How-to Video: Smoothly Buttercream a Cake (recipe included)

In the first two cake decorating videos I demonstrated how to cut, fill and crumb coat your cake. Now we are ready to put on the final coat of icing. I chose a very simple vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream to cover the cake. It is elegant, smooth and has a wonderfully rich flavor, but isn’t overly sweet. It can be left pure vanilla or you can easily add flavors to compliment your cake. This buttercream is wonderful for piping roses or doing basket weave as well. Before we get into the finishing touches we want to create a smooth surface, which will act as a canvas. If your cake is straight and smooth it will be stunning without any flourishes at all, but it will also show off your decorating prowess if you want to add some flowers or writing.

Also see my other How-to Cake Decorating Videos:

Part 1: Cut and Fill a Cake Like a Pro!

Part 2: Crumb Coat Your Cake


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Cassata – Sicilian Ricotta Cake with Pistachio Marzipan

This cake makes me think of sitting on the porch swing in my Italian grandmother’s lanai. It was about 1973 and I would have been 6 years old and eating something sweet and spring-like. She had hanging baskets of flowers dangling from the ceiling from elaborately woven macramé; in shades of orange, chartreuse and  gold. I’m sure I was eating Jell-o, but it should have been this cake, with its basket weave icing and magical candied fruit flower. Ok, truth be told, my grandmother isn’t Italian, she didn’t have a lanai, I just like the word, and there probably was macramé, but I don’t actually remember any. But, this cake makes me wish all these things were true. Not only is it visually stunning, but the cake is so delicious I licked the plate clean.

I really made the cake with my friend Bret, who I’ve known since I taught my very first baking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill about 13 years ago. He is a dynamite chef and baker, and I love playing in the kitchen with him. We decided to make this classic Italian ricotta cake after seeing it on the pages of Saveur magazine, just in time for Easter. (more…)

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A Red Velvet Birthday Cake (basket weave 101)

About 30 years ago my father introduced me to Patricia, the most glamorous woman I’d ever seen. She wore a light blue polyester pant suit with eye shadow to match and had a pile of perfectly coiffed blond hair. She was lovely and clearly not from Connecticut, where we lived at the time. Just one word from her mouth and you could hear the south, Alabama in fact. Patricia is my stepmother and in honor of her Southern roots I made her a Red Velvet Birthday cake. Her mom used to make them for her when she was a kid. I wish I had her mother’s recipe, but I found one that was fascinating and dated back to WW2. The Milk Chocolate cream cheese frosting done in an elegant basket weave adds to the romance of the cake.

When I read the ingredients for the cake I immediately assumed that it had omitted a key ingredient; eggs. In fact, this cake is completely vegan; no eggs, butter or milk. Eggs act as a binder, a kind of glue that holds things together. When they are baked, the proteins set and hold everything else in place.  So when I saw that this cake didn’t have any at all I wondered what the texture would be like, paste came to mind. In fact, I was so doubtful I had a back up recipe all ready to go. But, what do you know, it was fantastic. Moist, rich, despite the lack of any butter or eggs and absolutely delicious. Why? (more…)

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Caramel Cake Daring Baker Challenge! (with a bittersweet chocolate ganache surprise)

This month’s Daring Baker Challenge was submitted by Dolores of Culinary Curiosity (where you will find the recipes) and features a cake by Shuna from Eggbeater. The challenge is a fabulous study in caramel! The rich, moist cake is flavored with caramel syrup and then topped with a brown butter frosting that also gets its flare from the syrup. In the end I added a bit of dark chocolate ganache, which is a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the cake. I decorated the top of my sweet caramel cupcakes with giant roses, which I’ll show you how to make! (more…)

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Basics: Homemade Rolled Fondant! part two

More than half of the cakes I do for clients are covered with fondant. It is gorgeous, sleek and can be simple or ornate.  Over the years I’ve tried just about every product out there and have loved some and loathed others. Some are easy to use but have no taste feel like chewing gum in your mouth. Others are melt in your mouth and have a pleasant flavor, but are nearly impossible to work with unless the conditions are just right. Not to mention the cost. For those of you who have worked with it you know it is very spendy, as we say here in MN. So make your own and get the flavor, the texture and the price you like. It is very easy, albeit a tad messy, but most of all fun! (more…)

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Maggie and Steve’s Ultra Chocolate Wedding Cake (and how I assembled it)

This weekend I had the greatest honor and pleasure of making the wedding cake for my friend Maggie and her wonderful husband Steve. She is a fabulous midwife and delivered my two boys. It is an understatement to say she went above and beyond for me during my pregnancies and births. Maggie is the type of person who brings joy and love to everyone who has the good fortune to meet her. It meant so much to me when she and Steve asked me to participate in their special day.

Steve is a chocoholic and they decided to break with convention and go with a tower of over-the-top chocolate. I couldn’t agree more! I, of course, started with my Devil’s Food recipe and added a deep chocolate ganache-fudge icing. (more…)

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