CAKE DECORATING 101
I don’t profess to be a great cake decorator but I do “OK”; lets just say if I can do it, certainly YOU can do it; it isn’t rocket science.
This post has a very good basic butter cream frosting recipe and a few tricks of the trade that I’ve learned over the years. Don’t be nervous, just jump in and “give it a go”. Practice makes perfect and your friends and family will love eating those “practice cakes” (our kids grew up on them).
BUTTER CREAM FROSTING
1 cup white Crisco vegetable shortening
1 cup butter (room temperature)
8 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup heavy cream
With an electric mixer (stand mixer works best) beat the vegetable shortening and (room temperature) butter until it is well mixed together.
Add half of the powdered sugar, salt, extracts and half of the cream. Beat until very well mixed.
Add the last half of the powdered sugar and the last half of the cream. Beat on high for 2 or 3 minutes until very fluffy (makes a lot of frosting).
NOTE: Some people freak out about shortening in the frosting and I understand that, but, remember…..when you buy a cake from a chain type bakery, the frosting is made with ALL shortening, trust me!!
If you are dead-set against using vegetable shortening, you CAN use all butter, but the taste is very heavy; it is your choice.
NOTE: This frosting is great for the entire cake including borders and piping words, etc., but it IS a soft frosting and it WILL melt if you have it out in the sun or in a very hot room. I like to frost my cakes and then chill them until about an hour before serving.
If you don’t have time to freeze the cake, just make sure it is completely cooled before frosting it (not even just a LITTLE bit warm).
Cupcakes are very popular right now and they are super easy to do. Using the above frosting recipe and a Wilton M1 decorating tip, you can have cupcakes that look like they came from a bakery in no time; that big M1 tip is the secret.
The following mini-lesson, is for a simple “every day” one layer 9×13 cake.
1. Brush all the crumbs off of the cake (you will thank me later)because it is easy to get the crumbs mixed in with your frosting and that isn’t pretty.
2. I like to wrap or cover my HOT cake with saran wrap (right on the surface of the cake) and then let it cool down and put the wrapped cake in the freezer overnight. The day you want to serve the cake, take it out of the freezer and frost it while it’s still frozen. A frozen cake is sturdy and the frosting stays right where you put it.
Don’t put it back in the freezer!! The frozen/frosted cake will thaw out in about 60-90 minutes and be perfect for serving.
3. Put a thick layer of frosting all over your cake; don’t worry about it looking smooth at this point, just try to cover it evenly.
4. Now here is a little trick that I learned a million years ago. Get a small fine mist spray bottle (that isn’t used for anything else) and fill it with cold water. Give the frosting a light mist (from the distance of about a foot(just a super quick fine spritz) then smooth the frosting with a smooth bladed knife(wiping off your knife in between each stroke). I always use an off-set spatula for this (see photo below) but any non-serrated knife will work in a pinch.
If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can almost get the same effect by dipping your spatula into very hot water (then shaking off all excess water) before smoothing your frosting.
If you are a perfectionist (which I am not) and want NO frosting lines, just keep smoothing.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Only use the spritz technique on white frosting. If you use it on colored frosting, it will run and make your frosting look uneven….especially blue or green.
5. You can go crazy and buy all sorts of decorating tips and doo-dads, but you certainly don’t need them. Get just get a few of the basics and you will be amazed at what you can do.
You will need:
Disposable plastic frosting bags (a true MUST)
2-3 couplers (2 piece couplers let you change tips)
Decorating tips (a large star and a round writing tip)
Off-set spatula (not an absolute must, but very handy)
Food color paste (not the watery stuff) Check Walmart
Water bottle for misting
After you “flat frost” the whole cake, it is time to put on the borders/trim and any writing or drawing you want on the cake. Now is the time you will use the frosting bags and metal tips.
6. The disposable frosting bags are probably the handiest part of this process. You can use non-disposable ones, but once you try to wash one, you will quickly see the “beauty” in the disposable kind.
7. The couplers, are not absolutely necessary either. You can just slide the metal decorator tips down inside the frosting bag and snip off the end. However, if you want to use a variety of decorating tips, the coupler is the way to go. Each one has two pieces; the larger part slides down inside the frosting bag and then the metal tip fits onto it from the outside, then the coupler band is screwed on (does that make sense?)
Once you have the decorating tip on, nestle the decorator bag inside of a large mug or measuring cup and fold the top raw edge down over the container, sort of like folding down a collar. Now put a cup or two of frosting in the bag (the “container” is just to hold the bag steady while you fill it).
Twist the top of the frosting filled bag closed and apply pressure with your fingers. As the frosting comes out the end, you will have to re-twist it tighter before continuing. When you are done using the frosting bag, just use scissors to cut the bag off just above the coupler, then throw the coupler and tip into the dishwasher!!
The base of your cake should have the larger frosting border than the top edge of your cake. Practice making a shell pattern on some wax paper before you try it on the cake.
8. I like to use a Wilton M1 tip on my cake base; it is a huge star tip and it takes an over sized coupler as well.
NOTE: Don’t use regular (watery) food coloring in this frosting recipe; not only will it effect the consistency of your frosting, but the colors will never get any stronger than a pastel color.
Get some food coloring paste (it is very concentrated and gives you very deep colors, so go easy with it at first); one drop of blue will color an entire bowl of frosting.
Walmart sells the food color paste in their cake decorating section.
NOTE: A fun thing to try is edible glitter. It is basically a transparent food starch that has been dried and flaked, but you can sprinkle it on ANY color frosting and it will look shiny and sparkly; it is GREAT for cupcakes or little girl princess cakes.
Another fun decorating tip is called a grass tip.