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How to Frost a Cake

Learning to frost a cake takes a little time, practice and patience. Here are the tricks of the pros.


Frosting, "the icing on the cake", can make or break an otherwise yummy dessert. A well-baked cake can still be a flop if the icing slides or pulls. You might want to practice these tips with a boxed cake, and then show off your skills to your friends and family.

Just Right Frosting


A good frosting is not too thin and not too thick. It's just right. Too thin and it will run off the cake. Too thick and it will pull the cake, tearing it and leaving crumbs in the frosting. To thin out frosting that is too thick, add a few drops of milk and stir. To thicken frosting, add a teaspoon of powdered sugar at a time until it is just right. Keep the frosting at room temperature. If is it chilled, it can also pull and tear the cake.

Triple layer chocolate cake

The Little Plastic Knife


To frost a cake, the best spreader to use is a plastic butter knife without serrated edges. It's small, easy to use, spreads the frosting smoothly and you probably already have one.

Prep the Cake


After the cake is completely cooled, trim excess cake with a sharp kitchen knife and brush away any crumbs from the top of the cake. If it's a special occasion or you're being fancy, cover the edges of a cake stand with four strips of wax paper. Remove the cake from the baking pan and place it on the center of a glass cake plate.

Frosting a Two Layer Cake


Starting with the heavier round cake, place the rounded side down. Frost the top of it (the flat side) with about 1/2 cup of frosting. Don't over-frost this section, because the cake will slide. Place the second layer with the rounded side up. If you want a flatter topped cake, then you can carefully trim the rounded side of the cake to make it flat. Next, frost the side of the cake where the edges meet with a thin layer of frosting. Then frost the top. Let the frosting sit for 15 minutes before adding the second coat, the swirl.

Two layer cake with chocolate edge

Frosting a One Layer Cake


When frosting a one layer cake, place the rounded side down and the flat side up. Follow the rest of the steps as in the two layer cake.

Swirling the Frosting


To create a swirl look, use a swirling motion with your plastic knife. This is done by large strokes from left to right in an S pattern. Take the S to the edge of the cake. Again, start with the sides and finish with the top. If you'd like a feathered look, pull the frosting upward with the tip of the plastic knife into small peaks.

A Little Somethin’-Somethin’


Once you have finished frosting the cake, slowly remove the wax paper. This way you will not have frosting on the glass. Now, you can add something of your own. Chopped nuts, fresh berries or coconut flakes will add elegance to the top of the cake, while sprinkles, edible sparkles or crushed candy add a little fun.

Three layer cake on stand

Adventurous Cake Recipes


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