One of the most challenging techniques for me to master was how to get perfectly smooth sides on my cakes. For years I only covered cakes in a thin crumb coat then covered them in fondant. I did that instead of buttercream because I couldn’t get smooth edges. I would rush through the process and get so frustrated when it didn’t work right away that I just went back to covering them in fondant. This happened for years!
My impatience didn’t help me at all. The cakes looked like I slopped on the frosting. Sometimes it was heartbreaking. I’m sure you’ve been there too!
Today I’ll share the exact steps you’ll need to get perfectly smooth sides and sharp edges. I hope that you’ll learn from my mistakes and be light years ahead in your decorating journey.
Tips for success:
- Read through all the ingredients and instructions so you can get a better idea of how much time and what you need to make these cakes.
- You can bake the cake layers ahead of time. Wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month.
- You can make the buttercream a day ahead and refrigerate it overnight. Then take them out to come back to room temperature. Make sure the buttercream is at room temperature before re-whipping; if needed, add heavy cream.
- Serve the cakes at room temperature. To get clean cuts of cake, run hot water over a sharp knife, wipe clean after each slice. Reheat the blade as needed.
Let’s Get Started!
To get started, something that I would recommend right away has these decorating tools. You’ll need a spinning turntable, a 6-inch metal cake scraper, and an offset spatula.
These three must-have decorating tools you’ll use for every cake. Without these three must-have tools, decorating cakes becomes much more challenging and will feel overwhelming. These three tools are a must-have to make smooth buttercream cakes. Click here to read more about these tools and where to buy them.
Second, you’ll want to use semi-frozen cake layers. The cold cakes make it easier to frost. Believe it or not, the buttercream sticks better to cold cake layers. After you have baked the layers, allow them to cool for 10 minutes, invert onto cooling racks and wrap each layer into plastic wrap and freeze for 2-4 hours or overnight.
Following cold cakes, you’ll need to prep the buttercream, mix the buttercream on low speed for 5 minutes to eliminate any air bubbles, or mix by hand with a wooden spoon for a few minutes to release any air bubbles. The smoother the buttercream is in the bowl, it’ll be smooth on the cake too!
Next, you’ll want to fill, stack, and crumb coat the cake. I’ve created a detailed tutorial here to show you exactly how to do this at home. Click here to see how to crumb coat your layered cake.
Once you have frosted a thin layer of buttercream to trap in all the crumbs, you’ll want to make sure the cake is level and standing straight.
This next step is super important; do not rush this step. Place the crumb-coated cake into the freezer to chill for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour. The longer the cake is cooled, the easier it’ll be to decorate). It would be best if you had a super cold cake before adding the final layer.
Place the cold cake on the turntable and begin adding the smooth buttercream. (Keep in mind you may need to remix the buttercream with a wooden spoon to release any air bubbles). Start from the top and use the offset spatula to quickly smooth out the top that’ll give you a base.
Add more buttercream to the sides of the cake. Add enough buttercream to come over the top edge of the cake; you want the cake’s sides to be taller than the top. Add the buttercream with the offset spatula, gently pressing into the cake as you go. You are adding more buttercream than you may think at this time.
As you spin the cake using the cake scraper at a 45-degree angle to apply gentle pressure. Only turn the cake without moving the cake scraper. Continue to rotate the cake slowly to remove any excess buttercream, scrape off extra buttercream, keeping the cake scraper clean. You don’t want to drag any leftover buttercream with the scraper, so be sure to wipe it off as you go.
Use the offset spatula to fill in any gaps with more buttercream. Switch back to the cake scraper and slowly turn the cake, smoothing out the buttercream. At this time, the buttercream should still be taller than the top of the cake.
Once you have filled in all the gaps and done your best to smooth the sides, it’s time to smooth out the top edges. Take your clean offset spatula and a clean damp towel, hold your offset spatula parallel to the top of the cake. Start from the outside edge, lower the spatula, pull it towards the center of the cake, and flatten the edge. Clean the spatula with a damp towel. Repeat with the next section, start from the outside, pull the buttercream towards the center, and clean the spatula. Repeat this all over the top of the cake.
Then spin the cake and smooth out the top with the spatula. If needed, use the cake scraper to smooth out the cake’s sides and repeat the previous step smoothing out the top edge.
If the cake and buttercream feel like its warming up, then place them back into the refrigerator or freezer to set the buttercream around the cake. And repeat the same process of smoothing out the sides with the cake scraper.
Yes, this can take more time but trust me, it’ll alleviate a lot of frustration. We don’t want to fight against the buttercream but work with it.
Mastering this technique will take practice and patience. I know you can do this, and I’m so excited to see all your cake creations!
Watch The How-to Video Below:
You May Also Enjoy:
- How to Fill, Stack & Crumb Coat a Layered Cake (tutorial)
- How to Decorate Your First Cake (free course)
- Cake Decorating for Beginners (masterclass)
If you feel like you need more information or have any questions about baking and decorating, I’m happy to help because I love this cake community so much. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can serve you better!
P.S. Hey, if you liked this tutorial, you really should check out Cake Decorating for Beginners, my signature masterclass. I coach you on everything I teach on these cake tutorials on a deeper level so that you can uplevel your baking and decorating skills. We 10x it to get the results you want most impressive cakes that your friends and family will love. Like any new skill, it’s essential to learn from the ground up to build a foundation so that you can take on any cake challenge. It is an investment your future self will thank you for. Check it out at XOKatieRosario.com/cake-masterclass. I will see you there!