Whether you make a simple boxed cake mix with canned frosting or bake a cake from scratch with elaborate decorations, the key to a beautiful, enticing cake is starting with smooth icing. But getting your icing smooth isn’t always easy, especially if you’ve never learned these simple cake icing techniques.
When you follow these guidelines, you’ll know how to get smooth icing on all your cakes, and your decorations, whether simple colorful sprinkles or fancy buttercream roses, will look better than ever.
Begin With a Level & Smooth Cake
Before your cake even goes in the oven, be sure to spread the batter so it is level in the pans. Check the cake several times as it is baking, and if you find that it’s rising or browning unevenly, rotate the pans a half turn about halfway through cooking. Uneven heat is common in home ovens, and it will take more than smooth icing to fix a lopsided cake.
When the cake is finished baking, trim the top, if necessary, to level the top of the cake. Hold your knife horizontally and view the cake at eye level as you cut straight across the tops of any bumps.
Allow the Cake to Cool Completely and Apply a Crumb Coat
One of the most important steps in how to get smooth icing on your cakes is applying a crumb coat to seal the cake surface from moisture. This will help keep your cake moist and keep your frosting from making the cake soggy.
To apply the crumb coat, first let the cake cool completely. This should take several hours to ensure the cake is cooled all the way through. While it’s cooling, you can prepare your icing, and thin a portion of it with milk, water, or light corn syrup to use for the crumb coat. The crumb coat icing should be smooth and thin enough that you almost need a spoon to apply it, as it will run off your icing spatula.
Use this reserved icing to completely cover the surface of the cake with a thin, smooth icing layer. Don’t worry about getting crumbs in this layer; they will be sealed in the dried crumb coat. Wait for the crumb coat to dry into a firm crust before adding the second layer of frosting.
Apply the Final Layer of Smooth Icing
When the crumb coat is totally dry, you’re ready to put on the final layer of smooth icing. First, put a large dollop of frosting in the center of the top of the cake, then gently push the icing out toward the edges. Work in long, even strokes to get the icing smooth. Next, spread the icing around the sides of the cake, holding the spatula vertically and turning the cake while the spatula is kept still. Finally, run the spatula edge gently around the corner edge of the cake to remove any excess icing that has accumulated there.
At this point, you should have an even layer of smooth icing all over the cake. To get the surface even smoother and sleeker, dip your clean spatula in hot water and run it across the surface of the cake in long strokes. This will melt the frosting slightly to help remove stroke marks. Wipe the spatula clean and dip it in the hot water before each stroke.
Knowing How to Get Smooth Icing Will Make All Your Cakes Look Better
Practice these techniques and tips on all your cakes until you know how to get smooth icing on a cake every time like a professional cake decorator. Your cakes will look beautiful enough to stop with a simple layer of smooth icing, and any decorations you add will stand out even more.
Learning how to get smooth icing on a cake is only the beginning. Take a cake decorating class online to learn more techniques like these.