How to frost with buttercream?

Table of Contents

Smooth & Seamless: How to Ice a Wedding Cake With Buttercream

If learning how to ice a wedding cake with buttercream was a college course, it would be called Caking 101! Frosting, assembling and perfecting a tiered buttercream cake is a skill you’ll use over and over again, so it’s best to learn the right way to do it.

The technique for icing a buttercream-finished cake is essentially the same no matter which kind of buttercream you use. Here are a few fabulous buttercream recipes, sure to please any palate:

  • American buttercream
  • Italian meringue buttercream
  • Swiss meringue buttercream
  • Flour buttercream

Icing the individual tiers

Before we get to stacking, you’ll first need to prep each tier with a crumb coat and smooth layer of buttercream. We have a great tutorial for crumb coating a cake , and here’s an easy method how to achieve a smooth buttercream finish using simple tools.

How to ice a wedding cake with buttercream

These principles remain the same whether you’re making a cake with two, four, six or even ten tiers! I didn’t have 100 of my closest friends to feed this week, so I stuck to a teeny little two-tier cake for this tutorial.

Supplies:

  • Buttercream-iced cake tiers, thoroughly chilled
  • Dowels
  • Scissors or a dowel cutter
  • Bench scraper
  • Offset spatula
  • Straight icing spatula
  • Turntable
  • Piping bag fitted with a small round tip
  • Extra buttercream

Step 1:

Insert dowels into the bottom tier of cake where the second tier will sit.

Trim the dowels with scissors or a dowel cutter so that they are level with the surface of the cake.

Pipe a few small blobs of buttercream over the tops of the dowels and smooth them over with the offset spatula.

Step 2:

Use an offset spatula to help pick up and steady the top tier of cake. Center the smaller cake over the doweled cake below. Gently drop the cake onto the buttercream-topped dowels, quickly pulling your fingers and spatula out of the way. Use the offset spatula to move the cake if it needs to be re-centered.

Step 3:

Cut a dowel about ½” shorter than the entire height of the cake. Push that dowel down through the center of the top of the cake. Tap on the dowel so that it pierces the board supporting the top tier and runs down into the bottom tier.

Keep pushing the dowel until it reaches the base of the bottom tier.

Pipe a dollop of buttercream over the hole created by the dowel and smooth it over with an icing spatula. I typically only add a center dowel for cakes larger than three tiers, but decided to add one today so that you’d see at what point in the process it should be done.

Step 4:

Unless you’ve got moves like Houdini, there are probably a few places where the buttercream was dinged by your fingers, as well as some space where the board supporting the top cake is exposed. To neaten up the seam where the cakes meet, pipe a line of buttercream all the way around the base of the top tier.

Use your bench scraper to smooth the line over, filling in the dents and spaces.

Now you’ve got the perfect clean canvas to create the wedding cake of your (or your client’s) dreams!

FREE Buttercream Decorating Ideas

craftsy buttercream guide

Get insider tricks & inspiration to make one-of-a-kind buttercream wedding cakes in this FREE PDF guide, available exclusively on Bluprint.Get My FREE Guide “

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and was updated in March 2018.

How To Choose The Best Icing For Your Wedding Cake:

You’re designing your wedding cake, and it’s time to make the big decision: which icing should you pick?! You may already have an icing option in mind, however it is important to choose the right icing for your cake by taking into consideration the cake design, the venue’s temperature, and length of travel.

Here at Sweet Bites we mainly use four different types of icing: Buttercream, Fondant, Chocolate Ganache and Royal. In this blog post we will talk you through each one, and discuss the pros and cons of each. Hopefully after reading this post you will have a better understanding of each of the icings, and will be able to choose which icing is right for you!

Buttercream:

Buttercream icing is the icing everyone knows and loves. It is made from butter, icing sugar and vanilla seeds, mixed together to create a soft, light consistency. Buttercream icing can also be coloured and flavoured to your liking, by adding chocolates, fruit flavours, caramels… the possibilities are endless! This is the icing everyone is used to, as it is regularly used on cupcakes and birthday cakes.

If you are wanting a less traditional, rustic or laidback wedding cake, we would suggest using buttercream icing! As buttercream is so soft we can easily put it into a piping bag to do intricate flowers, borders and designs on your cake. Buttercream is also great for cake textures such as rosettes and ribbing. Although buttercream will never give the polished appearance of fondant, some people actually prefer the textured look buttercream icing gives.

Be careful of choosing buttercream icing if you are having a summer wedding, however – buttercream melts very easily, and will only work if the cake is stored and served in a cool, air-conditioned venue.

Fondant:

Fondant icing, on the other hand, is a traditional wedding favourite as it gives the cake a very smooth and polished appearance. Fondant is made from powdered sugar, corn syrup and water, melted together to form a thick paste. This paste is rolled out to become very smooth and is also rolled onto the cake, giving it it’s smooth, polished appearance. Fondant icing is also very flexible and durable, which gives us the ability to create elaborate and detailed designs.

Most people unfortunately find fondant icing quite polarising – once dry, it has a chewy texture, and is sugary in taste. Fondant is very easy to peel off a cake, and it is common for wedding guests to remove the fondant icing choosing to just enjoy the cake instead.

If you have always dreamed of having a clean, smooth, polished looking wedding cake, you should opt for fondant icing. Buttercream can be smoothed out, but will never give the ultra smooth appearance fondant can. If you have always wanted elaborate designs such as draping, patterns, characters, or bows, we would definitely advise picking fondant.

A fondant covered cake is also the more likely to survive in summer temperatures, and if the cake needs to travel further afield, fondant would be a good choice – unfortunately ganache or buttercream might not survive the trip!

Chocolate Ganache

Ganache is made by mixing chocolate and cream together, making it possibly one of the most delicious icing options available! Yum! Ganache can be spread over cakes to achieve a smooth, silky finish. The texture won’t be as smooth as fondant icing, but will be smoother than buttercream. Using white chocolate ganache will achieve a natural looking cream colour, however we can colour to your preference using gel colourings.

If you are having a summer wedding, ganache is a better option to pick over buttercream as it is slightly more stable in hotter temperatures, however can still be slightly temperamental. It is worth noting that we put a layer of ganache underneath all our fondant and royal iced cakes, so if you want the sleek look only fondant or royal icing gives but don’t want to compromise on taste – don’t worry, you can have the best of both worlds!

Royal Icing:

Royal icing is made from sugar, water and egg whites. Similar to fondant, the use of egg white allows royal icing to dry to a hard, matte finish –making it extremely stable in all conditions. It will stay firm for a long period of time, which is why royal icing is the most popular choice for destination weddings, or for long periods of travel. Royal icing is also pure white in colour, making it perfect for the all-white wedding cake, or a great blank canvas to colour! Royal icing is great for making designs in advance to put onto the cake, however is quite restricting in terms of design. It is similar in taste and texture to fondant icing, which is why we use ganache underneath for a delicious flavour.

No Icing? No Worries! Try a Naked Cake!

Naked cakes have become extremely popular over the last couple of years – they are simply cakes with no outer layer of icing! They show off the cake’s natural texture and filing. Naked cakes feel very natural and organic, and would suit a similar themed wedding. Although there is no outer layer of icing, we make up for it with an extra yummy filing, and decorating the cake in beautiful fresh flowers, fruits, caramels… the possibilities are endless! Naked cakes do dry out quicker than other iced cakes, however – so it is important the cake is served no longer than 24 hours after being stacked. We also recommend semi naked to stop the drying out – this is a cake that is slightly iced, yet still showing odd the cake’s natural texture, as pictured.

Over the years we’ve discovered most people prefer the taste and texture of buttercream/ganache icing but want the smooth, clean look over fondant and royal icing gives. If you have been reading this post and are thinking the same thing – don’t worry, we have a few tricks up our sleeve! We can:

  1. Put a (thick) layer of ganache icing underneath the fondant/royal icing, so guests still get the delicious taste (while keeping the look of fondant)
  2. Fill in cake layers of a fondant/royal iced cake with ganache for flavour and texture
  3. Have the fondant cake as the showpiece at reception, and secretly serve buttercream or ganache frosted cakes to your guests (shhh, lot’s of people do it!)

We hope this post has given you an idea as to which kind of icing you would like for your wedding cake. If you have an elaborate design in mind or you still need help making the final design – we would be more than happy to talk you through it! Feel free to send us an email at or give us a call on 09-836-8806 and we would be happy to assist you! You can check out our previous wedding cake designs here, or if you would like to book a wedding cake consultation, you can do so by visiting our booking page.

With love from the Sweet Bites team xxx

by Jolene Rae Harrington

When it comes to wedding cakes, is it better to look good than to taste good? Don’t think, just answer.

Your response will give you a clue as to where you weigh in on the Great “Fondant versus Buttercream” Controversy, or, as I like to call it, “the Famous Frosting Smackdown.”

Vanilla Bake Shop

If you’re a novice to cakery, here’s what we’re talking about: The two main choices when finishing (the technical term for “icing”) a wedding cake are BUTTERCREAM and FONDANT. Buttercream is a blend of sugar, eggs and butter, which results in a soft, creamy texture that can be mixed with various flavorings. It’s light, not too sweet, and universally acclaimed as the tastier of the two. Fondant is made from sugar, corn syrup and gelatin (as in, jello). It’s then rolled out into sheets, and molded over the cake. The result is a smooth and shiny finish.

In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to be a devotee of “the BC.” While avoiding sweets in daily life, at weddings I’m one of those people who sneak over and scoop up a bit of pillowy, white buttercream frosting on my finger while everyone else is doing the funky chicken. Some people eat the cake and leave the frosting; I’ll eat my slice, and then finish off my neighbor’s frosting leftovers. (I’m just waiting for the evidence of my gluttony to show up on YouTube.) To me, real buttercream (not that faux stuff made with shortening and diglycerides they sell at Costco) is Nectar of the Goddess. It has a dreamy melt and a satisfying richness, and when accompanied by a bit of sponge cake or devil’s food, there’s nothing I would rather consume at a party.

Fondant leaves me flat, however. According to one top wedding cakemaker, “Fondant tastes sort of like marshmallows.” (Mmmmm…marshmallow jello!) Confesses another, “Some people love it, and some don’t care for it and will peel it off of their portion.” Count me in the latter category. I know, I know, there are those confectioners who swear that THEY know how to make fondant that’s really good. Maybe so, but in my mind fondant can’t hold a candle to Ms. Buttercream.

So then why is fondant kicking buttercream’s sweet behind? Because, quite simply, it’s gorgeous. The texture makes it easy to roll, tint and decorate, and in the hands of a cake artist, fondant can be transformed into whatever you or they can envision—a football for your groom’s cake…dainty Limoges jewel boxes…a red Chinese pagoda…the possibilities are as unlimited as your imagination (and budget). Brides and wedding planners concerned with the “look” of each wedding element are drawn to the sleek sophistication of a fondant finish. Whether accented with a single lily or gussied up like a Southern Belle at her first cotillion, fondant makes a fashion statement.

Fondant has another thing going for it—it’s much more durable than buttercream, which melts at temps above the mid-80s. Buttercream at outdoor weddings can be quite a gamble. But if you plan on keeping things cool on the Big Day, then the Creamy One is still in the game. I have it from a Cake-Artisan-to-the-Stars that true confectionary masters can make buttercream look as sleek and glamorous as fondant, but it’s not a universal skill.

So how to choose? Bring your fiancé to your cake tasting. Ask for samples of the finest fondant and best buttercream, and trade bites, with your eyes closed. Listen to your taste buds. Then look at the photos of the cake designer’s past achievements, and see if the visions of fondant knock your fishnets off (and his sweat socks). Caution: If you and your sweetie come down strongly on opposite sides, resist the temptation to throw bits of frosting at each other.
Instead, consider these possible compromises:

  1. Serve a fondant-finished cake at the reception, and a scrumptious buttercream dessert for the rehearsal dinner—or vice versa.
  2. Have the fondant version be the showpiece, and serve discreet slices of buttercream-frosted sheet cakes to the guests (sheet cakes on the side are a practice more and more common these days, particularly for budget-challenged events).
  3. If he or she has the expertise, ask your cake designer to coat your wedding cake in a layer of buttercream before they lay on the fondant—that way, you’re not missing out on the yummy!
  4. Avoid the controversy altogether by opting for cupcakes, arranged in a towering pyramid. They’re all the rage anyway…just be sure to load up on the colored sprinkles!

Pros Cons
FONDANT Easy to work with. The taste can be mediocre.
Versatile.
Fashion-forward.
Beautiful.
BUTTERCREAM Creamy. Doesn’t hold up well in sun or heat.
Delicious. Not as eye-popping as fondant.
Old-fashioned elegance.

Other Wedding Cake Controversies

(and my completely opinionated opinion):

Sugar-paste flowers or real? Sure, the sugar paste designs will make guests ooh and ahh…but beware—these cleverly wrought embellishments will also cost you.

Stacked, tiered or side-by-side? Sorry, I positively cringe when I see plastic pillars. Any other choice is fine with me.

Traditional toppers or Innovative? If you go for the traditional figurines, do it with flair to match your retro theme; or opt for sentimental—such as using your grandparents’ topper, for example.

Save the top layer in the freezer or fuggedabout it? Save it…then when your anniversary rolls around a year later, defrost it, taste it, spit it out and have a good laugh. Then go out for ice cream.

Read More About Wedding Cakes:
Cake Glossary
Questions To Ask When Hiring Your Wedding Cake Designer
The Icing on the Cake
Find your perfect wedding cake designer…

The Best Buttercream Frosting

I hate, loathe and despise store bought frosting. I understand that it is super convenient, but I think it ruins what could otherwise be a delicious dessert. I am proud to say I have never used a can of frosting. Does that me a frosting snob? Probably. I have been using this recipe forever. It is easy and makes whatever you are putting it on better. I promise!!

How to Make The Best Buttercream Frosting

First step is to measure the powdered sugar. I use my food scale. (If you don’t have a food scale the equivalent would be 4 cups.) You can sift the powdered sugar if it is really lumpy. I do not always do this. Instead I will mix the powdered sugar on low for 30 seconds to break up any large lumps.

Add 1 cup (2 sticks) of softened butter. I only ever use real butter, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Although I think margarine changes the taste, your buttercream frosting made with margarine will still better than canned frosting.

Add 2-3 teaspoons of vanilla. My family loves vanilla so I am a little heavy handed with it. I’ll start with 2 teaspoons and then add more at the end.

Mix the butter and the vanilla on low.

Add the powdered sugar to the mixer. Start your mixer (or beaters) on the lowest setting. I usually put a clean dishtowel around my mixer to keep the sugar from flying out. Keep on low until the butter and sugar are incorporated and then kick your mixer up to medium high.

Once fully incorporated at the milk and continue mixing.

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS taste your frosting. My husband is the best frosting taster. He will always tell me if the consistency is wrong, if it needs more vanilla or more milk. If you are adding food coloring now is the time to do it. Make sure the food coloring gets fully incorporated. (Most of the time I do this part by hand.)

How much frosting will you need? That always depends on how thick or thin you apply the frosting or how much decorating you do but here are a couple of guidelines. Our recipe should make enough Best Buttercream Frosting to cover a 9″ x 13″ sheet cake or a two-layer 8″ cake. If you are making cupcakes, you should be able to frost 24 cupcakes if you apply the frosting with a knife. If you swirl on the frosting with a pastry bag like we have done here, you should be able to frost 15-18 cupcakes depending on the size of the swirl.

Frost and enjoy.

Pin this yummy The Best Buttercream Frosting for later!

The Best Buttercream Frosting is truly THE BEST! We promise you will get compliments on whatever you put this frosting on.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

This is THE Best Buttercream Frosting recipe and the only one we use. It is easy to make and anything you put it on will taste better. We promise!!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar (or 1 pound)
  • 1 cup Butter (Softened Salted Sweet Cream)
  • 2-3 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons Milk
  • Decorating Bags
  • Wilton 2D Decorating Tip
  • Mixer

Directions:

  1. Add softened butter and vanilla to the mixing bowl and mix until completely combined.
  2. Add Powdered Sugar and beat on low until it is incorporated. Then move mixer up to medium-high speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When completely mixed the frosting may appear dry.
  3. Add milk a little bit at a time until frosting is the proper consistency.

All images and text © Two Sisters.

Did you Make this Recipe? Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @twosisterscrafting on Instagram so we can see it!

If you are looking for more tips and tricks for making that perfect batch of homemade frosting we have a few other posts you might want to check out:

  • Two Sisters’ Frosting Tips and Tricks
  • How to Frost the Perfect Cupcake
  • Five Ways to Decorate a Cupcake
  • Frosting Color Guide
  • Working with Cake Mixes

If you are looking for frosting dessert ideas, here are a few of our most popular recipes that feature our The Best Buttercream Frosting …

  • Sugar Cookie Bars
  • Sweet Swirl Cupcakes
  • Heart Sugar Cookie Bites

How to Crumb Coat and Frost a Cake: The Newbie Guide

Let’s be real: Cakes are just as much about looks as they are taste. Our creations have got to tempt the eyes and the palate, so knowing how to frost is definitely the skill to master.

Tools You Need to Frost a Cake

Let’s start with the gear. You don’t need many tools to make a beautiful cake, but throwing down for a few key items will make the job a whole lot easier. (Yes, you really do need a turntable. Don’t have one? These ideas could help .)

  • Turntable
  • Cake board, platter or stand
  • Piping bag (optional)
  • Large round piping tip (optional)
  • Offset icing spatula
  • Bench scraper or straight icing spatula

Crumb Coating

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to frost a cake, we’ve gotta talk about crumb coating.

What Is It?

Crumb coating a cake means adding a thin layer of frosting to the exterior before adding a thicker, final coat of frosting.

The thin layer of frosting traps stray cake crumbs and prevents them from popping up in your finished cake. Adding a crumb coat also helps fill in any gaps between your cake layers to give you a solid surface before adding your smooth final coat.

Quick Tips for Crumb Coating

  • Work from a smaller, separate bowl of buttercream when crumb coating. That way you won’t risk introducing crumbs into the frosting you’ll use for the final, perfect coat.
  • If it’s warm where you are, chill your filled cake until firm before adding the crumb coat so that the layers don’t wobble around while you’re working.
  • Don’t fret if the crumb coat isn’t entirely smooth, but do make sure to fill all gaps before moving onto the final coat. A gap-free surface is the key to an easy and flawless final coat.

Setting the Crumb Coat

No matter what kind of buttercream you use, the crumb coat needs to set before moving on to the final coat. Pop the cake in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, or until it’s firm to the touch. If you’re working with American buttercream , the cake can be left at room temperature until the buttercream has formed a crust (about 20 minutes).

Frosting

OK, here’s the good stuff — how to actually frost your cake. There are plenty of ways to ice a cake, but I’ll cover two here: The easier option for a loose, rustic look, and how to get fancy with a smooth, professional finish.

The Easiest Way to Frost A Cake: Rustic Style

1. Plop the frosting on the cake

Scoop a mound of frosting (a little over cup for a 6″ round cake, about 2 cups for an 8″ round cake, etc.) on top of the cake. This may feel like a lot of frosting, and that’s as it should be.

Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting out while turning the turntable, pushing the frosting over the top edge to make an overhang. Move the spatula through the top frosting to create fluffy peaks and valleys.

2. Spread the frosting down the sides

Use the offset spatula to spread a thick layer of additional buttercream onto the sides of the cake, turning all the while. Pull the excess frosting from the top edges down onto the sides as well. Create fluffy peaks and valleys all over the sides of the cake, just like you did with the top.

3. Clean up the top edge

To clean up the the top edge, knock down any buttercream that’s poking up and spread things out a bit as needed to make the edge fairly even all around. Avoid overworking things here — once you have a nice, rustic look, you’re done!

Option 2: Smooth Style

1. Spread frosting on top of the cake

Scoop (or pipe) a mound of frosting on top of the cake. Be generous at this step, and throughout. A nice thick layer of frosting is easier to make smooth.

Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting out, pushing it over the the top edge.

Once the top of the cake’s covered, hold the blade of the spatula against the top of the cake. Keep the spatula steady while you use your other hand to spin the turntable. Spread and spin until the top of your cake is level and smooth. Again, don’t overwork it. Quit while you’re ahead.

2. Spread frosting on the sides

Load your spatula with frosting and apply it thickly to the side of your cake. (You can also pipe it on with a pastry bag and a large round tip if you prefer.) Smooth it out by holding the long edge of a bench scraper or straight icing spatula vertically and using your other hand to spin the turntable.

  • Stop every few spins or so to scrape excess buttercream back into the bowl. Dip the spatula in warm water and wipe it down with a paper towel if frosting starts to build up. Slightly warming the spatula like this helps the buttercream get even smoother.

3. Make it perfect

Fill in holes if needed (it happens!) and re-smooth by giving the turntable another spin.

Repeat spinning and scraping until the sides are as smooth as you’d like them to be.

4. Clean up the top edge

After the sides of the cake are smoothed, you’ll see some excess buttercream peeking up over the top edge. Working as precisely as you can, use the flat edge of an offset spatula to swipe the excess buttercream in toward the center, creating a crisp edge while maintaining a smooth top.

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is one of my quick, classic go-to frosting recipes that I turn to time and again.

My family absolutely adores it, it is so very simple to make, and you just can’t beat that classic vanilla buttercream for all sorts of celebratory and everyday type of desserts. It is perfect for my white cake recipe for birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations and works as a delicious, yet stark visual contrast on chocolate cake, too. It is great sandwiched between a couple of butter cookies or spread on top of a cookie cake, as well. You just can’t beat the versatility of good ole vanilla buttercream frosting. It just works.

I am consistently receiving emails asking about my vanilla buttercream frosting, so I thought I’d repost the recipe by itself instead of it being included along with my chocolate cupcake recipe where it is scaled down for just 12 cupcakes.

I also thought I’d answer a few of your questions as well.

How do you get your vanilla buttercream frosting so white?

There are a few tricks to getting my vanilla buttercream frosting as white as I do. First, after each cup of confectioner’s sugar that I add, I turn my stand mixer on the highest speed that it will go. This not only makes the frosting extremely fluffy, it also lightens the coloring of the frosting as air is incorporated.

My second trick is to use clear vanilla extract whenever I want my vanilla buttercream as white as possible. Mind you, vanilla buttercream frosting still has butter in it, so it is virtually impossible to get it pure white. It will still have a bit of a tint of the yellow, albeit it will be faint. Most folks probably will say it is pure white. We’ll just know it isn’t exactly pure white, just as close as a vanilla buttercream can get without substituting shortening for the butter.

How do you get your vanilla buttercream frosting so fluffy?

I skipped ahead when I answered the question above and explained how after each cup of confectioner’s sugar that I add to the buttercream, I turn my stand mixer on the highest setting that it will go. This incorporates air into the buttercream and makes it lighter and fluffier.

I also use the paddle attachment of my stand mixer as I have just found it to make a smoother, fluffier buttercream frosting than when I use the whip attachment. Also, it is easier to get all of that delicious buttercream frosting off of your paddle attachment than it is the whip attachment. And I’m all about easy. Heh.

How do I make my vanilla buttercream firmer for a prettier decoration?

The firmness of your buttercream frosting greatly depends on the amount of sugar to liquid ratio in your frosting. If you want a firmer frosting, add more confectioner’s sugar. If you want a softer frosting, add more milk or cream.

Please know that I in no way am professing to be a professional baker, frosting maker, or anything else for that matter. These are my observations after years and years of making buttercream frosting and finding little nuances that make it easier, prettier, tastier, and more everything -er.

Here’s my Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe along with a few instructions and notes.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is one of the classic frosting recipes used on so many delicious desserts! Get this favorite vanilla buttercream frosting recipe along with all the tips for making perfect buttercream frosting every time. 4.72 from 87 votes

Save Recipe Review Recipe

Prep Time10 mins Total Time10 mins Servings: 4 1/2 cups Course Dessert Cuisine American Author: Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter softened (2 sticks)
  • 3 – 4 cups confectioner’s sugar sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk heavy cream, or half-and-half

Instructions

  • Place softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on a medium setting and cream the butter until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
  • Add confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
  • Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
  • Add milk, heavy cream or half-and-half until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner’s sugar, a 1/4 cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time.

Notes

If you want to make the buttercream frosting ahead, place it into an airtight container and refrigerate. When ready to use, let the frosting come to room temperature, then beat it again with the mixer until fluffy. Save Recipe Have you made this recipe?Tag @addapinch on Instagram or hashtag it #addapinch

Happy frosting making! Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how you make the perfect vanilla buttercream frosting? Please share them in the comment!

If you are looking for other buttercream frosting flavors, you might like these:

Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Nutella Buttercream Frosting

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Love ya,
Robyn xo

How To Frost a Layer Cake

A step-by-step tutorial with pictures on how to frost a layer cake. I walk you through the basic steps in frosting a layered cake and provide the tools you will need.

Hi friends! One thing you’ve asked for more is How-To type posts. Instructional posts that share some baking and cooking techniques for beginners. I’d share with you a few basic techniques in this category to help you feel more confident in the kitchen. I believe in trusting your intuitions and being creative in the kitchen but I also think some basic techniques will help you feel more comfortable. Over the next few months, I’ll share with you some basic baking techniques starting with today’s how to frost a layer cake.

I was always intimidated by frosting a layer cake but after breaking down the steps I realized it was not as difficult as it seems. I’ll walk you through the steps of how I frost a layer cake. With a few tools, patience and practice, you will be decorating beautiful layered cakes in no time.

I should start off by saying that I am not a professionally trained baker or pastry chef. Everything I know I’ve learned on my own and I’d happily share with you to show you that nothing in the baking and cooking world is as intimidating as it looks. You just need to have a passion to learn.

Ok, let’s get started. How do we get a beautiful frosted layered cake?

First, you will need to gather up your cake decorating tools. Here are the basics I use daily and think are necessary for every home baker.

(affiliate links included)

Tools you will need:

  • A revolving cake decorating stand – this is the largest investment but it is worth it. I’ve used this stand for over 4 years.
  • Angled spatula – this helps you spread your frosting and can also help smooth
  • Cake leveler – to get even layered cakes. use to remove domed tops of your baked cakes
  • Cake transfer plate – for easy transfer of sliced cakes
  • Cake Knife – for smoothing frosting around a frosted cake

Materials needed:

  • 2 8-inch or 9-inch round baked cakes
  • 1 recipe of your favorite frosting
  • optional: cake filling of your choice
  • optional: sprinkles. all the sprinkles!

For this demonstration, I am using my favorite chocolate cake for a two-layered 8-inch round cake.

I also used this perfect whipped vanilla bean frosting.

Tip #1: Having a whipped and stiff buttercream is necessary for a smooth finish. It also ensures your piping decorations will hold.

To start, you will need to ensure you have flat cakes. If your cakes domed while baking, level the tops with a serrated knife or a cake leveler tool.

On the other hand, if your cakes caved (like my demonstration below), you don’t need to level the cake. You can fill that cavity with frosting. (Did I mention I am not a perfectionist?)

Position the first cake on a cake board or on a cake plate using a cake lifter.

Top with about 1/2 cup frosting and using an angled spatula.

Tip #2: measure out your frosting for each layer so you have even frosting between cake layers.

Spread the frosting over the cake layer using the angled spatula. You want an even layer of the frosting pushing any excess towards the edges. See below.

Place the second layer on top of the first cake. Repeat the process until your last cake layer, ensuring you use equal portions frosting.

If this is your last layer, place the last cake down with the flat bottom of the cake on top (see below).

Top the last layer with about 1/2 cup frosting.

Similarly, evenly smooth the frosting on top of your cake, pushing any extras to the side.

Using the angled spatula, cover the sides of the cake in a thin coat of frosting.

Smooth the sides and top as much as possible. This is a crumb coat that will lock in all the loose crumbs of your soft cake.

Chill cake for at least 30 minutes to set the crumb coat.

Next, spread about 1/2 cup frosting on top of the cake. Again, evenly spread the frosting over the top of the cake.

Next, frost the sides of the cake with as much frosting as needed to cover up the cake.

Slowly spread the frosting around the cake until you have a smooth frosting.

With the cake on your cake turntable, use the cake knife to smooth the sides of the cake. Hold the cake knife straight against the side of the cake and rotate the cake gently. This takes a few practices to get smooth edges.

Tip #3: if you frost your cake with a thick coat of frosting, it is easier to smooth with the cake knife.

After smoothing the sides of your cake, use the same technique to smooth the top.

And that’s it friends!! You will have a blank canvas for your cake decorating!!

Finish your cake with your decoration of choice. I love piping simple edges using Wilton 1M tip and lots of sprinkles.

There you have it, friends!

Here’s that walks you through these steps as well, if you need additional steps.

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

What other techniques would you like me to highlight?

MAKING THIS RECIPE? Share it with us on Instagram using #aclassictwist so we can see what you are baking up in your kitchen!

    Buttercream & Cream Cheese

  • Buttercream Frosting

    The unifying feature of all buttercream frostings, whether sweetened with sugar syrup or jam, is the liberal use of butter. These frostings go well with any kind of butter cake, sponge cake, or fruit-filled cake, but avoid using them on flourless cakes. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start; if your frosting looks curdled, it’s probably because they were either too warm or too cold. Buttercream frosting can be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Just make sure you bring it to room temperature before frosting your cake.

    Here’s a foolproof method: In a metal bowl, combine 4 large egg whites with a pinch of salt and 1 cup sugar. Set the bowl over a pot with an inch of simmering water and whisk the mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixture until stiff peaks form. Beat in 3 sticks softened unsalted butter, one spoonful at a time, until the buttercream is smooth. Then, beat in whatever flavoring you’d like to use, like vanilla extract, lemon juice or brandy.

    If the frosting (or your kitchen) seems too warm, stick the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes, then continue beating. If it’s too cold, let the frosting warm up, then continue beating until it comes together. This may take several minutes, so don’t give up.

  • Karsten Moran for The New York Times

    Cream Cheese Frosting

    Cream cheese frosting has the same smooth silky texture of buttercream, but with an added tangy, sweet-tart flavor. It’s a breeze to make and is the traditional frosting for carrot cakes, but consider it for anything from simple white layer cakes to devil’s food and fudge cakes. As with buttercreams, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. Cream cheese frosting can usually be made a week ahead.

    Here’s how you do it: Using an electric mixer, beat together 1 pound softened cream cheese with 1 stick softened unsalted butter until smooth. Slowly beat in 6 cups confectioners’ sugar until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Thin the frosting with a little milk if it seems too thick to spread.

    Fudge & Ganache

  • Fudge Frosting

    Rich and dark, fudge frostings are like the soft and spreadable version of their eponymous candy. This frosting should be used very soon after making, before it firms up and becomes difficult to spread. If you must make it ahead, you’ll need to reheat it, beating it until spreadable.

    Here’s how to make it: Finally chop 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup heavy cream or milk, and a pinch of salt until the sugar dissolves. Pour the hot sugar mixture into a bowl and add the chopped chocolate, 1 stick of softened unsalted butter and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or other flavoring (bourbon is nice). Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Place the bowl with the warm chocolate mixture into another larger bowl filled with ice. Using an electric mixer, beat until thick and fudgy.

  • Ganache Frosting

    Ganaches, made from chocolate mixed with butter or cream, are smoother and silkier than fudge frostings, but just as rich. They can be made from bittersweet, milk or white chocolate. Use semisweet chocolate for a sweeter ganache, and bittersweet or extra-bittersweet chocolate for something less sugary. Ganache can usually be made a week or two ahead. Store it in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature while beating it again before frosting your cake.

    Here’s an easy, standard method for perfect ganache: Finely chop 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate and place it in a large, heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with a pinch of salt until it comes to a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a minute, then stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 to 2 tablespoons flavoring, like vanilla, rum or espresso.

    7-Minute Meringue

  • Beating eggs whites with sugar gives a glossy, billowing meringue frosting that’s a classic on coconut cakes and Lady Baltimore cakes. Seven-minute meringue frostings, also called Swiss meringues, are made in a double boiler over simmering water to dissolve the sugar, using electric beaters to achieve the froth. Cakes with meringue frostings are best served the day they are frosted.

    Here’s how you do it: in a metal bowl, combine two egg whites, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. Beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Place the bowl on top of a pot filled with an inch of simmering water. Over low heat, beat the egg mixture until it’s thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Make sure you frost your cake immediately, or the meringue will firm up and become impossible to use. And never store meringue frosting in the refrigerator; the humidity will make it bead and weep.

    Glazes

  • Karsten Moran for The New York Times

    Made from confectioners’ sugar or chocolate, glazes are a subset of frostings. Instead of being applied with a spatula, glazes are thin enough to pour over the top. They will run down the cake’s sides in attractive drips, and then harden as they set. It’s useful to place your cake or cupcake on a rack instead of a plate to apply the glaze, so the glaze doesn’t pool around the bottom. When the glaze has set, transfer the cake to a serving plate, using a large offset spatula if you have one. Glazes are great for simple bundt cakes and pound cakes – really, any cake in which you want to gild the lily.

    Here’s a simple glaze: in a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar with 1/4 cup milk or cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. It should be thick yet pourable. You can substitute cold coffee, orange juice or lemon juice for all or part of the milk.