Frosting a birthday cake

Here is a fairly simple* tutorial on frosting a birthday cake, that I have horded in my head all these years and didn't realize no one else knew. I got my information from a professional cake decorator, Liliana Bair, who did many wedding and birthday cakes in her home.
*This post looks longer than simple, but it takes some extra explaining, in case you feel like you need the "For Dummies" version, which I need quite often.

So you have to make your cakes at least a day ahead, and be sure to grease and flour your pans before baking. When they come out of the oven, let them cool for 10 minutes on a rack to make sure the bottom cools as well as the sides.

While waiting for the cakes to cool  make a glaze and prepare a place for a cake to sit for freezing and later frosting. This would be a stiff piece of cardboard covered with tin foil or a plate.

For the glaze: combine the following ingredients and stir vigorously until well blended: An electric mixer or food processor will get all the lumps out.
2 cups confectioners sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring (optional) Mexican Vanilla is most delicious unless you plan to flavor your final frosting another flavor, like mint. . .

If the cakes have a bump in the middle that is higher than the sides caused by uneven heat in the oven, this would be the time to make the cake level by gently sawing off the bump, keeping your very long, preferably serrated knife level with the pan sides. The top of your cake will become the bottom when the final frosting is done. The kids will be very happy to eat these scraps, especially if you have any frosting left over for them to use. Or not.

After cakes have cooled and middles are leveled, with a thin knife or flexible spatula carefully loosen the sides to make sure nothing sticks. Place your plate or tin foil-covered cardboard over the top of pan. Grab bottom of cake pan (it should be cooled enough to be able to handle with bare hands, but if you are chicken, put on oven mitts) and the cardboard/plate and make sure these are firmly grasped in both hands and flip it over, set  on counter and gently tap bottom of pan, testing carefully if the cake is loosening from the pan. If not, you may have to invert it and do more coaxing and gently loosening the sides with knife or flexible spatula. Continue to tap pan until cake has satisfactorily been transferred to the plate/cardboard. If you have a hard time loosening, you haven't floured the bottom of the pan enough, so you know for next time.

Pour glaze over cake and spread evenly on top and sides.

Now freeze the cakes. When frozen, this glaze will act as a barrier between frosting and knife and will not allow crumbs to shed.

The next day, when ready to frost, make sure your frosting is all made up ahead of time, and remove cakes one at a time (if you are doing layers) from freezer. Frost the cake with a flat frosting knife starting on the top middle and finishing around the sides. You will find the frozen glazed-covered brick, which is your cake, will not shed a single crumb and will not fall apart. The cold from the cake will help to solidify the frosting and will make it easy to make it very smooth. Use a wet knife to smooth over the frosting to get an even smoother finish. Repeat with next layer, making sure you have a generous supply of frosting between the layers. This is when you can apply a raspberry flavored center for a chocolate cake, if desired. Continue with all layers until you have the desired height. I would not recommend more than three layers without getting an additional tier.

Now you are ready to decorate with all sorts of beautiful piped edges and flowers.

ed note: If for some reason you have experienced a disaster and are ready to give up making birthday cakes forever*, try this:
Freeze your disaster right now, and try adding more frosting in an hour or two. It will require defrosting before adding candles, but you may be able to save it. *I love you Jenny.


Jenny said...

You're sweet to try to help me. Madelyn cried when I proclaimed my banning of homemade birthday cakes (even though she doesn't like them and wants pie on her birthday) so I might give this method a try for Greta's birthday. We shall see.

Sailor said...

Very interesting, Friend. It only makes sense that a glazed, frozen cake is going to be more durable, but I wouldn't have thought to glaze and freeze it.

Katie said...

Humm... I'll have to try this as well. :) good post!