Frosting a Cake

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I don’t make cakes very often. I frost and decorate them even less. Today, I have successfully crossed over from a cake frosting failure to a successful cake frost-er. To make this leap, I hunted down some great advice in several different locations and thought it might help a few people if I shared what I have learned.

Below are the step by step instructions for frosting a beautiful cake. And while the recipes used to create this beautiful masterpiece are nowhere near healthy, sometimes you just need to indulge in celebration.

Happy Birthday to Kimmy Zee and cheers to everyone else who has something wonderful to celebrate on this Friday the 13th!

What you’ll need:

Two 9 inch cakes

~6 cups frosting




Dough scraper

Small spreader

Hot water

Plate or serving platter

Clean washcloth

The process:

Bake your cakes the night before. (I used the chocolate cake recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.) Last time I attempted to prepare a multilayer cake, both cakes got stuck to the pan despite my best prevention efforts. This time, I heavily buttered and lightly floured my pans. I then cut parchment paper to fit into the bottom of each pan. My cakes slid out with no effort. I also learned that the cakes need to cool in their pans on the cooling rack for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes have passed, set the pans on the directly onto the counter. Turn one cooling rack upside down and lay directly on top of the cake pan, flip over to remove cake. Using another cooling rack, lay it upside down on the bare upside down cake, flip again and allow to cool completely in its upright position. Repeat this process with the other cake. Before going to bed, I covered the cakes with a clean dishcloth and allowed them to remain out until morning.

The next morning, when you are ready to begin the frosting process, make your frosting. (I used the butter frosting recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.)

Begin by cutting a piece of cardboard to sit under the cake. It is helpful to use the base of the cake pan to trace a circle in the right size. Cut out your tracing and lay on top of the cake to check for sizing, trim as needed.

Next, place a small dollop of frosting in the center of your cardboard and place frosted side down in the center of your serving platter or plate. Set this aside.

The next step is to trim your cakes. I used a long bread knife for this step and used the firmer edges of the cake to guide my knife, keeping it level across the surface of the cake. Trim off the top portion of your cake to make it flat and level. Repeat with the second cake.

Place one of the cakes on the cardboard. Generously frost the top of this cake allowing excess frosting to spill over the edges (this will be cleaned up later). Once the top of the first cake is frosted, place the second cake on top of the first, upside down. The base of the second cake should be facing up.

Now we create what is called the crumb layer. This layer with essentially be the sloppy layer; its purpose is to cover the cake with frosting not to look pretty. Beginning with the top, frost your cake using a small spatula. I found it helps to keep the spatula at a slight angle and turn the plate as you work around the cake. Once the top is frosted, frost the sides being sure to fill in any remaining gaps between the cakes. It’s okay if the frosting looks sloppy or you can see through it slightly. We will be adding a second layer of frosting later. Once the cake is covered and roughly smoothed over, use your clean washcloth to clean around your plate. I found it easiest to wrap the cloth around the tip of one finger and wet only that portion. I then wiped around the plate. When the plate is looking clean, place the entire cake and plate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set the crumb layer.

After 15 minutes, remove the cake. We are ready for our final layer. Begin with the top and frost the cake. Again, it was helpful to keep my spatula at an angle. To help frost evenly, it also helped to press down slightly while using the spatula. When working on the sides, try to spread the frosting evenly. (I struggled to get enough frosting at the base of the cake and had to go back several times.) Next, hold your dough scraper under hot water for several seconds. After it is warm, remove it from the water and dry completely. Using the dough scraper to smooth the surface of the cake beginning with the top and spinning the plate as you work your way around. Similarly, spin the plate as you work around the side of the cake as well. I found I needed to rewarm my scraper several times during this process. Once the frosting has been smoothed to your liking, return the cake to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Results: My cake turned out. The cakes didn’t stick to their pans, the frosting went on smoothly, and altogether, it looks awesome. I can’t wait to share my cake decorations with you tomorrow (I don’t want to ruin the surprise for the birthday girl)!

Even though I have completed this cake, I would love to hear any other cake frosting advice and suggestions you may have.

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2 Responses to Frosting a Cake

  1. trialsinfood says:

    Great post! I have yet to successfully frost a cake. I will use this as reference the next time I make one.

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