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:
How to Make Vanilla Swiss Buttercream
See full recipe at the bottom of this post!
In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the egg whites and sugar. It will be very thick and grainy.
Put the bowl over a double boiler and stir it with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted. This can take several minutes. You want to brush the sides down with the spatula to make sure all the sugar is melted and no grains are clinging to the sides.
Feel the egg mixture between your fingers to check for graininess. Once it is completely smooth and has no grains left, put it on your stand mixer and beat with the whip attachment on medium high speed.
Beat it until it is light, fluffy, glossy and the bowl feels just about room temperature. If the whites are not cooled off sufficiently it will melt the butter when you add it.
Once the egg whites are whipped and cooled, add the butter to it, 2 tablespoons at a time on medium speed.
WARNING: After you have added about half of the butter, it may look curdled and runny, this is normal and you should continue adding the rest of the butter.
Once you have finished adding the butter and it has mixed on medium speed for about a minute the buttercream should be creamy and glossy looking again.* Add the salt, vanilla and any flavorings you choose.
*If the buttercream is still runny at this point, it may be that your butter or egg whites were too warm. Just place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 3 minutes and stir, then repeat in the refrigerator for another 3 minutes and stir. This will chill the butter, but the stirring will prevent it from solidifying too much. Repeat this until it is the right consistency.
Now you’re ready to cover your cake.
Helpful Cake Decorating Equipment
Revolving Cake Decorating Stand – Let it do the work for you. A must to get a perfectly smooth finish!
Spatula – make sure the blade is long enough to cover the entire cake. If it is too short you will have streaks in your icing. You can use a straight or off-set spatula, which ever feels more comfortable.
5-Quart Mixer for making buttercream – you can also do this with a hand held mixer, but this takes much longer. I like equipment that frees me up to be doing other things!
Cake Decorating Videos
- Revolving Cake Decorating Stand
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240ml) egg whites from about 5 eggs, at room temperature
- 3 cups (660g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract make your own
- pinch kosher salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar and egg whites and beat on medium speed to mix. The mixture will be very thick and grainy.
- Put 1 inch / 2.5cm of water in the bottom of a double boiler or a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Place the bowl with the sugar mixture over the simmering water and stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted. Brush down the sides of the bowl. Feel the mixture between your fingers to check for graininess. Once all the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth, the syrup is hot enough (140° F / 60° C) to be safe to consume.
- Return the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a clean whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until the egg foam is light, fluffy, and glossy and the bowl feels just about room temperature. (If the egg foam isn't cooled sufficiently, the butter will melt when you add it.)
- Once the egg foam is whipped and cooled, turn the mixer speed to medium, add the butter, two tablespoons at a time, and beat until incorporated.* Turn the speed to low, add the vanilla and salt, and mix until incorporated.
- Use immediately.
- Use champagne extract, as I did in the show. Just be sure to start slow and taste as you go.
- PRO TIP from Pastry Chef Minda Ringdahl of Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen: You can reduce a bottle of champagne to a thick concentrated syrup. You will need to reduce the sugar content of the buttercream and add the syrup to taste. Minda has used this method with red wine in an American buttercream (yum!) and I have tried champagne in buttercream as well!