Tell the truth. Don’t you sort of swoon when you lay your eyes o a beautifully frosted monument of cake? Whether it’s a cake that’s been smoothed out to planes of perfection or swirled in billowy clouds of buttercream decadence, the little devil in you is dying to sink a finger deep into the side of that cake to steal a taste of of heaven before the first slice has been cut. I know. I’ve been there more than once.
I treat my buttercreamed cakes as my blank ‘wall’ for the hand-decorated cookies that will adorn them. The sides are smooth and even, all the way up to the top, when the buttercream takes a sharp 90º turn and continues enclosing the whole package in sweet glory. Achieving such cake nirvana can be a bit intimidating and time-consuming, if you let the cake get the best of you. And, if you’re like me, and have numerous cakes that need to be dressed up all in one day, there’s no real time to spend slathering, smoothing and chilling, over and over again. I need to take control of the cake, do it once, and do it right.
I like to frost a cake that’s cold. Not frozen, but cold. It’s the first step I take in cake domination. A cold cake also ‘sheds’ crumbs less.
See how the cake doesn’t come to the edge of the cardboard? That’s where your buttercream’s going to be. See the green frosting ‘dam’ around the fluffy white filling? I always pipe on a dam, no matter what color, no matter what filling I use. The dam’s job is to prevent filling leakage from ruining the final coat. Eeewwww.
Put the second layer of cake on top. Adjust it. Move it, look at it. Make it even. Make sure it’s even.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a level, sturdy cake. More about that in a future post.
Time to crumbcoat the cake. Consider this the primer or the base coat of this project. A good crumbcoat sets the cake up for final coat perfection.
If you don’t have a cake turntable like I do, place your cake on top of an inverted pot to give it some height. It’s not as easy to turn, but it’s better than nothing. Plop a big blob of buttercream on top of your cake. I mean a BIG blob. Now, start spreading it out with your spatula. Spread it out til it’s beyond the edge of the cake.
Start working that excess buttercream around the sides of the cake, adding more when necessary. Don’t be afraid that you’re adding too much. You’ll be smoothing the extra off in no time.
Once the cake is completely slathered, start evening out the frosting. IF there are crumbs coming off the cake, make sure you scrap your spatula off in a separate bowl. Crumbs are not welcome in the finished product. Not one.
Now, what to do with that lip of frosting that’s been built up around the top edge: hold an offset spatula parallel to the top of the cake, slide the spatula across the top and shear off the excess. Repeat around the entire circumference of the cake.
Now, stand back and admire. Chill cake for about 20 minutes. Then it’s on to the final coat.
Start with another big plop of buttercream. Repeat and continue with same steps til the cake is fully covered in frosting.
Once you’ve slathered buttercream all over the cake, it’s time for my secret weapon.
The plastic bowl scraper. Holding the scraper parallel to the cake, with the edge of the cakeboard as my guide, I slowly begin revolving the turntable, removing the excess buttercream (an oxymoron in my book, but that’s another subject) while smoothing the side of the cake. Magic, isn’t it?
After one go around the cake, take a look. Take another swipe, if necessary, angling the scraper so that it removes less of the buttercream, and just smoothes out what’s there.
Shear off excess around the top again, making sure it’s even all the way around. Chill the cake.
WHAT?????? YOU NICKED THE SIDE OF THE CAKE??????????
There. Boo-boo all gone after a careful schmear with the offset.
Take a bow. You deserve it.
And, no fingers dipping in the frosting, okay?