Frost a cake with buttercream – a tutorial
Let’s get started – frost a smooth cake with buttercream
A smooth frosted buttercream cake always looks so effortless and professional. But in reality, to frost a cake with buttercream requires practise and certain techniques in order to get a smooth buttercream finish on your cakes. This blog post will show you how it’s done with simple step by step photos and a video. If you follow these steps each time and use the right tools, you will always get smooth buttercream cakes. This buttercream frosting technique can also be used with other types of frosting (as long as the frosting firms up when it’s cold).
What you will need
- Cake split into layers (recipes can be found on our recipe calculator)
- Buttercream (I prefer to use Swiss Meringue Buttercream)
- Angled spatula
- Serrated knife
- Small sharp knife
- Cake baseboard (to display the cake)
- Cake board (the same size as the cake)
Swiss meringue buttercream recipe
This will make enough to frost an 8 inch round buttercream cake. Use our recipe calculator to calculate other buttercream amounts.
430 g Unsalted butter, softened
160 g Egg whites (you might be able to buy these in a carton in supermarkets)
270 g Caster sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla extract
- Beat the butter until fluffy and pale using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Fill a medium saucepan with water (one-third full), heat it on the stove until simmering, be careful not to let the water boil.
- Mix egg whites and sugar together in a heat-proof bowl or bowl of a stand-mixer and whisk over the pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and egg whites are warm to the touch, 65-70ºC (be careful not to overheat it). The mixture will thicken and become very foamy.
- Using a stand-mixer with the whisk attachment beat the mixture on high speed until light and fluffy. This is roughly about 10 minutes or until the bowl is cool to touch. Reduce speed to low, then add in the butter a few tablespoons at a time while mixer is still on.
- Beat the mixture on medium speed until it is smooth. Then add the vanilla and mix well on medium speed until everything is combined.
Split the cake into layers. I also like to use the top layer of my cake. This means that my cake has more height and that top dome part does not get wasted.
Cut the tip of the cake. Then slice it into smaller slices and patch the pieces around the edges.
Apply buttercream between each layer and stack the cake.
Then trim down the side of the cake. This is to ensure that there is at least a 5mm gap between the side of the cake and the cake board. This is one of the most important steps that people skip. By doing this, you ensure that you will always have a smooth finish to your cakes.
Apply a thin layer of buttercream around the top and side of your cake. Often this buttercream frosting technique is referred to as ‘dirty icing’ or ‘crumb coating’.
Then apply a thicker layer of buttercream all around the cake. Focus on ensuring that there is enough buttercream around the top edge of the cake.
Then hold your scraper at a 90 degree angle and scrape around the side of the cake. This will remove the excess buttercream. Apply more buttercream to areas that are not smooth and scrape around the cake again. Continue to do this until the side is smooth.
Then place the cake into the fridge for half an hour or in the freezer for 10 minutes (this is very important). When the buttercream has hardened, fix up and scrape the sides again if needed.
Then use a clean and sharp knife to cut and remove the excess buttercream at the top of the cake. This will leave you with super sharp buttercream edges on your cake.
Watch the full video of how to frost a cake with buttercream cake below. And if you have any questions, tips or advice of your own to share, feel free to comment below.