes call for quite a bit more powdered sugar, but I’ve found that 3 cups is all you really need. Feel free to sift the powdered sugar, but as I mentioned earlier, I usually skip this step.

Note: When you first start mixing the powdered sugar with the butter, mix it on low speed so you don’t end up throwing it all over the place. You may also mix the powdered sugar in 1 cup at a time to make it easier.

Once the butter and powdered sugar are mixed together, mix in the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. If needed, stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl and mix again to make sure everything is well combined.

Easy, right? At this point, you can go ahead and use this frosting to pipe onto cupcakes or decorate a cake. Or you can store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Stacking the Tiers

The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Whichever kind of supports you use, cut them to the height of each tier and drive them all the way through the cake so that their tops are flush with the cake. A triangle formation (three dowels per tier) should be enough support. 

Do the bottom tier first. Once the dowels are in place, lay a wax paper round the size of the next layer over the top, then position the next layer and repeat the dowel process for the middle and upper tiers. Some bakers like to sharpen a long dowel and drive it all the way through the whole cake from top to bottom for extra support. (Foam core boards make this easier than cardboard.)

What cake to use

You can use any cake you want. I’m using my Chocolate Cake with a dark chocolate ganache in this tutorial because it’s an elegant, classic combination. Especially once finished with a Mirror Glaze – which is why I want a smooth surface on this cake! And the, ummmm, “icing on the cake” (yeah I went there): The cake is a dead easy one-bowl miracle creation that’s intensely chocolatey, ultra-moist and has a long shelf life.

My classic Vanilla Cake pictured below would also be ideal. Bonus: You are unlikely to need to level it because it comes out near perfectly flat!

How Do You Make Icing from Scratch Without Powdered Sugar?

It couldn’t be easier to make frosting from scratch without powdered sugar:

  1. Add milk, flour, sugar and a pinch of salt to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.
2. Remove the heat and allow the mixture to cool d

2. Remove the heat and allow the mixture to cool down. It’s best to store it in the fridge to make sure it’s chilled completely.

3. Beat the softened butter in a mixing bowl until

3. Beat the softened butter in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy.

4. Then mix in the vanilla. Add the cooled milk, m

4. Then mix in the vanilla. Add the cooled milk, mixture gradually.

5. Beat until light and fluffy. Use a spatula to s

5. Beat until light and fluffy. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides if necessary.

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