During this time of year, I’m flooded with birthdays. There’s my son’s, my husband’s, mom’s, daughter’s, and dad’s. Shortly following we have holidays too, where cake should be expected at least once…or twice if we really have the holiday spirit. Now I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a whole lotta cake!
Like most people, I’ve always loved cake. Unlike most people though, I like to make my cake from scratch. And I like to make it vegan style. There’s nothing better than a well made, home made, put-a-lot-of-lovin’-into-it cake. Smeared with fluffy frosting, it’s no wonder why people look for any reason to have it (Birthdays! Holidays! Weddings! Mondays!). Over the years, I’ve perfected the way that I make cakes, and frost them. In the past, I used to work at an ice cream shop decorating cakes (lots to learn when your product will melt any moment). I’ve also read up on the subject of frosting, as well as made all of my family cakes for the past 6 years or so (I think the last time I bought a cake, my girls just turned 3).
So I thought it was about time I shared with you guys my method for icing a cake. I’m providing a picture for each step so you can really get the feel for what you are doing. While it’s great to have fancy supplies for this process (a wheel comes to mind), it’s not necessary. The only thing I would suggest investing in is a good icing knife (you can see an example of this in the pictures below), because it really helps spread the icing a hell of a lot better than a butter knife. Other than that, you just need practice.
Now, the last thing I want to mention before we get started, is to make sure you begin the icing process with a cooled cake! Once upon a time, I read that a good cake takes two days- and ever since then I’ve followed that rule. One day is reserved for baking, cooling, and refrigerating your cake layers. That way, the next day you can begin your frosting adventure with a 100% cooled cake- which makes the process of decorating easier and more fun (because you’re not tired from baking!).
So anyway, let’s ice our cake shall we? Woo hoo!
Step 1: Just a little trim off the top- Place your first layer (the base) on your desired plate. You want to use a plate that is as flat as possible. Using a plate that slopes downward toward the middle will cause problems later on. Now, using a knife (a bread knife works best!), and moving from right to left, trim the top part of your cake off. Why? Typically when we bake a cake, it comes out with a rounded top. Trimming this rounded edge off creates a flat top- and is easier to stack the next layer and ice the cake in general.
Step 2: Add your filling- Now, we want to add the middle layer of the cake, the special part…the filling. On this cake I’m adding a chocolate coffee icing. Spread your desired filling over the base layer with your frosting knife. Remember: your filling does not have to be the same icing as the rest of the cake! You can add a different type of frosting, or even add melted fudge, vegan caramel, or fruit preserves, such as strawberries or blueberries. Trust me, there is something magical about a white cake with fresh strawberry preserves in the middle- Mmm!!
Step 3: Stack your layers- Next, stack your 2nd layer on top. If you need to trim, now is the time to do so, but just remember– when you trim, sometimes it is hard for the icing to stick to the cake. The middle doesn’t matter as much, because it’s on the inside. However, when you are icing the outside, it can be really frustrating when you are pulling up cake crumbles along the way. So, only trim what is necessary. If it’s a touch rounded on the top, and you don’t plan on stacking or placing decorative pieces on top, just leave it. You will notice in the picture below that the edges of my cake are raised up a bit, but I didn’t trim them because it will be easier to ice over them versus working with trimmed cake.
Step 4: Ice the top baby- With your icing knife, add a thick layer of frosting on the top. You can come as close to the edge as you’d like. Once you’ve done that, spread the frosting gently, from left to right, working from one side of the cake to the other, to really even it out. Or do a swoop in a clockwise motion, whatever works best for you. Don’t worry about making it perfect, because you’ll probably give it another go before you’re done.
Step 5: Layer up the sides and work it- Now, scrape a big glob of icing on your frosting knife, and stick it on the side of your cake. You’ll want to pull your knife forward with one hand, while turning the plate away from you with your other (this is where a wheel would come in handy, but with practice, you can make this motion on your own). Continue to add globs of frosting, until you have fully covered your cake. This will not look pretty!!! Don’t worry, we are going to go back and tidy it up! Push the fear to the back of your mind, and work on faith- this will turn out beautiful!
Step 6: Smooth it out- Now that you have your cake covered, we are going to do the same motion again. Only this time, we are just moving the frosting knife around the cake, making it pretty. The best way to do this is once again, pretend like your working on a wheel. Move the knife toward you, while pushing the plate away from you. Gently pull the knife around the cake, smoothing it out. If you have to do it a couple of times, that’s ok too. If the frosting rises up on the top, smooth it down around the top edge of the cake. You can give the top another run down if you need to do so. Also, it’s ok if you need to add more icing, just repeat steps 5 and 6 until you get it looking the way you want it, no big deal.
Step 7: Clean it up- Now that you have your cake looking lovely, you need to clean the edges. No, not with your fingers! It sounds tempting, but please don’t lick your way around the cake lol. Using a wet washcloth, run it around the corner of your plate, wiping away any unwanted frosting. This cleans up your masterpiece, and makes the presentation look a lot better.
You’re almost done! Take a look at your beautiful cake so far, you did a good job!
Step 8: Decorate it- Time for the fun part! Add any decorations you want! This can be a second layer of frosting, candles, cake ornaments, or whatever else you can think of! Use your imagination, and get creative. For this cake, I added a second layer of chocolate coffee icing, in a cross hatching pattern across the top. To do this effect, simply add frosting to a sandwich bag (take a spoonful and stick it in the corner of the bag). Cut the very tip off the baggie, and viola!
I think it is very important to mention that when you are “writing” on your cake, don’t stop if you “mess up.” Why? Well, if you stop, chances are you will actually upset your groove and it will cause a downward spiral of “mess ups.” Trust me I know! The best thing to do, is to ride on faith, and don’t stop until you’re done. If you’re writing ‘happy birthday’ and the icing curls a way you don’t like, don’t stop- just finish your cursive writing. At the end, if you think you can fix it, decide then. Icing can be unpredictable sometimes, especially when using a baggie (this is where those fancy shmancy tools come in).
Lastly, on the subject of decorating, remember that it’s the little imperfections that make it grand. Yeah, it’s not manufactured- it’s made from home, from scratch, with love, by YOU! Your little marks of creativity are your staple, so own it! Be proud of your work, and all the little quirks.
Congratulations! You just frosted your own cake! Woo hoo! It’s now time to begin the best step of all, which is to celebrate it! And eat it! Yum! The cake in this post is a combination of a vegan “buttered” vanilla white cake, and a black magic chocolate coffee cake. The filling, as I mentioned, was also chocolate coffee flavored, and it was topped with simple vegan buttercream icing.
I hope that the next time you frost your cake, that it turns out beautiful! Thanks for reading my post on frosting, and please subscribe to my blog for more on cake in the future! For more vegan cakes, check out my post on this delicious “Cookie Monster” Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake:
Are there any tips you have for frosting cakes? Share in the comments below!
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