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Step 1) Fill and Crumb Coat
Place your first cake layer on the board, bottom side down, using a small amount of buttercream to adhere. Spread buttercream in between the cake layers and place the second cake layer on top, with the bottom side up. Apply an extremely thin layer of buttercream to the entire cake, caulking any small cracks or holes. This layer should be thin enough to see the cake through and is meant to seal in crumbs before the final coat. Be sure to refrigerate until firm after this step is complete.
Step 2) Coat
First, spread the top of the cake with an even 3/4" layer of icing, making sure to leave a 1/2" overhang of buttercream around the entire top edge. Next, apply buttercream to the sides of the cake, working in sections. As you apply the buttercream, connect the side coat with the overhang at the top. The cake should look cylindrical at this point, although not smooth.
Step 3) Shape and Remove excess
Starting on the side of the cake, hold your spatula vertically and slowly spin your turntable without lifting the spatula from the surface. You will simultaneously be shaping and removing excess icing from the sides of the cake. Scrape any excess icing back into the buttercream bowl. Continue again until sides are smooth. Clean your spatula off. On the top edge of the cake, sweep your spatula from the outer rim to the center, removing excess icing and creating a smooth top.
Step 4) Smooth
For an extra smooth cake, dip your spatula in very hot water, dry on a towel and sweep around the sides and across the top. The heat from the spatula will warm and smooth the buttercream.