A pretty cake adds a bit of ceremony to an occasion, don’t you think? As far as birthdays and moments of congratulations go, I think flowers and cakes are the perfect thing for celebrating. I had a friend who used to make a pretty little cake for each friend on their birthday. So I thought I’d share with you a new little trick I learned in case you’d like to do the same: how to frost a smooth, level cake, with no crumbs in the frosting.
You’ll need: —batter for one cake and pans of your choice (homemade cake is usually denser and holds up well under frosting, but cake mixes work too) —parchment paper and a paper towel —a pastry bag and tip, if possible, for laying the frosting on the cake (see the cake icer tip below) —a recipe of buttercream frosting of a thinner consistency, about as thin and spreadable as butter at room temperature
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of your pan. I do this by folding a piece in quarters and pressing it into the pan to get an idea of the size.
Grease the pan, lay down the parchment paper, then grease and flour over the parchment. Make sure to pat out excess flour. This step is so helpful for getting your cake out at the end.
Add batter so your pan is 2/3 full.
While your cake is baking, I like to prepare 4-6 strips of parchment to place around my cake platter. That way, if I frost the platter a bit, it will come off when I pull out the parchment paper.
Bake your cake until a toothpick comes out clean, with no big crumbs sticking to it.
Once the cake is cooled, level it using a cake leveler or serrated knife. Whenever possible, I like to level the cake right in the pan, then take it out and let it finish cooling.
Flip cake so the bottom side is up, and peel off parchment paper from the top of the cake.
I was recently introduced to the cake icer tip, which I use with a 16-inch pastry bag. It is fantastic for laying frosting on the cake. If you don’t have one, you can improvise by piping your buttercream frosting out of a ziplock bag and using a knife to keep it on. The trick is to lay frosting on the cake, not rub it over the cake, which will pull crumbs up into your frosting.
If you use the cake icer tip, the jagged edge faces towards the cake, the smooth edge away from the cake.
Use a spatula or knife to level the frosting. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just mostly level. Again, try to press the frosting against the cake, not rub it up from the cake.
If you put strips of parchment under the cake, carefully pull them out.
Let the cake sit for 15 minutes to let the frosting dry a bit on the outside.
This is the last step, the fun part. Use a piece of parchment paper or a paper towel and lay it right on the cake. Use your finger to press lightly over the cake and smooth the icing, then peel the paper away. Do the same for the sides. You can pull it up and press it back on several times to get the cake as smooth as you like it.
If you use a papertowel with an embossed pattern, you can have the pattern transfer to your cake. If this is the effect you’re going for, make sure you use the embossed side of the paper towel against the cake. And for this effect, you get only one shot of laying down the paper and peeling it away; you can’t re-lay the paper once you’ve peeled it away.