Frosting a cake is an art, one which every home-baker wants to master, but few actually can. It gives the cake the personality it needs to make itself look even more delectable. Frosting is what separates a Plain Jane from a Barbie Doll. In other words, frosting adds the kind of elegance and charm to a cake which makes it irresistible to you.
All home-bakers want to bake like pros eventually. You may have mastered the art of baking but what about the decoration? That takes years of dedication.
Looking at all those professionally baked cakes at eateries may make one think of frosting as a piece of cake. However, it is not until you actually get down to doing it that you realize just how tricky it is.
Relax! I’m not trying to get you all worked up. But the truth is it does require skill and attention. And because there’s no doubt that cakes look incomplete without frosting, here are a few tips to help you with it.
Prep the Sponge
Well begun is half done, it is said. In keeping with that, to be able to frost perfectly, you need to get your sponge right. Typically, an 8 or 10-inch thick sponge cake can be used to obtain 4 slices/layers.
Make sure, however, that your cake has completely cooled down before you start slicing it. For those who haven’t ever sliced a cake before, don’t fret. Once the cake is ready, put it on a turn table and hold it in place by gently placing the palm of your hand over it.
Hold the toothed side of your knife horizontally against the sponge from the side and slowly start turning the cake clockwise. Saw through the cake slowly and gently and cut the cake about an inch towards the center from all sides. Repeat until the cake is cut all the way into 4 equally thick layers.
You now have 4 layers of sponge to work with. If the top layer is domed or uneven, use the knife to level it.
Remember, these layers are delicate and can break, so always place them on a rimless turntable over a parchment sheet.
Measure Your Frosting Right
I’ve always maintained that correct measurements are of utmost importance when baking. This principle applies to frosting as well. Too much of it will overpower the taste of your cake (apart from overwhelming your taste buds), and too little can leave you dissatisfied with it.
If you bake an 8 or a 10-inch layer cake, you should do well with 2 to 3 cups of frosting. Make sure you bring it to room temperature before using it, unless you’re using whipped cream, which can be used chilled.
In case you’re in a hurry to frost your cake or just cannot conjure up the energy to make it yourself, you can opt for the store-bought pourable frostings. Not that I’m an advocate of these frostings; I would always recommend making them yourself, but they’re convenient. Simply microwave them and pour over a warm cake and you’re done!
Fill Between the Layers
With the basics in place, it’s now time to start with the frosting process. To frost perfectly, you may want to secure the cake layer with the help of the frosting itself. After placing the parchment paper over your turntable, use a dash of the frosting to secure the cake layer, so that it doesn’t slip around.
Scoop in the frosting and spread it carefully over the bottom layer. Top this with the next layer and repeat the scooping and spreading till all the layers are arranged vertically. You’ll need about half a cup of frosting per layer.
Once the layers are filled and the cake stacked, refrigerate it for about half-an-hour for the filling to harden and set.
Don’t Skip the Crumb Coat
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and brush off the loose crumbs.
Before you actually get down to frosting the cake, you need to cover it with a thin layer of the frosting called the crumb coat. Doing so holds the remaining crumbs in place at the time of applying the frosting. It’s like priming a wall before painting it.
Now start frosting the sides of the cake. Use a spatula to scoop a generous blob of frosting and hold it against the cake, perpendicular to the turntable. Spread the frosting moving it down and away from you without lifting it. Do this until all the sides are covered. Keep wiping excess frosting and crumbs from the spatula as and when needed.
Once the sides are done, move to the top of the cake (it’s up to you, really) and spread a generous layer of the frosting evenly over it. This need not be perfect as this is not the final coat. Refrigerate your cake again for half-an-hour for this coat to harden.
Add the Final Touches
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and apply the final coat of frosting on top of the cake. It should be easy to even it out, thanks to the crumb coat below it. Remember to wipe the spatula clean every time you lift it off the cake.
You can either spread the frosting to make it look silky-smooth or make swirls and whirls into it. For a more luscious and rich-looking cake, make more frosting and apply 3 coats.
Fill pastry bags with frosting for further decorating the cake with dots or other designs. Use colorful/chocolate sprinkles, chocolate flakes or shavings, marshmallows, jelly, fruits, nuts, etc. to make it look more ornate.
Of course there are easy ways to decorate your sponge cake too. You can always dust it with powdered sugar, but even you know that doing so won’t be a patch on a well-frosted, exquisite cake. A little bit of hard work and creativity will go a long way in helping you bake and enjoy a wonderfully good-looking and deliciously-frosted cake.