How to get sharp edges on buttercream cakes
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Piping buttercream on cupcakes – my first forays into this delicious icing type were structured with piping bags and nozzles, and I loved the simple techniques for brilliant results!
Plus, the flavour possibilities for buttercream (salted caramel or peanut butter, anyone?) had me hooked. So I decided to try covering an entire cake in buttercream. And then piling on an ultra decadent chocolate ganache drip…
And it didn’t go so well.
We’ve all scrolled through Instagram and seen the gorgeous smooth, sharp edges of buttercream cakes in many bakers’ fridges. I knew I needed to crumb coat and I’d worked with buttercream before. I even had my own icing turn table, so I thought, how hard can it be?
Harder than you think.
I struggled to find the right tools – my palette knife didn’t cut the mustard, I needed a good scraper for the sharp finish I craved. I also didn’t realise just how much buttercream icing that I would need to use (and that it was okay to use so much!). And then there’s the challenge of the impatient or time-pressured baker, who takes the cake out of the fridge too soon after crumb coating, so it hadn’t firmed up enough…
The result was my peanut butter and chocolate ganache drip cake. While it wasn’t a total disaster – it tasted delicious (hence why the recipe made it here!) and looked okay – it wasn’t the polished, smooth cake I set out to create.
So, how do you get sharp edges on buttercream cakes?
I turned to Erica O’Brien and her Craftsy class, Better Buttercream, to find the baking advice I needed. Clearly, creating sharp edges for buttercream cakes wasn’t as easy as it looked. My top takeaways?
Step One: Swap Your Icing Blade
Erica suggests an even better secret tool inside that you’d never expect for crumb coating. And I’ll give you a clue, you won’t find it in the bakery aisle or cake decorating shop! The tool she recommends is narrow and heavy to keep your sides straight, rather than using a lighter, regular icing scraper that risks putting pressure on the cake sides, causing your cake icing lean in or out slightly. If you want perfectly straight edges the simplest way, then Erica’s secret tool is a 100% must for your baker’s toolbox. It’s not even expensive!
Step Two: Get Rid of Buttercream Bubbles
To get sharp edges on buttercream cakes, you need patience and to be ready to repeat your smoothing over and over a few times more. Erica makes getting those straight, sharp sides and lines easy, showing you step-by-step how to repeatedly work your buttercream with your turntable to remove air bubbles, build up the sides and get the sharp, stylish shape you want for your cake.
Step Three: One Section At A Time
One of the most helpful things Erica shares in Better Buttercream is an order and method to covering your cake with buttercream. Starting with the sides and then moving on to the top will get you perfect results, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to doing it.
And just like the surprise tool, you’ll be shocked at the technique for getting your top perfectly smooth, straight and level. It’s so simple – you’ll be kicking yourself for not trying it sooner!
Armed with the tools, techniques, timings and touch tests for texture to know that your buttercream is spot on, you absolutely can replicate the sharp edges on buttercream cakes that you see in Erica’s tutorial in your own kitchen.
Are you ready to join the club of bakers who decided to stop struggling and save time with insider secrets to cake decorating success? I thought so! So if you’d like to take Erica’s Better Buttercream class too, just like I did, click here to find and more and improve your buttercream cakes (and business!) today.
What are your stories of getting sharp edges on buttercream cakes? Are you a pro or in need of a helping hand?
If you’ve been wanting to start your own baking blog or simply to create your own recipes like I do, you can find out my secrets for sweet success in my free Recipe Development Cheat Sheet within my resource library for bakers. Simply click the image to sign up and get your copy!