Please bear with me as I ask somewhat of a dumb question.
I am a great home cook and have been saying for years that I want to delve into cake baking and decorating. I have a deep passion for the culinary arts and greatly admire the beauty and technical expertise that many of the chefs these days are able to pull off with their creations.
So, for Christmas this past year, my wife surprised me with cake decorating supplies, Rose’s Cake Bible and Heavenly Cakes books, and she also enrolled me in a beginner’s cake decorating class.
I am currently enrolled in the Wilton Beginner’s Decorating Class at my local Hobby Lobby. My hopes for this course is that it will be a spring board for me into the world of cake decorating. I am also hoping that this class will teach me the basic skills to have more professional looking decorated cake. I have never baked a cake that wasn’t a premix boxed cake by Betty Crocker or Dunkin Hines.
This weekend will be my first time making a cake and icing from scratch and making it look somewhat proffesional!! I am even tasked to color the icing!! I will post pics this weekend of my finished product if it comes out fairly decent! (**fingers are crossed**)
Well, my dumb question of the day is that from my reseach on line I’ve read about people using crumb coats as a way to prevent crumbs from getting into your final icing, but I haven’t come across a site yet that gives detailed instructions of what is the proper way to apply a crumb coat. (i.e. how much icing should be used) I’ve also read that one should attempt not to allow the spatula to touch the cake.
Would someone please explain to me what is the proper way to apply a crumb coat?
The crumb coat is a pretty casual affair. Essentially, the edges of the cake are a bit loose from the pan, and the crumbs like to stick to the buttercream and get all in it. So, with a crumb coat, you’re simply trying to trap any crumbs in a very thin—as thin as possible, but it’s no big deal, either—coat of buttercream. After you’ve put this thin layer of buttercream—which you can see through—on the sides your layers you refrigerate them for about 15 minutes—not really too much longer than that. This solidifies the crumb coat so that the crumbs are stuck to it and can’t “come off” the cake when you’re doing your ‘real’ frosting. As to not letting your spatula touch the cake, it’s only so you don’t ‘scrape’ it and cause more crumbs. I kind of get the frosting for my crumb coat from the same area of my frosting bowl so that if any crumbs do get in it, it’s all in one area. You can also put some in a different bowl, if you care to, and use that.
When I crumb coat, I also put the ‘real’ frosting on the top of the bottom layer so it can get a little firm during the refrigeration and more easily hold the top layer.
Thanks Anne for your response. From reading the Cake Bible, I have selected to make Rose’s All Occasion Downy Butter Cake, but haven’t made a decision yet for what icing should be paired with the cake. Do you or anyone else have any suggestion which icing pairs well with this cake? Another note, I’ll be using this icing to pipe decor on the cake as well.
Just wanted to say that a crumb coat isn’t essential for every cake. I regularly frost cakes without doing it, and now and then there may be a crumb or two, which I just fish out with a knife and smooth over the frosting.
A few thoughts for a first-timer:
Consider investing in a scale, as all your baking will be more trouble-free if your measurements are accurate.
Yolks have gotten smaller, be sure to weigh or measure them.
Use cake strips, homemade or storebought, so your layers will be level and even- less time trimming.
Mousseline buttercream is the best all-butter frosting for piping, but not the easiest to make. If you do make it, be sure to use an accurate thermometer for the syrup, and bring both the whipped butter and the Italian Meringue to the same (room) temp before combining them. You can cover the bowls and leave them to come to room temp. You can also dump all the Italian Meringue into the butter at once- see Rose’s update in RHC (Miette’s Tomboy) or in her video over on the blog.
Hi Wallace and welcome to the forums. I agree with all the advice that Anne and Julie gave you. I’ll just throw my two cents in too. Icing a round cake on a turn table will help you get very smooth sides, although it does take some practice. ( Square cakes are a whole other story. ) You can even use a lazy susan as well.
I usually don’t crumb coat my cakes. The only time I might is if the cake is chocolate and the icing is white, or vice versa. ( But I know alot of people do crumb coat all their cakes. You can do whatever you feel comfortable with ) This is normally how I ice my cakes.
1. Make sure that your cake is very cold if you are torting them for fillings. ( it is much easier to handle the cake layers if they are cold. )
2. Make a dam of icing around the very edge of your layer and fill the inside with your filling. ( Make sure that your filling is not higher than the height of your dam.
3. Once all the layers are done I go around the sides with an offset spatula to smooth the icing from the dam so that it is even with the sides of the cake. Then
the cake goes back in the fridge to get really cold again.
4. Now I start to ice the cake. I start with the top and completely cover it with icing at least 1/2 inch thick. I use the offset spatula to smooth the top, making
sure that it extends at least 1/4 inch past the sides of the cake. I add a very thick layer of icing on the sides of the cake making sure that the spatula does
not touch the cake.
5. Now the fun part. With the cake on the turntable, using a spackling knife about 5 inches long, I spin the turnable and with the spackling knife held against the
side of cake lightly, I slowly start to take the icing off until it is fairly smooth.
6. I then dip the knife in very hot water and dry it. Then I go over it again to get it as smooth as I can get it. ( The hot knife melts the top of the icing a little
and it kind of fills in all the little holes.
7. There will be an edge of icing that is higher that the top the cake now. Very lightly using an off set spatula gently swipe the excess towards the middle of
cake until the edges are even.
8. You can then go over the top again very lightly to smooth it out.
9. I then put the cake back into the fridge to get really cold again before I decorate it. ( I find it is easier to decorate a cold iced cake than a room temperature
I am by no means an expert at this, but this is how I do it and I have had some good results. I just thought I would share this with you. I took the wilton classes as well and I really enjoyed them. You will definitely learn alot from them.
Good luck and make sure you post your class cakes in the show and tell forum.
Hi Wallace, welcome to the board and good luck on your first project! I must say I’m impressed that you’re starting off whole hog and quite ambitiously….but there’s no reason you can’t do it all very well, especially with Rose’s detailed instructions. Agree that a digital scale with grams, ounces, and a tare feature is key, not sure where you live but if you can, run down to the bed bath & beyond or target and you can get a good one for just $25 or even less. Costco even had some for $20 the other week. Personally I think frosting the cake is often the hardest part! But if you go for the swirly effect rather than a completely smooth one, you can get away with alot, and it will still look great! Looking forward to hearing about (and seeing) your future baking adventures : )
I would like to thank everyone for their gracious welcome to the forum. Well, I made my downy yellow cake and neoclassic butter cream icing from the Cake Bible. I’m concerned with the texture and flavor of the butter cream icing. The icing texture seems like it is very thin in consistency and the flavor taste like I’m literally eating a stick a stick of butter. There’s no sweetness at all. I added 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract and that did help some with the flavor. My wife said it taste just like whipped butter. My question is as it sits for a while in the air tight container, will it get firmer in texture? Will adding powder sugar give it a better taste? I’ve had other professional baker’s butter cream icings from cakes I buy and their flavor is totally different from the recipe I made from the Cake Bible. I went step by step, so I think I did it right. Any advice will be helpful.
Sometimes people do feel that the meringue buttercreams are too butter-rich; it’s all a matter of taste. The neoclassic is much richer than the mousselines because of the egg yolks - fat is what carries flavor and there is much more fat in this recipe so perhaps that makes this buttercream too rich to your taste.
Try the mousseline - because it is made with egg whites and not yolks, you might enjoy it more.
I like the neoclassic for things like hazelnut, coffee, sometimes chocolate but the mousseline is our house buttercream at work. Give that one a go and see what you think!
Jeanne, I don’t think it’s not a matter of it being too rich for my taste. All I taste is butter really and no sweetness. From other professional bakers from whom I buy buttercream iced cakes, theirs are buttery sweet. I guess I was looking for something along those lines because that has been my experienced with tasting buttercream, but hey maybe they were making it a very different way. I’m tempted to add some powdered sugar to see how if that enhances its sweetness, but I’m worried that will alter the buttercream’s structure. Is there a way to fix it to make it taste a little better b/c it really does feel like I’m eating a stick of butter? If nothing can be done, I’ll just have to make the Wilton class buttercream so I can at least having a working buttercream for class. I did want to eat the cake though
I wanted to make a more flavorful icing for my cake I have to decorate this morning for the Wilton decorating class I’m enrolled in. The icing they are having the students make is veggie shortening, milk, water, salt, vanilla, powdered sugar, and meringue powder. Just looking at the ingredients, this doesn’t seem too appetizing to my palate as a cake icing.
Wallace, congratulations on making the neoclassic buttercream! Did all the syrup make it into the eggs? Nothing left in the pan or on the sides of the bowl? You did add both corn syrup and sugar to the pan, right? It may just be that you’re so used to sweet powdered sugar frostings that this takes some getting used to. Rose’s philosophy is to perfectly sweeten and balance each component, which is different than a bakery that makes their cakes less sweet to balance frostings that are overly sweet. And she does have a “not-too-sweet” palate.
That said, Mousseline does come across as a little sweeter and a little less rich than neoclassic, but I think any all-butter buttercream is going to taste rich and should be used in thin layers. It will also taste different combined with the cake than it does when you sample a little from the bowl. The two sweeter buttercreams that she has in her books are the vanilla mousseline paired with Miette’s Tomboy in RHC (this has less butter and more meringue than the classic mousseline, so is less buttery and more sweet), and also the filling for the whoopie pie, which is mousseline with additional butter/powdered sugar to firm it up. Perhaps one of those might work?
You could use the neoclassic you have as your filling between layers (freeze any leftover for the next cake), then choose a version of the mousseline for your frosting and piping. Be sure to re-whip the neoclassic before using it if you’ve made it ahead and stored it. If you find it too buttery, consider adding flavoring, such as chocolate, strawberry puree, or liqueur, all of which help balance the butter.
I’m sorry the buttercream didn’t turn out as you’d hoped, but here’s a few thoughts.
The thinness problem could be what Julie mentioned—not all of the sugar made it out of the pan, as it’s the sugar that “hardens” it.
However, since you’re “there,” here’s a thought that *might* solve both the sweetness and texture problems. In TCB, there’s a frosting called Milk Chocolate Buttercream. It’s simply milk/bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled, and added to butter. Now, sometimes when this cools on a cake, it can be hard like a softened chocolate bar (there’s a post devoted to this alone)—so never refrigerage it! The reason I think this happens is that there is SO much chocolate, and chocolate is always hard at room temp, so the hardness of the chocolate dominate the softness of the butter.
Long way of saying maybe if you use your neoclassic as the “butter” part, make the milk chocolate buttercream.
Another possible, since it’s not sweet enough to your taste, is to firm it with cocoa powder (which might thicken it since it’s dry) and powdered sugar, which will also help thicken it, and, because the cocoa powder is unsweetened, you don’t have to worry about OVER sweetening by using just powdered sugar.
The neoclassic DOES taste a lot like plain butter, but it takes flavors beautifully and is wonderful on cake. And you can freeze it perfectly, so keep the rest of your batch if you don’t use it all. Although I don’t think this will help your thickening, something to think about (maybe another time) is to add your favorite nut butter to it—for example, hazelnut paste with maybe instant expresso and/or chocolate.
Good luck, and I really hope the cake works out! One last thought is if you are able to thicken it with one of hte method above but it’s too thin to stay on the sides of the cake (I don’t know how thin it is at this stage), is to frost just the tops of the layers. If it’s REALLY thin, torte the layers and frost the tops of all 4 and stack them. (Thinner layers can take thinner frostings without “squirting” them when you cut).