Tuesday, 17 June 2014

How To Ice a Cake Like a Pro!

In addition to sharing the so so good strawberry frosting recipe (yesterday), I thought I would also post a simple how-to on icing a cake. Icing a cake is one of those things that sounds like it shouldn't be difficult, but still often is. I've learned some great tricks through my years of baking (most of them probably from Chris) and the little things make a big difference when it comes to frosting a cake successfully! 

So good-bye, freaking out and crying in the kitchen because there are so many crumbs and large chunks of cake in my frosting job!

And hello beautiful cakes!

Here is the the photo step-by-step How To:

Start by baking your cakes; use a recipe you trust or just do as I did! To get your beautiful cake started out right, be sure to FULLY bake the cakes! This may sound obvious, but a cake that is still even slightly wet in the centre when it comes out of the oven will sag and fall when cooling and will be difficult to work with. 
 Bake your cake in two pans of the same size.
I like to use 5 or 6 inch pans (either round or square), I find the smaller size is better for a two person household like ours, and more importantly, the petite finished cake looks high end and bakery made!
 To ensure your cakes come out of the pans intact, be sure to grease and flour your pan.
You can further aid the process by putting a round of parchment paper in the pan bottom.
 When the cakes have cooled completely, wrap in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes.
 Remove cakes from the freezer (they will be slightly more firm from the cold).
Using a bread knife, slice off the rounded top off each cake. This takes a bit of practice, be patient and work slowly and you will get a good cut. I find turning the cake on it's side does not help, try to cut on the horizontal, and use the cake's edge as your guide. 
 Turn the cake upside down. The bottom is perfectly flat and so this will be the 'top' of your finished cake. 
 Using the bread knife, slice the cake in half. The cake should be firm out of the freezer, making these cuts a bit easier to make well. (I needed some practice at this, but I'm getting better every time I make a cake).
 Repeat the process with the second cake, remove rounded top and cut in half.
(Keep those top pieces for snacking!)

 Time to frost the cake! Prepare your icing and grab a small off-set spatula.
 Place one of the four cakes on a small flat surface (something that you can easily turn and maneuver, like this little cutting board or use a spinning cake plate if you happen to have one).
 Use the spatula to add a dollop of frosting, then smooth it over the cake's top using a circular motion.
Use the back of the off-set spatula to smooth and spread the icing.
 Continue the process of layering the cakes and icing.
 The layering process is finished when you have four cakes and three layers of icing.
Now it's time to frost the whole cake!
 The first frosting is called a 'crumb coat'- a light layer of frosting that will coat the cake and sort of keep all the crumbs in place to prevent them from making their way into the final layer of frosting.
To begin, place a large spoonful of frosting on the top of the cake.
 Using the back of the off-set spatula, smooth the icing downwards, on to the side of the cake and then around the cake from left to right, until the whole cake is covered. 
Add more frosting if you need it. Frost the cake lightly, and don't worry if crumbs get into the icing.
When you are done, place the cake (and cutting board) in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.
 When the cake comes out the freezer the icing should be very firm. Now it's time to add the final layer of frosting! Work the same way as before: start with a big dollop on top and use the spatula to smooth the icing down and around. Don't worry about crumbs, they should be stuck in the cold harder icing layer.
 Take your time with this layer of frosting. Coat the cake entirely (for a second time) and once you have, clean your spatula and then use it to smooth the icing and make the cake look just the way you want.
 All done! The cake looks simple but lovely. At this point you could use an extra-large offset spatula to completely smooth down the edges, but I like this imperfect homemade look.

 I transfered my cake to a pink dessert plate and added some summer fruits. 

I love a smooth frosting on a cake because from there I can do anything: add fruit, sprinkles, even write a message and I know the whole cake will look great. 
This is one of those things that I want to be good at, but I always need more practice. I've made a lot of weird looking cakes (once I frosted a whole cake with a sort of icing sugar and water paste. it was odd... and heavy), but hopefully I'll make a lot of pretty ones in the future!

I hope you'll try out the strawberry frosting recipe, if you do, let me know what you think!

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