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Styled Eats: How to Perfectly Frost a Messy Cake

This post is sponsored by Nestlé® Toll House® Morsels, the perfect special ingredient for all of your family’s favorite treats!

Frosting cakes is one of those things that I would love to get better at. My mom would always decorate amazing cakes for our birthdays when I was a little girl and I loved them but I didn’t really inherit that cake-frosting-gene. When I am frosting a cake I usually choose a simple idea in my head how I want it to look but it it never quite seems right. I decided this year I wanted to try to get better at frosting cakes so I asked the talented pastry chef Hope Waggoner to give some easy tips on how to make cakes look perfectly frosted (ps: check out Hope’s awesome tattoo, so perfect-right?) Today’s post is on how to get that perfectly frosted and delicious messy look. Have you ever tried to frost a cake like this? It is harder than you think if you don’t know how. Today Hope is unveiling all the tricks on how to get it perfect.

Materials Needed: You can stock up on lots of cake decorating supplies but if you are going to put together a simple cake decorating kit all you really need to frost this cake is: A large Offset Spatula and a heavy duty pastry bag with large tip.

Step 1: Bake your cakes using your favorite recipe. (This is my favorite chocolate cake recipe.)
Step 2: After the cakes are baked and have cooled down, put them in saran wrap and put them in the freezer for a few hours. Cooling the cake will make the crumbs way more manageable. (As long as the cakes are wrapped, freezing it will not make a difference in the taste.)
Step 2: Remove the cakes from the freezer and trim off the top with a serrated bread knife (if needed) to create a perfectly flat layer. I prefer tall cakes which means I usually make 3-4 layers and sometimes I cut those in half to create even more layers.
Step 3: Put down the first layer of cake and taking a pastry bag of frosting create a nice even layer of frosting. Take an offset  spatula and spread out the frosting about 1″ before the edge. Repeat until all the layers are in place.
Step 4: Create a crumb layer. This layer will seal in all the crumbs before you are ready to decorate your cake. Using the large offset spatula tarting at the top of the cake and then working down the sides, create a thin and smooth layer of frosting over the entire cake. Put it in the refrigerator until the frosting sets. (About 30-60 minutes.)

Step 5: Now it’s time to frost! For best results it’s important to work with cold cake and room temperature frosting. To create that perfectly messy frosting look pile on a very very thick layer of frosting with your offset spatula. The secret to get it right is there must be a deep layer of frosting to create the texture and swirls that make it look so good. Once your thick layer of frosting is on, take the back of a spoon and begin making swirls and crests in the thick layer of frosting. Continue until the whole cake looks swoop-y and delicious.

  1. LARY@ Inspiration Nook

    August 30, 2012

    This loos incredible! I might have to attempt to make this on the weekend. Yum!

  2. Giulia

    August 30, 2012

    Thanks for the pointers on freezing the cake layers for a bit and the crumb icing – did not know that and I’m sure that will improve my frosting.

  3. Allie

    August 30, 2012

    But wait! How did you get it from the plate onto the nice clean cake stand?

      • jordan
      • August 30, 2012

      Good question! It is probably easier to just frost it on the cake stand. But we moved ours with the offset spatula and then touched up the frosting once it was on the cake stand.

  4. rhea

    August 30, 2012

    i always wind up getting frosting on the cake plate, so i use berries to hide the mess 🙂 a nice garnish and tasty.

  5. katy

    August 30, 2012

    WAIT! you missed the most important part! how did you get it on to the cake stand without ruining it?!

  6. Lauren | Seventeenth & Irving

    August 30, 2012

    One of my goals before I’m 30 is to bake a layer cake – I can’t wait to try out these frosting tips…that cake looks perfect!

  7. Kate

    August 30, 2012

    OH, the crumb layer is what I’ve been lacking this whole time! Perfect tutorial. Definitely using next time I need to make a beautiful cake!

  8. wifemothereventplanner

    August 30, 2012

    oh lord. Now I need to eat cake.

  9. The New Diplomats Wife

    August 30, 2012

    YUM. now all i will think about for the remainder of the day is chocolate cake. hungry already.

  10. erin godbey

    August 30, 2012

    I always lay strips of wax paper or parchment paper around the bottom of my cake while frosting, just under the bottom layer of cake. This keep the mess of frosting off your cake stand, and when you’re done, just pull the strips out. Clean cake stand, clean edges, and you don’t have to transfer the cake!

    eHow details this technique here:

  11. jacquelyn |lark&linen

    August 30, 2012

    I remember the first time I discovered the “crumb layer”. Revolutionary, I tell you!

  12. Martha

    August 30, 2012

    i didn’t even know i needed this! pinning now.

  13. caroline

    August 30, 2012

    this is such an awesome tutorial. i seriously ALWAYS wonder how this happens. beautiful!!!

  14. Jenna at Homeslice

    August 30, 2012

    Looks beautiful! I love that it doesn’t have to be too perfect, you know?

  15. Lily

    August 30, 2012

    Might that be the kitchen of Heidi from 101 Cookbooks? Looks very familiar!

  16. Lindsey

    August 30, 2012

    This was such a helpful post! Thanks for sharing! Plus, awesome tattoo. 😉


  17. Samira

    August 30, 2012

    it looks so good!!!!

  18. amruta

    August 30, 2012

    This Messy Cake looks gorgeous. Mouth watering. You explained it very well with photographs. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  19. Nati Veneziani

    August 31, 2012

    It looks SO yummy!

  20. Elena @ Randomly Happy

    August 31, 2012

    A crumb layer! That makes so much sense to me. I was wondering why crumbs always sneeked their way into the frosting – like some sort of frosting ninjas. I may just have to make a cake to frost so I can try this.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    x Elena @ Randomly Happy

    ps and great tatoo Hope 🙂

  21. Hannah

    August 31, 2012

    Wow thanks for this…I’ve yet to perfect frosting cakes so this is really helpful!

  22. Audrey - This Little Street

    August 31, 2012

    Yum yum – this is making me SO hungry! 🙂

  23. Jane

    August 31, 2012

    My mom taught me an awesome trick for when you want perfectly smooth frosting on top: put some apricot preserves on the top layer of the cake, chill, and then frost. The preserves seal in the crumbs and make everything super smooth.

  24. Sarah

    August 31, 2012

    well thank you for this – this is a How-To i KNOW i will use – i never knew about the crumb layer! now i get it.

  25. Ginger

    August 31, 2012

    Looks delicious! I am concerned about using eggs in the frosting, though… Could you recommend any other chocolate frosting recipes?

  26. Melissa

    August 31, 2012

    This is my third attempt to leave a comment on this post; the two previous attempts were interrupted by a Nestle Toll House survey pop up. I have to say… up to this point yours is one of my favorite blogs and I’m a little disappointed by this “sponsorship.” I would not have minded a little line of text stating the post was sponsored by…, but to have it plastered all over the blogpost is a little much. I read certain blogs, namely yours, because I get great information, creative inspiration, etc., without being bombarded by advertisements. Ads are usually neatly tucked away in a column all their own where I can choose to either read or ignore them.

    Is this something we can expect to see often going forward? I sincerely hope you will maintain control of your fabulous blog and not let a few dollars dictate how you speak to your audience.

    All that said, I think the content of this post was great and many of us amateur bakers struggle with properly frosting a cake… even an intentionally messy cake. Thanks for listening.

      • jordan
      • September 1, 2012

      Hi Melissa!

      Thanks for letting me know. I didn’t know there was a survey –those should all be deactivated. I just sent an email to my ad network. Thanks! xo J

  27. Katyanne

    September 1, 2012

    Okay, I seriously have to know this – what size piping bag is that & where did you get it from? I swear it’s the largest one I’ve ever seen, and I’ve just decided that I now need one XD

  28. Julie

    September 1, 2012

    For those wondering about how to get it from the plate to a cake stand, I always saw on cooking shows that you can put down two pieces of wax paper, side by side (not on top of each other) so it’s kind of half and half on the cake stand but making sure to cover the whole cake stand, put the cake on top, frost it, then pull out the wax paper from underneath. It keeps it from getting frosting on the cake stand! I’ve never tried it, but I don’t know why it wouldn’t work.

  29. Virginie

    September 2, 2012

    Thank you for this great tutorial. I have featured it on my blog today, I hope it will inspired my readers to try it !

  30. Anne

    September 2, 2012

    Oh wow thank you so much for the tip! My cakes look weird whenever I just try to use to icing tool but I wouldn’t really get the messy cake look :p

  31. s.K

    September 2, 2012

    Wonderful post! The pictures are very helpful…I was wondering what kind of pastry bag you used? I was looking to purchase some larger pastry bags and wondered what brand you would recommend. I have had some trouble with the reusable ones in the past, sometimes the seam gets a small hole in it from the pressure I apply and I end up getting frosting everywhere. Thanks!

  32. Annie

    September 2, 2012

    I agree! This is the only chocolate cake I make. THanks for your tips on frosting, can’t wait to use them.

  33. tara

    September 4, 2012

    My grandma taught me a trick when I was younger, on how to frost your cake while it’s on your stand with out frosting, well, your stand. Waxed paper. A small piece of waxed paper underneath all 4 sides of your cake will catch any frosting that your stand would normally get smeared with. once you are done frosting your cake, all you have to do is remove the waxed paper strips and your stand is perfectly clean. cake looks great, thanks for the tips 🙂

  34. Marie

    September 4, 2012

    Yum…this looks really good. I love that simple cake stand too! 🙂

  35. how2home

    September 10, 2012

    this looks incredible, thx for sharing your method/tips with us 🙂

  36. Jessica

    September 11, 2012

    Even more incredible when done in a white blouse! The cake looks amazing.

  37. Kari

    September 13, 2012

    It worked! Thanks for the recipe and the tips. I feel quite pleased with myself.

Comments are Closed

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