Sunday, April 25, 2010

Smooth Buttercream Frosting

Getting the frosting smoothly on your cake is the key to a professional looking cake design.  The method I use to achieve smooth frosting is called the Viva method.  I don't know who originally came up with this method.  If I ever find out I'll give them a big hug.  Whoever you are, if you're out there give me a shout and I'll give you credit here for this fabulous idea.  This method requires a crusting type of buttercream.  You can find the recipe I use here.

I like to apply my frosting with a small offset spatula.  You can use whatever utensil you are comfortable with.


Apply a good thick layer of frosting to your cake.  I do the top first and then the sides.  Keep the frosting ahead of your spatula.  This keeps cake crumbs out of your layer of frosting.


After you have covered your entire cake with a layer of frosting you are ready for the next step.


With my cake on the turntable I scrape my frosting with a plastic scraper.  Most decorators use a pastry scraper for this job.  I found this plastic scraper in the hardware section and I love it.  I hold the scraper against the side of the cake, perpendicular to the cake board.  Then slowly turn the turntable to smooth out the frosting and make the sides straight up and down.  Think of this step as scraping off anything that is not straight. 


Next, use the scraper to smooth the top.  Make sure your scraper is clean of frosting and draw it across the top of the cake.  Start at the outer edge and pull toward the middle.  Clean off the scraper after each pass.  Keep a close eye on the level of the top surface.  (I guess taking pictures with your left hand while working with your right is an acquired skill.  Sorry for the blur.)


This makes the frosting fairly smooth but we aren't quite done yet.  Now you need to let the cake sit for about 30 minutes.  This allows the frosting to form a light crust.  Once you can lightly touch the frosting without it sticking to your finger, you are ready for the next step.


You will need a roll of Viva paper towels.  Viva paper towels are the only towels that I'm aware of that have no texture on them.  That makes them perfect for this job.  Place one towel on the top of the cake.  Next, use your hand or a fondant smoother to "iron" the top of the cake.  Use gentle pressure to smooth out the frosting.  The fondant smoothers are an inexpensive tool that makes this job easier.


On the sides, work your way around the cake  until the entire surface is smooth.  Now you have a perfect canvas for any decoration you add.

Happy caking!



--Frostine 

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35 comments:

  1. I can attest...this technique works like a charm, even for the unskilled among us!

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  2. I have always wondered how this was accomplished. Thanks.

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  3. Thank you for sharing! I will have to try this out on Montana's birthday cake.

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  4. Thank you so much for your detailed instructions and photos. I don't think VIVA is available here in Canada. I use parchment paper as our paper towels are all textured.
    I love this site....just found it tonight. It is very helpful for a beginner like me.
    Thanks again

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  5. I'm so sorry you don't have Viva towels. Parchment paper or computer paper is a good substitute.

    I'm so pleased you found the site helpful! If you ever have specific questions about decorating, please feel free to email me.

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  6. Thanks Frostine....yes will for sure email you
    with any questions that I have.
    Deb Hughes

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  7. Sandy Sheppard does this technique as well. I actually just watched a video online of her doing the paper towel method.

    I have a question,
    I am not sure if you know of the grocery store Publix, but I love their buttercream frosting. It's my favorite. Do you know the consistency of their frosting? I am going to bake a cake and buy their frosting, and I want to know the consistency for decorating.

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  8. I have never used Publix buttercream. There are no Publix stores where I live.

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  9. When you let the cake sit for 30 minutes, is it in the fridge or room temp?

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  10. I let it sit at room temperature.

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  11. Thank you!! I tried some other buttercream frosting recipes and failed horribly at beging about to decorate or have a smooth cake. Your recipe is the best!!!!!. Any suggestions on how to get the pan ready so the cake doesn't still and there are few if any crumbs??

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  12. Guess I should have worn my glasses to type! I meant to say stick to the pan:)

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  13. If you want a guaranteed cake release, put parchment paper on the bottom of your pan.

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  14. beautiful finish. if you were to cover with fondant do we keep the frosted cake in fridge to firm it up or can we drape the frosted cake with fondant rightaway.
    Also how high are the tiers in the picture. 2" or 3" tiers. I see there are 3 layers. I am trying to find out cause i see this size all the time on wedding cakes. nice and tall. am planning to make a wedding cake-my first one!

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  15. Hi pearse,
    These cakes were baked in 2" pans. Actual height of the layers is probably closer to 1 1/2" so the whole tier with frosting is approximately 5" - 5 1/2". You can cover with fondant imediately, but if you are wanting really sharp corners, it helps to refrigerate just long enough to firm up the frosting. Good luck on your 1st wedding cake and have fun!

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  16. Serious Cakes came up with the Viva method I believe. She is on Youtube, and also has a facebook acct. Yes it is a great method!

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  17. I honestly don't know who came up with the idea and certainly don't pretend to be it's inventor. It is an awesome technique and I'm thankful to whoever discovered it.

    Serious Cakes is a great decorator.

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  18. We have viva in Australia but unfortunately every one I've seen is textured. :(

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  19. If you are careful not to wrinkle it, you can do the same technique with parchment paper.

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  20. are you in new orleans I am looking for someone who does the fondant animal and flower can you e-mail me about this maheiabatonrouge@aol.com

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  21. I love the look of fondant but hate the taste. Thank you so much for this.

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  22. I am just a beginner when it comes to making cakes but I consistently have a problem with my fondant bubbling after I cover my cake with fondant. It is always where I stack my two layers together. Any suggestions? I have tried different techniques to try and get all of the air out but I have been unsuccessful so far. I am not sure if this is the correct blog to post on but I would love some advice! Thank you!!!

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    1. Sounds like you have a problem with bulging. Believe me, you are not the only one to experience this. It can be so frustrating! I have a couple things for you to try. First, make sure that your cake is room temp when you cover it with the fondant. Many people try to cover the cakes after they have been chilled in the refrigerator. The change in temperature can cause trouble. The second thing is to make sure that you put the layers together with a stiffened buttercream dam. Here's a link that fully explains it. http://www.thatreallyfrostsme.com/2010/06/dam-filling-full-speed-ahead.html
      I hope that will help.
      I'm so glad that you commented with your question. I love to hear from my readers!

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    2. Wow that is exactly what I was looking for. I generally use a mousse filling in between layers, and a buttercream on the outside to form a crumb coat. Thanks for your help! I will have to try this next weekend.

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  23. WOO-WEE, I JUST CAME UPON YOUR GRAND SITE.... I NEED ALL THE HELP I CAN GET SOME DAYS.. I'M GOING TO BE MAKING THIS FROSTING OF YOURS... ONE OF MY PROBLEMS IS GETTING THE TOP OF THE CAKE THAT SHARP LOOK, NOT THAT ROUND NASTY LOOK... ONE DAY, I'LL GET THE HANG OF HOW TO DO IT.....

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    1. Glad you stopped by. I think the large scraper is the key for getting sharp edges, at least it is for me. I know you'll get the hang of it. As they say, "practice makes perfect."

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  24. Hi Again, I'm back with another question... I really like this recipe of yours for butter-cream.. But, what am I doing wrong that I can not get it to crust over... after 40 minutes it's still not crusted over... Hope you can tell me, if not, Thanks, Eva

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    1. How did I miss your question for so long?! Technology is great when it works. So sorry to have not answered earlier. If your buttercream didn't crust there are a few possibilities for why. 1. high humidity will make the crusting take longer and make the crusting lighter.
      2. Whipping the frosting too long with the mixer will make it crust less. 3. If you use the trans-fat free shortening it will not crust properly. I hope that will help. Again, sorry for taking so long to answer your question.

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  25. I love this trick!! Works amazing. I do have a question... I iced a three tiered cake last night and I look in the fridge this morning and there are new lines in the cake that were not there before. Is it ok to use a paper towel on the cake again? Should I not have put the cake in the fridge? I only put it in the fridge since it sweats when I leave it out even though I have my air on. It's actually a little cold in my house. Thoughts? I have to finish this cake for tomorrow morning with fondant pieces. Any help would be so appreciated!!

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    1. If you see bulges after it has been sitting you can try to touch it up with the paper towel. If you transport the cake in the car those bulges will probably reappear. The best defense against bulges is to pipe a frosting dam between the layers. This post will explain the damming process. http://www.thatreallyfrostsme.com/2010/06/dam-filling-full-speed-ahead.html Since you can't go back and dam this cake, perhaps you can hide some of the bulging with the placement of your fondant decorations. I know you will make a beautiful cake!

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  26. Frostine..... U r a true Cake diva.. loved ur cakes n all the techniques.. I am making a cake for the next weekend. Its a pineapple cake with pineapple filling and vanilla frosting. I am planning to cover it with fondant... I wanted to know if this American buttercream will work good under fondant? Will the fondant adhere well to the buttercream... or will it dry out? also is it necessary to put in the butter and almond flavor in the icing or just vanilla is also enough?? please advice. I was planning to make SMBC...but ur technique looks so interesting.. wanna try it... Also if I am using SMBC will the fondant adhere well to the cake or will the SMBC melt as its too hot here in CA....please please advice...:)

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    1. The flavorings in the frosting is purely personal taste. If you want to only use vanilla, that is fine. I have used this frosting many times under fondant. It works great! Good luck on your pineapple cake!

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  27. Amazing stuff i will also try in this weekend at home.
    Echo Park

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  28. If someone already asked this, I apologize!!! How is it that this frosting doesn't have to be refrigerated if it has sour cream in it? I really want to use the recipe, but cottage law in my state requires that baked goods be shelf stable, and I noticed that this can be stored, sealed, for up to two weeks (so this would be perfect!). I've been using canned frosting while I've been searching for a shelf stable recipe. Thank you!

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    1. Just found the answer! I'm so happy I found your blog!

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