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Pretty Bakes Blog

Cake decorating basics for pretty cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats

Archive of ‘Icing and frosting’ category

How to smooth a buttercream cake in 5 easy steps

Ever wonder how some people get a nice, smooth edge on their buttercream cakes? I’ve tried several techniques but I learned that starting with even cake surfaces is best. Follow these five steps for a smooth buttercream cake.

How to get a smooth buttercream finish on a cake

1. Trim away domes, lumps and bumps. Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to trim. Wipe away all crumbs.

2. Apply a thin layer of buttercream to your cake to seal in any crumbs. This is also known as crumb coating. Allow about 10 minutes to dry at room temperature.

Crumb coat. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Crumb coat.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

3. Apply a thick layer of buttercream. How thick? About a 1/4 – 1/2″. Or this thick:

buttercream-thickness

How thick should your buttercream layer be? I recommend 1/2″.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

 

Swipe the edge of your spatula on a bowl’s lip to remove excess icing and smooth the cake’s surface as best as you can.

spatula-smooth-buttercream-cake

Spatula-smooth buttercream cake.
Photo by Jennifer Melo

4. Now, it’s all about allowing your buttercream to crust over. Allow about 15 minutes to dry at room temperature. You might need more time to allow the icing to crust if your buttercream is thin or you’re working in humid conditions. Gently touch an inconspicuous area of the cake. If your finger comes away with no icing on it, you’re ready for the next step.

5. Lay a large strip of parchment paper on the cake to work as a barrier between the icing and your fondant smoothers. Use fondant smoothers to rub and smooth your icing into shape.

Like this:

My cake could’ve used another layer of buttercream to better hide some crumbs I pulled up while crumb coating and more buttercream would’ve given me more room to smooth out lumps and bumps. You need enough icing on your cake so that you can push icing around to fill gaps without revealing the cake’s surface. Match your crumb coat icing colour to the finished icing colour to avoid patches of colour showing through. My cake had a few white patches of crumb coat peeking out in some places.

Allowing buttercream to crust is key to achieving a smooth finish.

You’ll have to use your best judgment to determine how much pressure to apply. Press firmly enough to smooth the icing but not so firm as to leave dents or expose the cake’s surface.

And there you have it! Smooth buttercream.

smooth-buttercream-cake

Smooth buttercream cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Want to see how I decorated this cake? Read How to make a brush embroidery cake.

A Wiggles cake for Ella’s birthday party

Wiggles cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

When my precious niece Ella asked if I’d make a Wiggles cake for her birthday, I happily agreed. Then I secretly thought, How the hell am I going to make a Wiggles cake?

So I was beyond thrilled when my sister-in-law (a.k.a. Ella’s mom) pulled out a sugar transfer sheet to make easy work of this cake. Yes!

She ordered the design online and it was mailed to her. How civilized! So all I had to do was bake a large rectangular cake, whip up a few batches of buttercream, ice the cake and stick the transfer on top using fondant smoothers.

I used a cake comb to add texture to the sides of the cake and I piped a pearl border at the seams. Then I piped rosettes as a border on top, around the edges of the sugar transfer, and I added rainbow sprinkles for a finishing touch.

Combed cake close-up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Combed cake close-up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

3 things I learned while making my Wiggles cake

1. Apply a thick layer of buttercream on the cake before combing it. I mean A LOT. I had to tell my inner perfectionist to get lost but I believe I would’ve achieved smoother results if I had applied a thicker layer of buttercream.

2. I need more practice piping pearl borders. See how some of the pearls have little peaks on ’em? They shouldn’t be there. Gotta work on timing the release of pressure on the piping bag and remember to hold the piping tip at a 45 degree angle. I made two attempts at piping a border around the sugar transfer after I was unhappy with the first attempt.

3. Add sprinkles when the buttercream is fresh. I waited too long, the buttercream crusted and the sprinkles bounced around and made a big mess.

The cake was delicious. I used Betty Crocker’s Super Moist rainbox bit cake mix and Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe.

Wanna see inside? Of course you do! Here’s a peek.

Inside a rainbow bit cake

Photo by Jennifer Melo

What do you think of my Wiggles cake?

How to make a ribbon rose in 6 easy steps

Red ribbon roses

Red ribbon roses

Yes, you too can make a ribbon rose. If you can cut a strip, pinch and roll, you can make flowers just like the roses I used to decorate my Alice in Wonderland topsy turvy cake. Here’s how.

  1. Roll a piece of gum paste or firm fondant to the thickness of rose petals. I recommend working with a strip that’s no thicker than 2 mm.
  2. Cut a 6″ by 1″ strip of gum paste.
  3. Fold both edges of the strip so each edge has a 45-degree angle. Bring the top corner to the base to achieve this, and press.
  4. Fold one side again, and then start rolling it and pinching at the base. Aim to keep the top edge of your ribbon aligned from start to finish.
  5. Pinch firmly when you get to the end and roll the base between your fingers to pinch off the end.
  6. Use a modelling tool, scribe or toothpick to pull petals away from the rose’s core and bend the edges of the petals down to open up the rose.

Wanna see this process in action? I thought you might. Cue the video!

Ta da! Easy stuff, right?

 

How to pipe a leaf in 3 easy steps

How to pipe a leaf

Learning how to pipe a leaf is quite simple but if you’re a novice cake decorator or just out of practice, here’s what you need to know.

You need:

  • Buttercream
  • A piping bag
  • A leaf tip. Like a chick’s open beak, the leaf tip is pointy at both ends and looks like a small triangle was cut out of the middle. It looks like this…

    Leaf tip. Photo by Jennifer Melo

    Leaf tip. Photo by Jennifer Melo

How to pipe a leaf

1. With pointed ends of your leaf tip positioned up and down, squeeze the piping bag until you see enough icing to form the wide end of your leaf.

2. Release pressure as you pull the tip towards you, aiming for a triangle shape. Stop squeezing.

3. Gently pull the tip up and away to leave a tapered end.

Got it? No? Watch this and practise your piped leaves.

To make the earthy green colour you see here, I mixed a bit of violet, yellow and leaf green gel food colouring.

 

How to pipe a buttercream rose. 4 easy steps

Buttercream rose cupcakes for Mother's Day 2013. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Buttercream rose cupcakes for Mother’s Day 2013. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Happy Mother’s Day! Maybe your mom wants a bouquet of buttercream roses for Mother’s Day. If so, here’s a little helper.

It starts with a tall blob and ends with some C’s.

I’ve read many descriptions on how to pipe a buttercream rose and after trying the technique several times myself, I’ve come up with my own simplified way to describe it.

4 easy steps to piping a buttercream rose

1. Make a tall blob.

2. Using a petal tip, skinny end to the sky, wrap a ribbon of icing around that blob.

3. Make 3 C’s around that blob.

4. Make five C’s around the three C’s. Continue piping C’s in odd numbers and increments of two (3, 5, 7, 9, 11) until you’re satisfied with the rose’s size.

Ta da! You have a rose.

You need:

-a flower nail
-a petal/rose tip
-buttercream
-a piping bag
-a parchment paper square
-to watch this video that shows what the heck I’m talking about. It’s all about the blob and C’s I tell ya.

More advice to pipe a rose right
A rose tip has a narrow end and a wide end. Place the tip so the narrow end is up and the wide end is at the base of your flower nail or work surface. To remember the correct position of the rose tip, think: Fat to floor, skinny to sky.

Always pipe an odd number of petals. The results are offset petals that look more natural.

Once your rose is piped, refrigerate it to make it easier to handle before placing in on cakes or cupcakes.

To remove the flower from the parchment square, use a pair of sterile scissors to snip and slide the flower off the paper and into position. A small offset spatula works too.

I prefer a stiff consistency icing that holds the petal shape best. Mix some more icing sugar into your buttercream if it’s too soft. And/or refrigerate your icing. When icing’s too soft, your rose slips and slides when you pipe and it’s tricky to detach each petal. You see that happening in the video clip.

Angle your tip vertically to create close, tight petals. Angle your tip horizontally for open petals, particularly when you get to the outermost row of petals.

Practise, practise, practise.

So now you know how to pipe a rose. Do you think you’ll give it a try?

Petal tip close up. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Petal tip close up. Photo by Jennifer Melo


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