How to Make Buttercream Icing Smooth

Since the first time cake and buttercream were combined, getting a beautiful, smooth coat on a cake has frustrated, annoyed and down-right irritated countless cake decorators. But the good news is: it’s truly possible. Here is a great step-by-step tutorial on how to make buttercream icing smooth.

Supplies for Making Buttercream Smooth

Here is what you will need:

  • A cake that is crumb coated and chilled for at least 20-30 minutes
  • A bench scraper
  • Offset spatula
  • A quilting triangle (optional but recommended)
  • A turntable
  • A cake board that is larger than your cake by 4-6 inches
  • A spray bottle filled with clean water

Let’s talk about bench scrapers for a moment. They can be found at craft stores, some grocery stores or anywhere kitchen supplies are sold. There are flimsy plastic ones and heavier metal ones, which both are very useful. Here are a few of the ones I have collected over the years. Beginning from the far left in the picture above, let’s review each.

  • Ateco: It has a nice straight corner which is great for getting straight sides on your cake, but it is a little flimsy, so it can bend and I don’t trust it to stay straight.
  • Metal Scraper: I purchased this one at Target, but it is great because it has nice sharp corners and won’t bend.
  • Plastic Fat Daddio: It has a straight edge for the cake, and is thicker plastic, so it doesn’t bend as easily. But the side curves too quickly which makes it hard to keep a straight edge on the cake.
  • Wilton Scraper: It has rounded corners which will not give you a good bottom edge. It may work for evening out the top of the cake, but I would not use it for the sides of the cake.
  • Quilting Triangle: This is a quilting tool that can be found at most craft and quilting stores. It is the perfect tool to get nice clean, straight edges! It also works well for evening out tops.

Directions:

buttercream-iced cake

Step 1:

Once you have a well chilled crumb coated cake we are ready to start!

Using an offset spatula, add another layer of buttercream on top of your crumb coat. It is always best to work with a chilled cake, so your buttercream will be nice and solid; it cuts down on a lot of headaches!

Note: This is a 6” cake, so as you can see in the picture above, the cake is sitting on a 6” cake board. I place the 6” cake board on a larger board (12”) so I have an even base to hold the scraper against to give me a nice smooth edge.

smoothing buttercream icing on the cake

Step 2:

Once you have a nice thick second coat of buttercream, use the bench scraper of your choice to smooth the edges. Rotate your turntable while holding the bench scraper flat against the board.

smoothing buttercream edges on cake

Step 3:

Then, when your edges are mostly smooth, use the scraper or an offset spatula to draw the buttercream in toward the center of the cake.

spray for smooting buttercream

Step 4:

Once you have a mostly smooth buttercream cake, use a spray bottle or spritzer and gently spray your cake as you turn the cake on the turntable.

spraying the buttercream with water

Step 5:

After it is sprayed, place your scraper against the cake and rotate the turntable, smoothing out the outside layer of buttercream. Focus on keeping the bottom edge of the scraper flat against the turntable to get a nice straight edge on your cake.

cleaning the buttercream on cake edges

You will mostly likely get a ridge around the top of the cake. Use an offset spatula to gently draw the ridge into the center making a nice edge on your cake.

You may need to spritz and smooth a couple of times until you get the perfect finish. If you get buttercream building up on your scraper, just wipe it off to help get that nice smooth finish.

smoothing the top of the cake

Step 6:

Once you have a smooth buttercream iced cake, place it back in the fridge to chill. That way if you bump into it, you won’t have to start all over again.

moving the buttercream-iced cake with spatula

Step 7:

Once it is chilled, remove it from the larger board by running an offset spatula under the cake, then transfer it to where it’s final placement.

beautiful smooth buttercream cake

You now have a beautifully smooth buttercream iced cake. From here you can decorate it, or cover the cake in fondant to for a fabulous fondant finish.

27 Comments

Mary C in WA

You used Bonnie Hunter’s favorite ruler to smooth the cake frosting. LOL wonder if she knows?

Reply
Sabrina

What is the function of spraying water?
can you explain a little?
is it warm /hot water to melt the butter?
or is it cold/room temp water?

Reply
Wendy

It is room temperature. When you spray the cake, it softens the buttercream, so when you run your ruler over it, the buttercream fills in all the holes and makes a very smooth finish. Try it out! You will be amazed:)

Reply
Shina

Thank you, I never thought to use a quilting triangle. Great idea.
Shina

Reply
Christina Osborn

Great tip suggestions. Especially the mini spray bottle.

Reply
Margaret Garner

Great tip on the triangle, never have seen spraying the icing with water. Is it hot? I usually dip my scraper and or spatular in a pot of hot water. Will try your way.

Reply
Melanie

I do the spatula dipped in hot water method too. I wipe off all traces of water before I touch the spatula to the cake though.

Reply
Charleen Pridemore

thank you for the info. I am just starting and I have a big one to do for next weekend.

Reply
Paula

Will the use of water to smooth change the color of the white buttercream at all?

Reply
Melanie

I am a cake decorator and I have learned that water on buttercream is a BIG no-no. Well for me at least. The water and sugar react and causes crystallization, making my buttercream grainy. So I will try the quilting triangle method with out the spritz of water.

Reply
Audree Lytle

Why do you use the metal scraper first then the plastic triangle? What is the difference?

Reply
Meghan S.

Will the water spritz work with an Italian meringue buttercream? I don’t like the confectioner’s sugar buttercream recipe but I know it’s a little easier to work with than an Swiss or italian buttercreams.

Reply
dianne

I am looking for a buttercream recipe that tastes like frosting and not a bucket of shortening,or feels like greasy shortening.My recipe calls for 1 cup. of shortening…Can I measure 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter? or mostly all butter then fill the 1 cup.measure with shortening?

Reply
Kate

I have used a recipe using coconut oil. It’s delicious and healthier.

Reply
Jerry

why do you spritz the buttercream with water? What does the water do for it?

Reply
Mary Duckworth

Spritzing with water just makes a huge mess. I’ve used the hot water method for 37 years and works better than anything to smooth buttercream.

Reply
Michael

Awesome advice, I’ve been using the hot water method for 10 years but i will definitely try the spray bottle technique, thanks

Reply
Michael

Awesome advice, I’ve been using the hot water method for 10 years but i will definitely try the spray bottle technique, thanks for sharing

Reply
Wendy

Trina,
I have not tried it with Italian BC, but it works with swiss meringue and American, so I would suggest spreading a thin layer on a cake board and try spritzing and smoothing it and see if it works before trying it on a cake. Good Luck!

Reply

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