Monday, November 22, 2010

Follow Through: How to Ice a Sheet Cake

I know I know--I promised pies and projects this week--they're coming. But I figured it would be kind of silly of me to show you how to marble a cake last week and not go ahead and show you how to ice a sheet cake with buttercream. It's a good skill to have and it always wow's family when you bring out a pretty cake and say, "oh-this old thing? why, fiddle-dee-dee, I just put this together myself." (because everyone says "fiddle-dee-dee").

Again, we are working with a basic 9x13 sheetcake, single layer. A cake like this will feed 20-24 nicely so it's good for small family gatherings.

The first step is to place your cake on a board. While you can buy a package of cake boards cheaply from any store that carries cake supplies, you can just as easily make your own from any clean piece of cardboard laying around. Cover in heavy duty aluminum foil.  Voila!

Now place your cake on the board. I prefer upside down myself. I know other bakers that go right-side up. I just find that the smooth, even side of the bottoms is nicer to work with and easier to keep level.

If you are using a store bought buttercream, you'll need at least 5 tubs. I like to have 6-8 cups of buttercream prepared for a small sheetcake. There's no such thing as extra-you just freeze what is left.
And, no, I don't buy buttercream either. I like to use a blend of 66% butter to 33% shortening ratio so the buttercream is light in texture and not overly-rich.

With your offset spatula, toss about 2 heaping cups of buttercream on to the center of the cake. Now use the spatula to push the buttercream outward to the edges of the cake. You will find that if you angle your spatula about 45 degrees and always keep the icing in front of the blade, the icing will spread easily and you won't have as much trouble leveling out the frosting later. Push outward, allowing the icing to hang over the edge of the top. This will help when you begin to coat the sides. And don't worry if it's totally smooth yet. First we will coat, then we will level.

Now, making sure you have a good-sized glob on the end of the spatula, smear it down the side of the sheet. Go fast-don't hesitate here. Keep the spatula straight up and down for a straight side. The more you over-think the physics of the situation, the more likely you are to screw up. As you smear, you will pull the icing that was hanging over the edge from the top. Always make sure you have icing ahead of the spatula. Otherwise, you will get crumbs in your frosting.

As you round the edge of the first side, be sure to carry forward a glob of frosting. This will make covering the corners much easier. Again, go faster than you have time to think about it and you'll be fine.
The entire process takes practice; don't expect to do it perfectly the first time....but don't talk yourself out of learning how because you think it's too hard. Every professional started exactly where you are right now. Trust me.
As you cover the sides, you will build up a ridge on the top's a bad cycle, I know. But this ridge will actually help you smooth out the top at the end. 

Just as at the beginning you PUSHED the the frosting out to the corners, now you will do the exact opposite and PULL the frosting in, diagonally across the top to smooth it out. If you find that the frosting is getting grainy or seems to be kind of tearing up the surface instead, wet the spatula in cool water before each pull until it is smooth. (You can also achieve a smoother surface by using a spray bottle of water with a fine mist setting to spray on the surface).

gel colors
adding a textured border
Now you have a basic cover for a sheetcake. This is how they all start. Now you can add borders and writing and sprinkles and flowers and flotsum to your heart's content.

This cake was for Thing 2's baptism. No limbo for my babies. I'll show you the rest of the steps of finishing the cake because thanks to Aunt Katie (Thing 2's Godmother), I had someone to take pictures while I prattled on.

Adding top border with
shell tip
Adding bottom border

adding drop flowers with
shell tip
turning roses

using scissors to add rose

close up on flowers
that anchor the corner

Thing 2


ash said...


i probably wont do this b/c it's WAY outta my league, but i'm always oh-so-impressed with your mad skillz.

betty crocker said...

but that's the whole point of me showing you this--it's NOT out of your league!! That's why I take all the pics-so you can see there's no voodoo required :)

ash said...

teeheeheee ;-)

there's a difference between ABILITY to do a project and DESIRE to do a project.....the passion behind the act that drives..

yes, if i had the desire, i might attempt it :-)

betty crocker said...

I suppose I should surrender myself to the fact that family only reads this blog out of pity for me and not because they have any DESIRE to try things
wah wah wah

ash said...

i made crepes, and the peanut butter bars...and i'll make more stuff just as soon as i get the time :-)

and not just family reads.....everyone else is just shy...

betty crocker said...

oh Honey, I know you bake, I'm just giving you a hard time because I'm a tortured soul

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick tutorial on icing. I am making my son's bday cake this week. I ordered a rice paper photo topper, but I still need to get the icing right. My flaw, I think too much. Thanks for the tip on just doing it. I will give it a try.