Have your cake and eat it too… that’s my theory! With four kids we were always celebrating something – birthdays, special events, Tuesdays (lol)… and what is a celebration without cake? Plus I really enjoy making cakes, and being creative is part of the fun!
Now that my kids are older I have resorted to making cakes for the staff at Alberta Milk! They don’t know that I am just experimenting on them – trying new recipes or techniques I’ve seen on-line or on Pinterest.
The idea for this blog came from one of my co-workers asking me how I ice a cake. My secret? Put the cake in the freezer after the crumb coat (a thin layer of icing you put on the cake to seal the crumbs in so that your final coat of icing is beautifully free of cake crumbs). Freezing the cake makes icing it easier (because your cake is not soft and squishy) and helps to set the crumb coat.
Tricks of the Trade
- Before you begin, make sure your icing is stiff; you should be able to scoop it up with your spatula and turn it upside down over the bowl without it falling or sliding back into the bowl. The icing should hold its shape perfectly.
- Level your cakes. All cakes need to be level or you will get cracked cakes that will not hold their shape. If you do not have a cake leveler (I didn’t for the first 20 years of cake making) you can use a long serrated knife to very carefully cut the top off your cake. Once you have topped all of your cakes, you are ready to start stacking!
- Plop a big dollop of icing right in the middle of your first layer of cake. Spread the icing carefully. Always add more icing than you think you need as it is much easier and cleaner to remove icing then to add it.
- Once your icing is nice and flat, you can stack the second cake. If you only have two cakes, flip the cake over so the bottom of the second cake is now the top of the stacked cake. This will greatly reduce the amount of crumbs you encounter.
- Once you have filled your cake, smooth your excess icing that squeezed out between the layers onto the side of the cake. (You will see some instructions asking for an offset spatula – I have always just used a butter knife but used the non-cutting side to smooth the icing – works like a charm). Fill in any gaps on the sides, and make sure your layers are stacked properly. Use an extra bowl to put the icing you remove from the cake into – not the original icing bowl – as you don’t want to put crumbs into your “clean” icing. Anytime I get crumbs on my knife, I wipe the icing into my extra bowl.
- After the sides are done, put another generous dollop of icing of the top of the cake and smooth that to get an even layer on the top.
- For the crumb coat, put a thin layer on the cake – usually you can still see the cake poking through in many places – that’s ok, you are just trying to seal in the crumbs not make it pretty. Try to make it level and smooth but don’t fret too much as you are going to put a thicker layer on over top later.
- Now pop it in the freezer. It will harden the icing and make your cake much easier to handle and ice.
When your cake is cold/frozen (you can leave it for ½ hour or overnight – depends on how busy your life is), take it out for the beautiful second coat of buttercream. It doesn’t need to be thick, it just needs to even out the blemishes that are always part of a cake. Start with the sides and work your way up using the excess icing to cover the top of the cake. It takes a bit of practice to get the icing smooth; but don’t try to make it too smooth – you want people to know YOU made it!
You are now ready to create all sorts of amazing cakes! You can leave the cake as it is – or pipe on some additional icing to make it “fancy”, or add sprinkles or drizzle with chocolate! One of my favourite icing finishes are swirly roses… so easy to make – maybe I’ll share how easy they are with you next time!
Time to enjoy a slice of your perfectly iced cake with a nice cold glass of milk!