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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.