Tips for Successful Cake Decorating
1. How to level and split the cake
The first step is to make sure that the parchment paper is still attached to the bottom of the cake after it's cooked. If it fell off, cut a round shape of parchment paper and place the cake on it. The paper is needed for easy turning.
Then set the cake right side up on your working surface. You should proceed to lean over the cake in such a way that your eye level would be together with the cake's top surface. Put one hand on the cake and rotate the cake full circle with the other. Look at the top edge while you rotate. If you see that the surface is not fully even, take a serrated knife and cut the cake to be even with its lowest point. If you won't, the cake will be lopsided, especially of you have more than one layer of frosting.
Don't be afraid to trim your cake to make it even. Enjoy the trimmings as snacks for you or your little helpers if you have any.
If you have to slice the cake in half, start with measuring half way of the cake's height. Insert a toothpick directly in the middle and about an inch deep. Continue to do that all around the cake at 2 inch intervals. Take serrated knife and insert it just above the toothpicks. Place one hand on top of the cake and make gentle sawing motion as you proceed across the entire cake. Make sure you take your time and you always see the other side of the knife outside the cake. You can turn the cake if needed. The hand pressing the cake will feel if the knife makes wrong movements and you will be able to adjust it fast.
One useful tip: use the layer with the parchment paper attached for your top of the cake as it is usually smooth and has no crumbs.
2. How to assemble and fill the cake
The best way to work with a cake is to use cake cardboards, which are widely available at every cake supply store. Use the same size cardboard as your cake pan. They make moving cake a breeze. Make sure you are using the white side of the board in contact with food. You can use a round flat plate if you don't have cake cardboard.
Brush each layer's cut side with flavored soaking syrup if suggested or desired. Next scoop the filling onto the middle of the cake and use an offset spatula to evenly spread it to the edges. Carefully place the next layer and do the same until all layers have been filled and piled one on top of the other.
3. How to apply frosting
First apply crumb coat, which a thin layer of frosting that seals all the crumbs and fills in the cracks on the surface in preparation for the final layer of frosting. Once the entire cake is finished, put it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to get this layer set. Don't cool it for too long as it can become too hard and prevent the final frosting from sticking well.
When you start applying the final frosting, scoop a large amount and place the mound right onto the middle of the cake. Use icing spatula to start evening out the frosting and pushing it towards the edge. Try to make the top layer very even; you can even measure it with a ruler to see how you're doing.
Next work on the sides of the cake and turn it around to cover everything evenly with the spatula. It helps to work on 2 inch area at a time. If something doesn't work on the sides and you feel you are getting frustrated, you can always give up and cover the sides with crushed nuts, sprinkles, crumbs, coconut or chocolate shavings, and many other tasty things.
How to use a pastry bag
If you would like to pipe little roses or just pipe frosting on the top or on the bottom of the cake, you will need a pastry bag. The best pastry bag is 14 inches long because it keeps your hands clean and gives you plenty of room for frosting.
Before you fill up the bag, drop the tip in and make sure it's poking through. Once you put your frosting in, twist the top of the bag to make sure all of it is pushed to the front into the tip. You can also put a rubber band to prevent the frosting from leaking back to the top as you are squeezing the bag.