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How to Prep and Frost a Cake

Watch and learn our techniques on how to frost a layer cake in this video from EVERY DAY WITH RACHAEL RAY magazine, plus get tricks and tips from the test kitchen on the best way to use buttercream frosting. From our collection of Step by Step cooking videos.

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-Hi, I'm Tracey Seaman, the test kitchen director at Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine. Today, I'm gonna show you how to prepare a cake for frosting. I have recipe here called the chocolate snack and cake, which instead of baking in a 13 x 9-inch pan, I did it in 2 rounds, which lends itself to more of a celebration cake. I'm gonna take one of the rounds, and right here I have. I'm gonna show you what I'm working it. I have a spinning cake stand, which you can get at cake supply store, at a craft store. Sometimes, you get plastic ones or you can get heavy duty metal ones, which are great too. Then, I have a beautiful plate that I'm gonna put my bottom layer on, but I'm gonna start working with the top layer first. I have this on a cardboard round, which you can also get at a baking store or craft supply store, and the first thing we wanna do, we wanna make sure that both of the layers are level on top, so the cake looks perfect when you frost it and doing this is much easier than you think. As could see, there's a little bit of lift to the cake, so I'm gonna start with my serrated bread knife. Now, since this is a 9-inch cake, this is a perfect size knife to use. If I was gonna make a bigger cake, I would want a bigger knife for ease. I'm gonna start at one edge and my knife is perfectly horizontal. I'm gonna turn the cake as I begin to slice into it. I don't wanna slice across. I wanna go all the way around. Okay, I'm all the way around, and I'm gonna keep slicing toward the center, and by the time I get around a couple of times, the whole top will be loosened, have a nice flat surface, just about there, okay. Now, these scraps are great for snacking on too. I'm gonna wipe my hands a little and them I'm gonna do the same exact thing with the other layer, but I'm gonna put that on the decorative plate. Now that both of my cake layers are trimmed and ready, I'm gonna show you how to use a pastry bag. I have a 16-inch long canvas pastry bag, which has a waxy coating on the inside. I like this best for decorating because they are easy to handle. You can kind of keep a good grip while you're working with frosting. This is something called the coupler. This is an extra large and then there is a smaller medium size one. What's great about this is it makes it for you to change tips from the pastry bag. Now, brand new pastry bag has a pretty narrow end. I have the star tip here, which you can insert this right in the bag, but it's safer to use a coupler, because you don't have to worry about anything, any icing leaking out, but this is a little bit narrow, so I'm gonna trim about an inch or so off the top. Okay, and then taped the inside of the coupler, put it inside the back, and I wanna squeeze it really hard so it's firmly down in place. I'll put the tip o the top and screw the cap on. This will prevent any icing from oozing out of the tip of the bag. Okay, I have my pastry bag already. So, now, what I'm gonna do I have some great Vanilla Swiss Merengue Buttercream, which is nice and fluffy, which is perfect for this technique that we're gonna do. I'm gonna pull the top of the pastry bag down and this serves 2 purposes. One is that it serves as a handle for when I'm filling the bag with icing. The other one is it's going to keep the icing from being on the edge. If I have icing around the edge, it can get the back all greasy, get all over my hand, and my shirt and my face, everywhere. So, we don't want that. Okay, so I'm gonna fold this down, I'm gonna fill it about two thirds full with the frosting. Now, this is a pure buttercream, which is the most delicious kind. Okay, now, once you get some frosting in there, you're gonna jerk the back a little so that it goes down, gonna putt just a little bit more. I'm gonna fold the top back up and then start at the top. I don't wanna have too much air be in the back, but I wanna make sure that nothing comes out of the bag top. All right, I'm gonna spin this around to sort of seal it and then you wanna push on it in case there's any air. This seems pretty good. You could have burped the bag a little bit. All right. Now, you should use your dominant hand to squeeze and then your secondary hand to kind of keep it stable as you go around the cake. First thing I wanna do is pipe a ring around the top of the cake right by the edge and I guess I'm right above the cake just barely above half an inch to an inch above the cake. Now, I'm gonna keep the pastry bag in my hand just like this so doesn't empty out and spoon some frosting in the middle. And this is the kind of technique you wanna use if you wanna just do a different kind of filling. We're icing and filling the cake with same frosting. The ring around the outside keeps the filling from oozing out of the cake. Use a little offset spatula or you could use a butter knife even to spread the filling in, and if you feel like you have too much filling, which I think I do, I can take some off and scrape it back into the bowl, but we wanna cover everything and then the ring may push that a little bit more, but were gonna deal with that a little bit later. We got a nice even layer filling inside the cake. If it makes you feel more secure, you can put a rubber band around this, but I'm gonna just lay it on the counter, and I will take my other cake layer. Now, this cake layer is right side up with the trimmed edge toward the filling. This one I'm gonna flip into my hand so that have it up side down because the bottom of the cake has a nicer edge just so it looks a little bit more professional, and I put this on top and just gently press it around, make sure that the edges are even and matching up, and I wanna take any crumbs especially when you're working with the chocolate cake with white icing. You wanna try to keep the crumbs-- extra crumbs that are on the plate to a minimum, so gonna brush all of them off, get them out of the way, I take my little spatula, scrape it off. You could go around the cake just in case there's any little things you wanna get rid of and this will smooth out the filling and see this is also gonna take off any crumbs that might get in your way as you're working, and again brush off the plate, and I'm gonna go back to my pastry bag. Now, we wanna start at the bottom edge of the cake. I'm gonna squeeze as evenly as I can and I'm gonna go-- I'm gonna go up and down and as I'm squeezing-- I'm squeezing the icing down as I need more icing to the top of the bag. Okay, now that I've cut all the way around, I'm gonna smooth out the frosting. Using a slightly larger, more than slightly larger offset spatula and any excess frosting I'm gonna scrape into the bowl going straight all the way around. Now, if I have a kind of troubled spot here just gonna zigzag over it because the icing wasn't sticking into the cake, it was a little bit heavy. So, I'm gonna take more off, do this all the way around. That looks good, gonna refill the frosting bag and do the top in the same way. I'm gonna start from the edge and spiral around. Because the star tip is pretty wide, I don't have to go exactly even. Keep going around. It looks there's about ¾ inch of frosting that comes out of the back, so even though I have some space in between, it's gonna smooth out just fine, and as I said, you could use a butter knife to do this or if you only have the smaller offset spatula, that's okay too. Okay, so smoothen the top covering any chocolate cake, and then I want to make the top nice and level, then I'm gonna go around the sides again to smooth up the sides. This is going to bring the excess frosting up over the top, just go quickly around, smoothing the icing towards the center of the top, and there you have it, it's a nice professional looking cake that you can do at home very easily. This is Tracey Seaman from Every Day with Rachael Ray. Thanks for watching and I'll see you next time.