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Home-Baked Holiday Gifts: Frosting Tools and Techniques

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Decorating homemade cakes and cookies for the holidays can be extremely fun and rewarding. With the tools and techniques described here, you can create beautifully decorated holiday cakes and cookies for gifts or party treats.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Sam Hanna]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Sam Hanna

Essential icing tips

When you're just getting started, you'll repeatedly rely on round icing tips #1 through #10. You should also gather the following more specialized tips:

  • Star tips, such as #16, #18, #21, and #32

  • Basket weave tip, such as #48

  • Leaf tips, such as #67 and #352

  • Petal tips, such as #102, #103, #104, and #125

Couplers for pastry bags

To fit a tip onto a pastry bag, you need a coupler, which consists of two parts:

  • A round plastic cone that you fit inside the pastry bag

  • A coupler ring that you screw over the tip on the outside of the bag

Couplers are useful when your cake design involves different piping designs in the same color frosting.

Icing spatulas

In the icing spatula arena, most decorators prefer offset or angle-blade spatulas. They're more flexible and give a smoother finish. Get two sizes of the offset kind: a 4-inch one and a 9-inch one. In addition, you'll also get a lot of use out of a straight 8-inch spatula, which is particularly good for crumb coating a cake.

Frosting techniques

Frosting a cake is more than just slapping on a layer of sweet confection and calling it a day. Frosting the right way requires time, tools, and attention to detail.

When you have your plain or colored frosting ready to apply to your cake, check its consistency. If the frosting is too thick, you'll tear the cake as you attempt to spread the frosting. To thin out your frosting, return it to the mixer and add some milk (a teaspoon at a time) until it's the right spreadable consistency.

If the frosting is too thin, it will run or puddle, leaving you with incomplete and unattractive coverage. If it was once the right consistency, it probably has just gotten too warm, so put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow it to thicken.

How to frost a two-layer, 9-inch round cake.

These guidelines are easily adaptable to other cake sizes.

  1. Gather all the tools you'll need to frost: wax paper, offset icing spatula, frosting knife, silicone brush, and (preferably) a pedestal that has a rotating round top.

  2. Place four 2-x-8-inch strips of wax paper around the board your cake will sit on for presentation.

  3. Place the first layer of the leveled cake on the board and then put the board on the pedestal.

  4. With the silicone brush, sweep all excess crumbs off your cake layer.

  5. Use the frosting knife to scoop about 1/2 cup of frosting onto the cake layer.

  6. With the offset icing spatula, spread the frosting evenly and smoothly on the top of the cake only.

    The initial coat will be a scant, thin layer of frosting — sort of a "protective seal" for your cake. The subsequent coat will be quite thicker, about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch thick.

  7. Place the second cake layer — flat side up — on top of the first and again, sweep any excess crumbs off the top and sides of cake.

  8. Use the frosting knife to scoop 1/2 cup of frosting on top of the cake and use the offset spatula to spread it out in even strokes to be a thin seal for the crumb coat, and a 1/4- to 3/8-inch thickness for the second coat.

    You can use excess frosting from the top of the cake to frost the sides of the cake, rotating the pedestal as you use the flat edge of the spatula for a smooth, even finish. Add more frosting from the bowl as necessary to cover the sides with a thin layer of frosting.

  9. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before you apply the final frosting coat.

  10. For the final coat of frosting on the cake's top and sides, repeat Step 8 but with a thicker layer of frosting.

    Keep adding and subtracting frosting until you have the smooth, finished look that you desire.


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