I made this cake to experiment with a few techniques that I learned from watching a YouTube video on how to get a smooth surface with buttercream icing. So to start, I made a 6″ chocolate cake using my go-to chocolate cake recipe. I also made a batch of Wilton’s regular buttercream icing and replaced the vanilla extract with mint extract. I tinted the icing green using Wilton’s gel color Kelly Green.
For some reason, my cakes sank in the middle and overall while baking. Not quite sure why that happened with such a small cake, but it gave me a chance to try something. A crumb coat. Yes, a crumb coat is pretty basic but I have never used one before. Why? Well laziness had something to do with it, I won’t lie. I have been able to get relatively smooth and crumb-free icing without the crumb coat, so I figured why bother with the extra step. But I tried it this time and I don’t think I’ll ever skip this step again! First of all, it eliminated a lot of frustration not having to worry about crumbs. I am easily frustrated, so I appreciated this 🙂 I used a butter knife to slap on the icing and fill in any dents in the cake (caused by the aforementioned sinking). And voila – an even, though crumb-filled, very thin layer of icing. I popped it in the freezer for faster crusting before my next step.
Now normally I use an offset spatula to ice cakes and it works very well. But in the video, they used an icing smoother like this:
I don’t own one of these and I didn’t want to drive down to Michaels (25 miles away) and risk them not having one, so I took a trip to my husband’s happy place – Home Depot. He goes there several times per weekend anyway and it’s practically across the street! And there I picked up a set of 3 plastic putty knifes in 6″, 4″, and 2″ widths.
First I used my small offset spatula, starting at the bottom of the cake and working up. I put it on in large globs and it didn’t mess with the cake or crumbs (due to the crumb coat!). Then I used the putty knife to scrape the sides while turning the cake on a turn table. It worked perfectly! Lastly I smoothed the top and the wide surface of the knife really helped.
Now really the whole point of this cake was to test out a method called “the paper towel method”. Using a non-patterned/textured paper towel (Viva brand) you lay the towel onto the crusted cake and basically iron it with a fondant smoother. The key words here are crusted cake. My icing had not crusted. This recipe is a crusting buttercream, but since it is so sweet, I normally cut back on the sugar by about a 1/2 a cup. And that change to the ratio of fat (butter and shortening) to sugar caused it not to crust. And I didn’t realize this until I already had the icing on the cake so it was too late to add more sugar. So…the paper towel method will have to wait for another day.
In the meantime, my coworkers thoroughly enjoyed this experiment 🙂