I’m going to show you how to cut a tier cake in three different ways. By using different techniques you can vary the size and type of portions.
The first way, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, is to cut wedge shaped slices. Slice from the middle of the cake to the outer edge and then pull out your knife. Then rotate to cut from the middle to a little bit further around the outer edge.
Slide your knife or a cake lifter underneath the cake and wiggle it to loosen the slice from the cake. Pull it out, using a finger to balance it if you need to, and lower it onto a plate.
This wedged shaped cake slice is the quickest way to cut a cake. Each slice is a generous portion of layers of cake and filling surrounded on two sides by frosting.
As you can see, it's possible to serve the top cake while it's still on top of the tier cake. Your knife won't push the cake down into the lower tiers because of the internal support structure inside the tier cake. If this is new to you, learn all about it in my tutorial on How to Make a Tiered Cake. If you prefer, you can take this cake off the tier cake before cutting it. You'll need an offset spatula or a cake lifter, which is a wide, flat piece of metal with a handle. Slice underneath the cake below the cake board that this cake is sitting on. You'll separate it from the cake tier below it but keep the cake attached to its own cake board.
Lift up the cake on its board and lower it onto the table or counter, where you can then slice it. To balance the cake as you move it, you can touch the frosting if it has set. This is one of the reasons that the ideal time to cut a cake is after the frosting has set. You'll find that the frosting is firm and less messy than immediately after frosting a cake. The cake shouldn't be cold so if it has been refrigerated, wait at least 2 hours after taking it out of the fridge.
This wedge-shaped slice is a quick and easy way to cut a tier cake. It's great if you have plenty of cake for the number of people you're serving.
If you need to get more portions out of a cake, you'll need smaller portions. This is typical for wedding cakes and events where there are several desserts being served. Next, I'll show you how to cut a tier cake in two other ways that are better suited for that.
How to cut a tier cake with the cutting board method
For this method you use a cutting board to cut a cake into strips and then divide those strips into smaller portions.
To remove the tier of the cake you're going to serve, slide an offset spatula or cake lifter underneath the cake board. Lift it up with the cake on it and lower it onto a cutting board.
Cut across the cake an inch or two in. When your knife gets to the bottom, angle it to push the slice over onto the cutting board. Then cut this into pieces. I usually cut the first slice into 3 pieces and the rest of the slices into 4 pieces. The portions of this end slice are perfect for frosting lovers!
Cut the next slice another inch or two over, tipping it over onto the cutting board. To make four portions, cut the slice down the middle and each piece in half again. If the cake is really tall you can cut the piece in half the other way too, making twice as many portions. This is useful for a wedding or any occasion where you have lots of other food and desserts so you don’t need very big servings of cake.
Assuming your tier cake has a support structure inside, you’ll need to remove that before cutting your slices. I have a tutorial on how to make a tiered cake that has a lot more information on that. Tweezers are useful to grip onto support straws and pull them out.
How to cut a tier cake with the Ring Method
For large cakes that are wider then a cutting board, another way to serve them is the ring method. Cut a ring a few inches within the outer edge to make an inner circle. Use sawing motions with your knife to cut all the way down to the bottom of the cake around the whole circle.
Then slice this ring of cake into portions. You can cut wide pieces if you want large portions or make the cuts closer together for narrower pieces. By cutting the circle within the cake, instead of having really long wedges you’ll be able to cut another round of slices out of the inner part of the cake, so you’ll get a lot more portions this way.
So, there are three very different ways to cut a tier cake.
The wedge shaped slice for the easiest way to cut big portions in a small cake.
The cutting board method gives you the most portions out of a cake and is especially useful for tall cakes.
The circle method or ring method is the easiest way to cut very wide cakes.
Which one would you choose? Tell me in the comments!
In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to mix rainbow colours using just one bowl, how to create a completely flat rainbow heart design on top of the cake and how to make perfectly neat rainbow striped frosting.
How to assemble a striped cake
Start by assembling your cake. Alternate cake layers and filling using any recipe you like. I'm using my Perfect Chocolate Cake and these are huge 10 inch cake layers. I'm filling and frosting the cake with my 4 Minute Buttercream. Cover the cake in a crumb coat, which is a thin layer of frosting to give the cake a neat shape and trap any crumbs. I like to pipe it on because it pulls off fewer crumbs but you can spread it straight on instead if you like.
The important thing here is to cover up the entire cake. This crumb coat doesn't have to be super smooth but you don't want there to be any exposed cake. Put the cake into the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes to set this crumb coat.
How to prepare rainbow colours for a striped cake
Now let's tint the colours for the rainbow design. You'll need a different piping bag for every colour that you use. The easiest and quickest way to do this is using just one bowl. Put some plain white buttercream into your bowl and add yellow first. I know we're not going in rainbow order but you'll see why in a second.
Mix your yellow buttercream and spoon it into a piping bag with no piping tip. I like to fold over the top of the piping bag as I'm spooning the buttercream in so it's doesn't get all over my hands when I'm piping later. Now mix orange in the same bowl, stirring to incorporate all of the leftover yellow frosting. This is much quicker than washing and drying the bowl first. Scoop up the orange buttercream and put that into another piping bag with no piping tip.
Now mix pink in the same bowl again, incorporating any leftover orange buttercream. Next do purple and then blue and finally green. The reason for doing it in this order is that each of the previous colours blends really nicely with the next colour so it won't dirty or muddy your colours. I'm making pastel colours but this works the same way for bright rainbow colours.
How to make a heart with Facelift Frosting
Make the rainbow heart design on the top of the cake before doing the stripes. You'll need an open star piping tip for this, for example a #32. To avoid using couplers or multiple piping tips, drop this tip into another piping bag. Then one by one you'll use the colours that you prepared inside this piping bag.
Take your cake out of the fridge or freezer when the crumb coat has set. The frosting should be very firm and that means you won't damage it during this process. Use a toothpick to draw a heart onto the top of the cake. Divide it into sections to match the number of colours you're using. I've made six rainbow colours so I'm dividing my heart into six equal sections. The sections will guide you as you pipe.
Starting at the top of the heart, pipe rosettes to fill in that first section. Try to space them evenly apart. Pipe right up to the edges of the section outline so that the shape is really clear.
When you finish with the first colour, pull it out of the piping bag. Put the next piping bag in and squeeze a little bit of buttercream out into a bowl. This gets rid of the very last bit of the previous colours. When you see the next colour coming out, it's ready to use!
Now pipe onto the next section of the cake. Take the orange out, put the yellow in and squeeze a little bit of buttercream out until you see the yellow coming through. Repeat this process to complete the heart.
Of course, if you have lots of different piping tips you want to use that's fine. You could use couplers in the original piping bags but this is an easy way to do this using minimal tools.
Next, put the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes. The reason for this is to set the heart design you've just piped. You need the rosettes to hold their shape for the next step. Take the cake out of the freezer and pipe buttercream to cover the top of the cake. Piping it is ideal so that you don't damage those piped colourful details.
Spread the frosting very gently and then put this cake back into the freezer for 20 minutes. I know there's a lot of back and forth at this point but the result really is worth it!
When you take the cake out of the freezer, all of that frosting will have set. Now you need to take off the top layer of frosting to reveal the design underneath. Pour some boiling water into a cake pan that is as big as your metal cake comb. Dip your cake comb in to heat it and then dry it off. Scrape over the top of the cake to take off the top layers. I call this Facelift Frosting because you're giving the frosting a facelift!
You'll need to scrape several times to take off all of the excess buttercream but this frosting won't be wasted. You can save it for your stripes or freeze it in a ziplock bag for another project later. For now, scrape the excess off your cake comb into a bowl.
Keep dipping your metal cake comb into the hot water to keep it hot, which will make it the easiest to take off these layers of buttercream from the top of the cake. Once your entire design has been revealed, scrape around the sides of the cake to flatten any frosting sticking out. Use your offset spatula to push sideways to tidy up the top edge of the cake so it's sharp and smooth.
How to make a multi-coloured striped cake with buttercream frosting
Now it's time to make the rainbow stripes. You'll need a striped cake comb and these come in lots of different shapes and sizes. When you choose one, keep in mind that the smaller the grooves are, the trickier the comb is to use.
Push your cake comb into the side of the cake to indent the stripe grooves as a guideline. Do this periodically so that you have lots of guidelines all around the cake.
Choose the order that you want to pipe your colours. Pipe only the colours that go into the areas where you don't see any markings on the cake. I'm skipping pink at the very bottom because there is a marked groove there. Instead, I'm starting with the next colour, which is orange. Use the guidelines to pipe a straight band all the way around the cake.
Let's go back to the beginning when you cut your piping bags for these rainbow colours of buttercream. It's a good idea to refer to your striped cake comb to see how wide the grooves are and then cut the piping bags so that they match that size. That way you only have to go once around the cake to fill in the entire width of the stripe.
Skip the next colour, which is yellow for me, and then pipe the next colour, which is green. Continue to pipe only where there are gaps in the grooves marked on the cake. Don't worry if your buttercream sticks up above the top edge of the cake because that will make a nice sharp edge later.
Now take your striped cake comb and scrape around the cake. Push the base down on the cake board so it's lined up straight. Use your left hand to spin the turntable so that you're not really moving the striped cake comb. Spin the turntable all the way around as far as you can to get a really nice sweep around the cake. Your stripes should already have quite nice definition. It's going to take several scrapes and touch-ups though!
After one or two scrapes, check that each colour fills in the entire stripe groove from the cake comb. If there are any edges that aren't straight, those indents need to be filled. Use the piping bag of that colour to pipe over it. Scrape again after your touch-ups to smooth the piping. Don't worry about these stripes being perfectly neat on the surface because you're going to scrape a little bit off them later. However, you do want the top and bottom edge of each stripe to be perfectly straight. If there are gaps, other colours will fill them and you'll have random dots of different colours within the stripes.
When you're happy with these stripes, put the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes. Set a timer because if you leave it in longer, it will be difficult to do the next step.
How to fill in the gaps in the striped frosting
When you take the cake out of the freezer, pipe on the missing stripes. Then scrape off the excess, which will look really messy at first. Be patient and trust the process because this is going to be beautiful in the end! With the first few scrapes you'll smudge all of this excess frosting all over the cake. You'll cover up the first stripes that you made but that's the reason for chilling this cake before piping in the second round of colours. Now those first colours you piped are cold and firm and they won't lose their shape. Even as you scrape off the excess of the second round of colours, you won't damage the stripes underneath.
Keep scraping, taking off all of that excess. Your stripes are going to get more and more defined with each scrape. If the frosting starts to chill against the cold cake you might notice air bubbles in the frosting near the end. A quick hack is to heat your metal cake comb, which makes it glide very smoothly over the frosting, melting the very outer layer of frosting. This will fill in any air pockets and leave perfectly smooth frosting.
I don't recommend tidying up the top edge yet because you will spread that colour over on top of your heart design. Instead, put the cake back into the freezer for 15 minutes to set the frosting.Then use a sharp knife to cut off that frosting that's sticking up around the top edge. You'll leave a perfectly even edge underneath. You'll get the best result if your knife is hot so dip it into hot water in between cuts. You can use a glass or the pan from earlier, with new hot water course because the old water will have cooled down.
Now you have perfectly neat rainbow stripes around the sides of the cake and a sharp top edge. The rainbow heart design looks like it's been painted or printed onto the cake because it's totally flat, which is really unusual for designs done with buttercream.
In this tutorial I'll show you how to frost mini cakes with the right tools and techniques for super smooth frosting.
What tools do you need to frost mini cakes?
Before diving into the technique, let’s talk about the tools you’ll need. You don't need anything special for mini cakes compared to larger cakes.
A turntable is essential for smooth frosting and it needs to have a non-slip mat. This will prevent the cake board from sliding around. If your turntable doesn't have a non-slip mat you can use a small piece of a drawer liner or even a ring of masking tape.
You’ll need an offset spatula and a cake comb with a straight edge, also called a frosting smoother. It can be made of plastic, metal or acrylic. I like to use a 9 inch offset spatula for mini cakes, which is the combined size of the handle and blade.
You'll assemble your cake on a cake board. It can be cardboard with a greaseproof lining or foam core or acrylic. It should be at least 2 inches wider than your cake.
A piping bag is really helpful but not essential. You don’t need any piping tips for frosting mini cakes with a piping bag. Cut a little piece off the end and fill the bag with frosting and you'll pipe through that hole.
Of course, you'll also need cake layers and frosting! I'm using my Small Chocolate Cake Recipe, baked in 4 inch pans. I'll fill and frost it with my 4 Minute Buttercream, which is delicious and also easy to make, use, and store. For mini cakes I add a bit more milk than normal so that the frosting is a bit less stiff. You’ll see how this makes the process much easier.
How to assemble mini cakes
To explain how to frost mini cakes it's important to start at the very beginning because the first step is crucial.
Pipe or spreadsome frosting onto the middle of cake board and then press your first cake layer down onto it. Adjust it to center it so that the cake is in the middle of the board. That frosting underneath will set and act like glue to hold the cake in place. This is how to prevent mini cakes from moving around while you frost them.
Now add your filling on top of this first cake layer. Piping is quicker and will pull off fewer crumbs from the cake. After piping it, I like to spread it to cover the whole cake and also level it. If you don't want to dirty a piping bag, spreading it straight onto the cake is fine too.
As you place your next cake layer on top, it’s important to spin the turntable to check it from all angles. Make sure it’s directly above the layer below so that the sides and straight. With mini cakes if the layers are even half an inch offset, the cake will look like it’s leaning.
Alternate filling and cake layers to assemble your mini cake. Then spread around the sides to push the filling flat against the cake if it’s sticking out.
The other most important step is to chill mini cakes before frosting them. Room temperature cake layers are crumbly and soft but when they’re cold, they’re firm and much less crumbly. That means that as you spread the frosting onto the cake, you won’t pull off as many crumbs.
Put the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes to chill, or the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile, check the consistency of your frosting. It should be smooth without air bubbles and it should be easy to stir. It should be juststiff enough to hold peaks when you pull your spatula out of the bowl. If you scoop some up and tap your spatula on the side of the bowl, the frosting should fall back down into the bowl instead of clinging to your spatula.
How to frost mini cakes with a crumb coat
Now for the most troublesome part of the process: how to frost mini cakes. If you've followed the steps so far you will have set yourself up for success. Now it's time for the crumb coat. When your cake is cold, pipe or spoon some frosting onto the top. Spread it around to cover the top so that it sticks out over the edges.
This is the first layer of frosting, called a crumb coat. It doesn’t have to be perfect because it’s going to be covered up but it does need to trap any crumbs that come off the cake so it needs to cover the entire cake.
I like to pipe the frosting onto the sides because this way you’ll pull off the fewest crumbs. Spread the frosting using side to side motions with your offset spatula. It should be easy to spread the frosting smoothly and almost effortlessly around the cake.
When the cake is completely covered with frosting, switch to a cake comb. Push the base down on the cake board to line it up straight and then scrape around the cake. You'll smooth the frosting and take off the excess.
For mini cakes it’s really important that you don’t let much frosting build up on your cake comb. That weight can push the cake sideways and dislodge it from the frosting on the cake board that’s acting as glue to secure the cake.
When you notice frosting building up on the cake comb, swipe away from the cake. Scrape that excess frosting into a bowl.
Then spread that frosting back onto the cake to fill in any indents, gaps, or air bubbles. Scrape again to smooth this frosting against the cake.
Tidy up the top edge by pushing sideways with your offset spatula. You'll take off the frosting that’s sticking up, leaving a sharp edge behind.
Chill the cake again for 15 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in the fridge to set this crumb coat. If you haven't already, tint the frosting for your final coat.
How to frost mini cakes
Now that the crumb coat has set, it's time for the final coat of frosting. Repeat the process of crumb coating the cake except this final coat needs to be much neater. Take your time to smooth the top by spinning the turntable and holding your offset spatula at a 45 degree angle.
Once the top is smooth, move down to the sides. Spread the frosting to cover the whole cake, all the way down to the cake board. My frosting around the top of the cake is never as thick as lower down so I go back up and spread more there. Spread the frosting upwards as well as sideways to create a lip around the top edge of the cake. This will prevent drooping edges or a domed top.
Now scrape around the cake with your cake comb. Push the base of the comb down on the cake board to line it up straight and scrape around several times. Then touch up any indents or gaps by spreading more frosting over those. Scrape again and repeat as necessary.
I start by scraping the frosting with a plastic cake comb, which I find the quickest to use. For the final stages I switch to a metal or acrylic comb because those give me the smoothest frosting.
When the sides are smooth, push sideways with your offset spatula to tidy up the top edge. You'll take off the frosting that's sticking up around the top edge. Scrape or wipe your offset spatula clean after every time you use it. You should be pushing sideways across the top of the cake, not down at all. Pushing down will cause a bulge in the frosting on the sides of the cake.
How to decorate mini cakes
I like to chill my cakes before decorating them so that the frosting gets firm and doesn’t get damaged. There are endless ways to decorate mini cakes and you’ll find hundreds of designs and techniques on my cake school. I have a membership option called ClubPLUS which gives you access to every MasterCourse and MiniCourse on the school as well as Live Workshops and 5 Minute Fridays, where I teach tips and techniques and demonstrate FAQs in just five minutes. I hope to see you there!
Stacking a cake can be nerve-wracking but in this tutorial I'll show you how to make a tiered cake, sharing tips and tricks so that you can assemble, frost, and stack a two or three tiered cake confidently!
Bake the cakes for your tiered cake
The first step is of course to bake your cakes. I’m using my Perfect Chocolate Cake batter for a standard height 8 inch cake and a tall 4 inch cake. For my middle tier, I'm using my Small Chocolate Cake recipe for a short 6 inch cake. My Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe has a table with the ingredient conversions for different sizes and heights of cakes.
After baking, leave your cakes in the pans for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Then turn them out onto wire racks and leave them to cool completely which takes about 2 hours. After they cool, I really recommend chilling them and you’ll see why in a moment. You can put them into the freezer for 30 minutes or the fridge for an hour. If you prefer, wrap them with plastic wrap and leave them in the fridge overnight.
Assemble each tier of cake
You'll need a cake drum to support the weight of a tiered cake. A cake drum is a type of cake board that's thicker and stronger than cardboard. It should be at least 4 inches wider than your bottom tier so that there's space for frosting and decorations. I'll show you how to assemble the bottom tier straight on the cake drum. If there isn't space in your fridge for it, you can use a smaller cake board and transfer it later.
Even if you've never made one before, you're probably already familiar with several of the steps for how to make a tiered cake.
Start by assembling your largest cake, which will be the first or bottom tier. Spread buttercream onto the middle of the cake drum and push the first layer of cake down onto it. The dot of buttercream will stop the cake from sliding around as you frost and decorate it.
Spread or pipe your filling onto this first layer of cake. Then alternate between cake and filling. As you place each cake layer on the cake, take your time to line it up above the layer below. Make sure the sides of the cake are straight and it’s not leaning. My layers are very firm because they’re cold so I can lift them and move them around without them cracking or crumbling.
Cover the bottom cake with a crumb coat
Cover the cake in a thin layer of frosting. This is called a crumb coat because it’s meant to catch any crumbs that come off the cake. I like to start with the top, spooning on a generous amount of buttercream. Spreading it all over the top of the cake. Push it out beyond the edges of the cake to prevent a domed top later. Hold your offset spatula at a 45 degree angle and spin the cake to smooth and level the frosting. The excess frosting will build up on your offset spatula until you swipe it off and away from the cake. Then scrape that frosting into a bowl. Use a new bowl so that you’re not putting this frosting into your main bowl of frosting, since this frosting might have crumbs of cake in it. You don’t want to get those into the rest of your frosting that you’ll use for the final layer of frosting later.
Move down to the sides of the cake, spreading from side to side to cover the whole cake with frosting. Make sure that the frosting sticks up above the top edge of the cake, which will prevent drooping edges.
Frosting a cake is definitely easier to do when your cake layers are cold compared to room temperature cake layers. Cold layers are firm so the cake won’t wobble when you apply pressure to it as you frost it. Also, cold layers are less crumbly so you won’t pull off pieces of cake as you spread your sticky frosting. I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream.
Scrape around the cake a few times with a straight edged cake comb or frosting smoother. The crumb coat doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth because it's going to be covered up but make sure it gives the cake a neat outline. Focus on getting straight sides and a level top and, very importantly, make sure there’s no exposed cake. You need this layer of frosting to cover the whole cake so that it traps every crumb that might come off the cake.
Use your offset spatula to scrape the build up of frosting from your cake comb into the extra bowl you’re using for this potentially crumbly frosting. Then scoop some back up and use it to fill in any indents in the frosted cake. These happen where the frosting isn’t as thick as on the rest of the cake. Scrape around the cake again with your cake comb until the cake is covered with a thin layer of frosting. For the top edge, push sideways with your offset spatula to take off the excess frosting that’s sticking up. Push straight across without angling your spatula upwards or downwards. This will leave a neat, sharp angle around the top of the cake.
Put this cake on its cake drum or cake board in the fridge while you assemble the other tiers.
Cover the other cakes with a crumb coat
For the next tier of the cake, choose a cake board that’s the same size as the cake. If you don't have one, choose one as close to that size as possible. If it's more than 1/2 an inch bigger you'll need to trim the board with scissors. This is a 6 inch cake on a 6 inch board:
Attach the first layer to the board with a dot of buttercream and add your filling. Repeat to assemble the cake. Cover this cake in a crumb coat, which is typically the same colour as your final layer of frosting. Alternatively, you might choose to use something different if you want to incorporate another flavour. I'm doing that here, using chocolate buttercream for the crumb cot and then I'll use vanilla for the final coat. Put this cake in the fridge to chill and repeat the process with the rest of your cakes.
Once you know the steps of how to make a tiered cake you can create as many tiers as you like. Mine will be three tiers with this little 4 inch cake at the top. For every tier except the bottom, the cake needs to be on a board the same size as the cake. I didn't have one small enough for this cake so I trimmed a cardboard cake board. The board needs to be the same size as the cake so that it will be invisible after frosting, stacking and decorating the tiered cake.
To frost a cake on a board the same size as the cake, use a larger board as well. Put a non-slip mat or masking tape on the larger cake board, placing the cake (on its small board) on top. This way, the frosting won’t get all over your turntable because the large cake board will catch it. It’s also easier to move the cake around now because you have something to hold onto.
I mentioned earlier that you don’t have to assemble your bottom tier on a cake drum. If you prefer, assemble it on a board the same size as the cake, like I’m doing for this cake. Later you can attach that board to the cake board with a ring or masking tape.
To set the crumb coat, leave the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Frost each cake for your tiered cake
Chilling the crumb coat makes it firm so it doesn't mix with this final layer of frosting. This means the colours will stay separate instead of blending. Also, any crumbs within the crumb coat frosting won’t get into this final layer of frosting. This ensure that there are no crumbs visible on the final decorated cake.
Frost your cakes but I don’t recommend adding any decorations yet, like piped borders or texture or wafer paper. When you stack the tiers, these decorations might get damaged. It’s best to add them right at the end, when the cake is tiered. I’m using my facelift frosting technique on all of these cakes.
Note that your cakes don’t all have to be the same height! The pink cake is about 5 inches tall but the white cake is only about 3 inches tall. Sometimes it’s nice to vary the heights of each cake. You’ll see at the end that this design is so dramatic and colourful that the different heights really adds to the effect. For a more traditional design you might choose to use the same height for each cake. The conversation table for my Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe has measurements for both standard and tall cakes. Whatever width your cakes are, the heights will be the same, either standard or tall.
It’s fine if you can see the cake board at the bottom of the cake, like you can on these. I’ll show you how to cover that up during the stacking process. When you finish each cake, put it back into the fridge to chill and set the frosting.
I’m using lots of colours of buttercream for my cake but you might be using just one. However many colours you’re using, it’s important to save any leftovers for the stacking process. Cover any bowls of leftover buttercream with plastic wrap so the buttercream doesn't dry out. If you’re using piping bags you can leave the leftovers in those. Put the whole bag into a Tupperware or twist the end to keep it tight and wrap the piping tip with plastic wrap. This will prevent the exposed buttercream from drying out and crusting.
Put all of your cakes in the fridge for at least two hours before stacking them.
Prepare to stack your tiers
At this point, your bottom tier should be on a cake drum at least 4 inches wider than the cake. All of the other tiers should be on cake boards the same size as those cakes. It’s fine if the boards are visible for now!
A tiered cake needs an internal support structure to hold the upper tiers up. This sounds a bit intimidating but it's much simpler than it seems! All you need are some boba straws and a pair of scissors. Boba straws are thicker and wider and stronger than normal straws. They're much easier to measure and cut to size than wooden dowels.
Start with the bottom tier and before adding any supports, you need to know where to place those supports. Take the next tier out of the fridge, the one that will sit on top of it. Separate the cake on its little cake board from the large cake board by slicing in between the boards with an offset spatula.
Lift the cake up on its little cake board and place in on the bottom tier. Adjust it to center it and then trace around it with a toothpick or your offset spatula. This line you’re drawing will be your guide or boundary for the supports so that they sit underneath the cake above it.
Take the top cake off and put it back into the fridge so that the frosting stays cold and firm.
How to add support to a tiered cake
Before seeing how to make a tiered cake by stacking the tiers, you need to add support to the cake. For this you’ll need your boba straws. They all need to go within the line you traced around the cake. For cakes 8 inches or larger, I start with one straw in the middle. Push it down until you feel it hit the cake board. Then pinch it level with the top of the cake. Pull it up and cut where you pinched it. Now it’s exactly the same height as the cake.
Use this piece of straw to measure the rest of the straws, cutting them to be the same height.
Poke your first straw back into the first hole. Then place the next one halfway between that first straw and the circle you drew around the top cake. Push it down until you feel it hit the cake board at the bottom. Then place the next straw 2 inches away, also halfway between the middle straw and that outer line. Continue with the rest of the straws.
This is an 8 inch cake and I can fit 4 straws if I place them all 2 inches apart from each other, plus the straw in the middle. To push the straws as far down as you can, use the handle of your offset spatula.
Remember the leftover buttercream you saved from frosting your cakes? Spread some of that onto the top of the cake within the circle you drew. This will act as glue to attach the next tier of cake. It will stop it from sliding around when you move the cake.
How to stack a tiered cake
Take your next cake out of the fridge and place it, still on its cake board, onto the bottom tier. Press it down to attach it to the frosting you just spread. Don’t worry that the cake board is still visible because we’ll fix that soon.
If you're making a three tiered cake, this second tier of cake needs supports, too. The supports will allow it to hold up the third tier of cake. Place the third tier on top, center it and trace around it. Then put the top cake back in the fridge. Keeping it cold is important so that the frosting stays firm even when you touch it as you’re stacking it.
Follow the same steps to measure and cut and arrange your straws. My top tier is a 4 inch cake and for the straws to be 2 inches apart from each other I can only fit 4 straws into the 6 inch cake below it.
One of the frequently asked questions I get about tiered cakes is why I don’t use a central dowel. I don’t find them necessary for a 3 tiered cake. The buttercream you spread onto the top of each cake will attach the cake above it. It prevents it from sliding around. Keeping the cake cold until you transport it will make sure it’s stable even with the movements and vibrations of a car. More about that in a moment!
Spread a little bit of leftover frosting to cover the straws. Keep it within the circle you drew so that the next cake will hide this extra frosting. Then place the next cake on top. Center it and push down to secure it to the frosting you spread on.
Cover up the cake boards on the tiered cake
The joins between each tier won't look very nice yet. You'll be able to see the cake boards under the top tiers. This is easy to fix! Put the cake on a turntable to make this next step easier. Now pipe around the bottom of each cake to add a border. The border will cover up the visible board and also add some texture and detail to the tiered cake.
This is an open star tip and the next one is a round tip. I’m choosing to pipe borders because I want the extra decoration and because all of the cakes are different colours. If they’re the same colour you can pipe or spread buttercream around the bottom of each tier. Then use a cake comb to scrape off the excess to leave a thin layer flat against the cake. This will disguise the join or seam. I demonstrate this technique in my tutorial on how to make a semi-naked wedding cake.
Now the cake has a stable support structure inside it and it looks stunning on the outside. It’s ready to store, transport or serve! I recommend refrigerating the cake until you transport it. Keep it in the fridge until 2-4 hours before serving it, depending on the temperature of the room where it will be on display.
I’m going to show you 7 Mother's Day cake ideas and how to decorate each one. They're pretty, delicious, and fun to make!
Watercolour with Peekaboo Hearts
Let’s start with a watercolour cake with a peekaboo effect, which is one of my favourites. To make several identical shapes, fold a piece of parchment paper or baking paper in half a few times. Then cut out a heart or any other shape. Snip the middle of each heart to make it easier to peel these off the cake later.
Tint your frosting whatever colours you want to use for the watercolor design. It's best to choose colours that blend together to make colours you like, too. I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream for all of these cakes. I like to put the colours into piping bags or even use piping bags leftover from another cake. Any piping tip will work because all of the texture will be flattened out soon anyway.
Your cake will need to be frosted and chilled before beginning this technique. When the frosting is chilled it will become firm, which means it won't get damaged while you're decorating. Press a heart onto the frosting and then pipe or spread your coloured frosting around it. Cover the edges of the heart, which will attach the heart to the cake. Don't cover the middle of the heart because it’s easiest if the slit you made is still visible.
When you've attached all of the hearts to the cake, spread the buttercream to cover up most of the cake. Try to avoid the centers of the hearts. Don’t worry about covering up the entire cake because when you smooth the frosting you’ll spread it to fill in any gaps. Since the white frosting has set, these colours of buttercream sit on top instead of blending with it.
Now it’s time to peel off the hearts. I like to use a toothpick, sliding it into the slit you cut in the middle of the heart. Pull away from the cake to peel the heart off.
If any hearts are buried under frosting, you’ll still be able to see the outline of the heart. Use your offset spatula to scrape gently over the middle of the heart to expose the slit you cut and then you can use your toothpick to peel it off.
If you’re making this for your own Mother’s Day cake, it’s a fun one to decorate with your kids. They can squeeze the piping bags to get the frosting onto the cake and then they can watch you smooth it and peel the hearts off. Add a border on top if like and then you can all eat it together!
Textured Frosting with Mini Donuts
This next design is great if you struggle to smooth your frosting. Spread frosting onto your cake and scrape around it a few times with a cake comb. Don’t worry about indents or air pockets or imperfections because you'll smooth those out in a moment. Focus on pressing your cake comb down on the cake board to line it up straight against the cake so that the sides of the cake are straight.
When you're happy with the shape of the cake, use a spoon to add gorgeous texture. Press the back of the spoon lightly against the frosting and pull it up the side. Lift up and away from the cake to leave a neat peak at the top. Overlap the previous groove slightly to cover the whole cake with texture.
A hot spoon works best for this. Dip it into a cup or bowl of hot water every minute or so and then dry it off before pressing it into the frosting. The hot metal will smooth the frosting as you pull it and create these “swooshes”.
Add a Mother's Day cake topper or decorate the cake with cake donuts. These are shockingly easy to make! Just squeeze a little bit of your cake batter until a silicon donut mold using a piping bag to get it neatly into the rings. Bake for the same time as you would for cupcakes, about 15 minutes.
When the donuts cool, dip them in ganache. To make ganache, use 3 parts white chocolate chips and 1 part heavy whipping cream or double cream. Heat the cream in the microwave until bubbles form around the edges of the bowl, which takes about 30 seconds. Pour the chocolate chips into the hot cream, pushing them under the surface. Leave them for 5 minutes and then stir until smooth. Add oil based colours if you like.
Add some sprinkles while the ganache is still sticky, before it sets. Then poke toothpicks into the donuts and push them into the cake to hold them upright as cake toppers.
To attach donuts to the sides of the cake, spread a bit of frosting wherever you want to put one and press the donut into it.
Create a delicious floral beauty with a few colours of buttercream or any other frosting and a few piping tips. You’ll also need a flower nail and parchment paper or wax paper. Cut the paper into squares as wide as the flat head of the flower nail.
Piping the flowers onto parchment or wax paper makes it easy to move the flowers onto your cake later. Pipe a dot of buttercream onto the nail and then cover it with one of your little squares of paper. For pretty, simple flowers use any petal shaped piping tip like this #104.
Hold it so that the wider end of the teardrop shape is pressed down against the middle of the nail and the narrow part points outwards. Pipe petals by squeezing the bag and pushing the tip slightly away and then pulling back towards you. Stop squeezing the bag and pull it away to finish the petal. Then spin the nail between your thumb and finger to rotate it before piping the next petal.
These pansy type flowers are the quickest and easiest flowers to pipe. Use a round tip or a star shaped tip with a different colour of buttercream to pipe a center onto each flower. Then carefully pull the paper sideways off the flower nail and lower it down onto a tray or baking sheet. Repeat the process to pipe as many flowers as you want for your cake.
Add variety to your cake design by changing colours, using different sizes of petal tips, piping a second layer of petals on top of the first, or changing the colour or piping tip you use to pipe the centers of each flower.
Pipe all of your flowers, placing each one on the tray, and put the tray in the freezer for 10 minutes. This chills the flowers so that they set and you'll be able to touch them without damaging them.
To attach the flowers to the cake, pipe leaves onto the cake using a leaf tip like a #352. Then lift a flower up, peel it off the paper and press it onto those sticky buttercream leaves.
You could use only flowers to decorate the cake or add some piped details too. I'm using a #32 open star tip and a tiny #18 tip for pipe swirls and blossoms. This Mother's Day cake design is pretty and feminine and, best of all, it’s entirely edible!
Rainbow Double Stencil
Make a beautiful rainbow heart with a homemade stencil for this next cake. Draw a heart onto parchment paper and cut it out, leaving the parchment around the shape intact. The heart should fit onto the side or top of your cake. This will be part of your stencil. Now use a more detailed stencil to add a design within your parchment stencil shape. Tape them together and wrap the stencils around your cake, taping or pinning the double stencil in place.
Tint rainbow colours of buttercream, using a very small amount of each colour. I like to mix these in a cupcake pan since you'll only have to wash one pan instead of lots of bowls.
Spread the coloured buttercream over the double stencil. Use an offset spatula or a cake comb to scrape over the stencil several times. You'll take the excess frosting off and blend the colours together slightly.
Take as much frosting off as possible, leaving a thin, smooth layer behind. Then carefully peel the stencil off the cake to leave the design behind!
You can use the leftover frosting to add a border the cake. Spread the colours side by side onto a piece of plastic wrap and then roll it up into a log. Cut off the end with the colour that you'll start piping with.
Put the log into a piping bag fitted with a 1M star tip, pushing the cut end down into the piping tip at the bottom of the bag.
To pipe a wave or shell border, squeeze the bag to let the buttercream bulge out and then pull away. Overlap the tail of each one to make a colourful border to match the stencil design.
Rainbow Layered Frosting
Here’s another fun rainbow design for a Mother's Day cake that’s even easier to create. Spread or pipe coloured buttercream onto a cake, starting at the top of the cake. Scrape around the cake gently with a cake comb a few times to take off the excess. You'll leave a thin, smooth layer of colour on the cake.
After each time you go around the cake, scrape the excess frosting off your cake comb into a bowl. If you take off more frosting than you want and the band of colour is too thin, spread some of that frosting you scrape off, back onto the cake and then smooth it again.
Pipe or spread your next colour underneath the first colour. Overlap the first colour so that there’s no gap in between the two colours.
There are three tricks to this design. First, use a crusting buttercream like my 4 Minute Buttercream because it gets really firm when it sets. That makes it possible to layer the colours instead of blending them together.
Second, take your time to get the frosting on the cake really smooth before doing this. These colours won’t completely cover the cake and they won’t disguise messy frosting. For tips on this, check out my tutorial on 15 Frosting Mistakes and How to Fix Them!
The third trick is to chill the cake in the fridge for at least two hours before you do this. That way, the frosting will be very firm and you can add and scrape these colours without damaging it.
To add some detail to the top of this cake, squeeze some of each colour onto a cake comb.
Lower the comb onto the top of the cake. Pull it in a curved, arc shape over the top surface of the cake to leave a rainbow behind. You might need to spread more of some of the colours and scrape again to get good coverage.
You can use a piping tip or a toothpick to draw a design in the rainbow if you like:
To learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs, visit my online cake school. You can take individual courses or join my ClubPLUS for access to every MasterCourse, MiniCourse, Live Workshop and 5 Minute Fridays. I hope to see you there!
Tray Bake Mother's Day Cake with a Heart
The easiest kind of cake to make is a tray bake cake. You bake, decorate and serve these cakes in the same dish! Use a few different piping tips and a variety of colours of frosting to create different textures.
To pipe a design, score the outline with a toothpick and then piping within that outline. Save one colour to pipe outside the outline, which will be the background colour.
I’m using my 4 Minute Buttercream but you can do this with ganache, whipped cream or meringue buttercream instead. And this is my Very Vanilla Cake but you can even do this with brownies or chocolate chip cookie dough!
Tray bakes are easy to make and decorate and also easy to transport and serve!
Kid's Choice Mother's Day Cake!
If you don’t feel like decorating a Mother’s Day cake for yourself or you can’t choose a style or design, let your kids decorate a cake for you! It’s a fun activity that they’ll love and even if it’s not beautiful, it will be delicious and a wonderful memory.
These are two of my kids, James and Max. They wanted to make their own baking videos and you can watch this one and all of their other videos on their YouTube channel, British Boys Bake! They would LOVE it if you subscribed!
Turn piping into flat patterns on cakes like stripes, circles, diagonals and triangles by giving the frosting a facelift! In this tutorial I’ll show you everything you need to know about this technique.
Prepare your cake
After assembling your cake, cover it in a thin layer of frosting. This will trap any crumbs that might come off the cake and give the cake a neat shape. It doesn't have to be perfect but it’s important that the sides are straight and smooth.
Mark your pattern on cake
Before creating flat patterns on cakes, I really recommend marking or scoring your pattern into the frosting.
A pattern is an arrangement of lines or shapes repeated at regular intervals. This means the placement and spacing of each shape is really important. If you try to freestyle a pattern and the shapes are different distances apart from each other, it won’t look like a pattern.
So, how can you make sure the shapes of a pattern are spaced evenly? Here are three methods:
Use cookie cutters to mark your pattern. Line the shape up so that the edges touch or leave the same amount of space in between them. Another option is to overlap the shapes by the same amount each time. If you don’t have a cookie cutter the shape you’re looking for, you can use part of another one. For example, I’m using this heart to make triangles:
If your pattern is in lines going around or up and down your cake, mark those lines onto the cake. You can press the straight edge of a cake comb into the frosting to score the lines. Then pipe along those lines.
If your pattern follows lots of horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines, mark a grid. This will space the entire pattern evenly. To make a grid you'll need a piece of parchment paper and a chilled cake. Wrap a piece of string or ribbon around your cake to measure it and then cut a piece of parchment paper the same length. It needs to be long enough to wrap around your cake and should be the same height, too. Measure it after the frosting has set, which takes about 30 minutes in the fridge, so that the paper doesn’t stick to it. Fold the paper in half and half again and again, in both directions. When you unfold it you’ll have a grid! Wrap the grid around the cake and poke a pin or toothpick through every point where the creases meet. This will transfer the grid onto your frosted cake.
Prepare your colours
To create flat patterns on cakes, begin with piping. You'll use piping bags to pipe the pattern onto the cake. There are lots of ways to prepare the colours and the most obvious is to tint each colour individually and use several piping bags with different piping tips.
To create different shades, use different amounts of the same colours. I like to mix small amounts of buttercream in a cupcake pan so I don’t have to wash lots of bowls afterwards!
You canmix different colours in just onebowl by starting with the lightest colour. Scoop some into a piping bag, add more gel to make the next colour, and repeat.
Layer different colours within the same piping bag to create a gorgeous ombre effect with your piping. Lay out of piece of plastic wrap and spoon or spread or pipe your colours side by side onto it. You can use different colours or different shades of the same colour, from light to dark or dark to light.
Lift up the plastic wrap around the colours and roll it into a log.
Cut off the end that you’re going to pipe first and drop that end down into the piping bag. The shades will be layered neatly within the piping bag. They will come through after each other but they’ll also blend slightly, which you’ll see on the cake with the circular pattern.
You can skip the plastic wrap and just spoon the colours straight into the piping bag. The colours won’t layer as neatly as they do in the plastic wrap log. You can see this in the piping bag below and you’ll see the result on the circular pattern.
I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream for all of the cakes in this tutorial. How much buttercream do you need? If your pattern only covers a small part of the cake, you only need a spoonful of buttercream. If the pattern covers most of the surface of the cake you’ll need more buttercream. It's best to always fill your piping bag between one third and two thirds full so that you can comfortably hold and squeeze it.
You’ll see the results of different piping tips in these patterns. For star tips, choose ones with long prongs that are spaced widely apart from each other. These will give you better results than tiny, tight prongs, where the details tend to get lost and piping looks like circles.
Pipe and chill
Ok, let’s start piping! Like I mentioned, flat patterns on cakes begin with texture. Using the markings you made on your cake, pipe the pattern you’ve chosen.
Aim to pipe everything the same thickness. When you take off the outer layers of this piping, if some parts of the piping are thicker than others you’ll have to take off lots of that piping to get level with the rest of the piping. This will make more sense in a minute!
Keep in mind that this technique works best for fairly simple patterns with space in between each detail. Also, the part of the piping that is visible now will not be visible at the end. The peak or tip or outer edge is going to disappear when you flatten your pattern so don’t worry about that part. For example, the peaks on rosettes don’t all need to point in the same direction.
For the circular pattern below I’m using a star shaped tip to fill in the areas where the circles overlap. I’m using the plastic wrap method for an ombre effect, starting with the lightest shade at the bottom of the piping bag. When you finish a section and you want the colour to get darker, squeeze some of the buttercream out of the bag until you see it getting darker. Then pipe the next section.
Unlike the other two cakes, this piping isn’t spaced apart. The star shapes will blend together when I flatten the pattern and their shape will only be noticeable around the edges of each section of piping.
After piping all of the details of your pattern, chill this part before adding the background colour or colours. Put the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes so that the piping becomes firm.
Fill and chill
When you can touch the piping without damaging it, cover the cake with your background colour of frosting. It's best to use a piping bag because it applies the least pressure to the piped pattern. If you spread it straight on, your offset spatula can knock off parts of the piping.
Cover the top of the cake as well and then smooth the top. I like to start with the top of the cake because you’ll prevent dropping edges, getting sharper edges around the top of the cake this way.
This frosting you've just piped onto the cake will be the background colour of your pattern. It will cover up your piping for now, but not for long! Spread the frosting gently to push it into any gaps within the piping and also to scrape off the excess. You'll leave a relatively level, smooth layer of frosting on the cake. Don’t press hard enough to touch the piped pattern because if any parts of that piping break off, you’ll spread those pieces around the cake and you’ll end up with unexpected details in your pattern!
Now put the cake in the freezer for 20 -30 minutes, until this frosting is cold and firm. The time depends on how cold your cake layers already are. You don’t want to freeze the frosting completely because it will be much harder to remove the outer layers when they’re frozen.
Give your frosting a facelift
Ok, here comes the really fun part! Let’s give this frosting a facelift! Pour boiling water into a cake pan wide enough to fit the edge of a metal cake comb into. Leave your comb in the water while you take your cake out of the freezer. Then dry the comb on a towel or paper towel and scrape around the cake. This is a process, and you’ll question it during the first few scrapes!
The hot metal will take off layer after layer of frosting, revealing the colours of your piping. Keep scraping, taking off the top layers of the piping to reveal a cross section, which will be the middle part of whatever shape you piped. You’re giving the frosting a facelift!
Different parts of your pattern might become visible before others. Where you spread the background colour more thickly over the piping, you'll have to scrape more off before the pattern will show through. Scraping up the sides of the cake is the quickest way to remove the outer layers. Then scrape around the cake to smooth the sides.
Any indents in the frosting are caused by air pockets within the frosting or where the frosting isn’t as thick as on the rest of the cake. Fill them in by piping or spreading more buttercream of whatever colour that part of the pattern should be. For the details of the pattern, use the leftover buttercream in your piping bags. For the background colour, use those leftovers.
Then scrape again straight away to take off the excess. Now the pattern should be visible and also smooth because that buttercream you just spread or piped on has filled in the indents.
Now you have a perfectly flat buttercream pattern on your cake, which looks like it’s been printed or painted on!
I can’t wait for you to try this technique! Tell me in the comments when you create your own flat patterns on cakes and tag @britishgirlbakes or #faceliftfrosting in your photos on social media so I can see your creations!
Visit my cake school to learn more fun cake decorating techniques, all broken down step by step, showing all of the little details so that you can use the techniques to make your own cake masterpieces!
I’m so excited to show you this fun technique I’ve been experimenting with! After piping buttercream onto a cake, give it a facelift to reveal a cross section of that piping. Let's call it Facelift Frosting! The technique creates a stunning effect that looks like edible paper or painted fondant. There are endless variations you can try and in this tutorial I’ll show you three.
Step 1: Prepare your cake for Facelift Frosting
To prepare your cake for this technique, cover it in a crumb coat. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that traps any crumbs that come off the cake. It prevents those crumbs from getting into your final layer of frosting next. I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream for all of these cakes.
The crumb coat doesn't have to be smooth because it’s going to be covered up in a moment. It should create a neat outline for the cake though, so aim for straight sides and a level top. Then chill the cake to set this frosting while you prepare your piping bags.
Step 2: Prepare your piping bags
You’ll need at least two colours or shades of buttercream for this technique. After tinting your buttercream, put it into piping bags. You can use the piping bags without piping tips or for more detailed designs, use a variety of piping tips.
One way to incorporate two colours with just one piping bag is to do two tone frosting. To do this, hold the piping bag open and spread one colour down one side of the bag. Then fill the other half of the piping bag with another colour, like this:
Step 3: Pipe and chill
Take your chilled cake out of the fridge and pipe away! You can cover the whole cake with piping, like I’m doing here with these roses. I know this rose frosting technique is a bit dated but the effect at the end is going to be totally different and unrecognizable.
You can create pretty designs without piping tips by just cutting the ends off piping bags. Try wavy lines or zig zags or you could pipe hundreds of dots or really anything you like. Save all of your leftover frosting in the piping bags for later!
For the previous two cakes I covered the entire cake with piping but you don’t have to do it this way. Another option is to pipe texture to partially cover the cake. I'm piping textured stripes on this cake and leave the rest of the crumb coat blank for now:
For partial coverage piping, put the cake in the freezer just long enough to set the piping. It will take about 15 minutes. Then pipe over the whole cake with another color of frosting like this plain white buttercream:
You apply much less pressure with a piping bag compared to using an offset spatula to spread this frosting straight on. This means you won’t damage the rosettes or dots or whatever you piped.
However you choose to decorate the cake, make sure the entire cake is covered in frosting. Don't forget the top of the cake! You might choose to cover the top with smooth frosting instead of piping onto it.
Now put the cake in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to chill and set the frosting.
Step 4: Scrape the frosting
While the frosting is chilling, boil a kettle and find your metal straight edged cake comb. Pour the boiling water into a cake pan at least as wide as your comb. You need to be able to fit the entire straight edge of the cake comb into it. The water should be about two centimeters or an inch high.
Take your cake out of the freezer and put it on a turntable. Lift the cake comb out of the hot water and dry it off and then scrape around the cake. Don’t panic after the first scrape! You’re going to pull off the outer parts of the piping and it’s going to look very messy.
If you have piping on the top of the cake you’ll need to scrape that as well. You hot metal cake comb will take off the texture layer by layer until it’s smooth.
After each scrape around the cake, wipe the buttercream off your cake comb and dip it back in the hot water. Dry the comb off and scrape again. And again. And again. This will take a few minutes and several scrapes.
Step 5: Fill in and scrape to reveal Facelift Frosting!
When most of the frosting is smooth but you still see several gaps or indents, stop scraping. If you continue, you'll expose the crumb coat underneath the piping. Instead, use the leftover buttercream from piping to fill in those indents.
Spread this fresh frosting to push it deeper into the indents and then scrape again. You'll drag the fresh frosting over the whole cake at first but keep going!
As you scrape the frosting off you’ll reveal a cross section of the piping. It will look as though you’ve sliced straight through the middle of whatever shape you piped. The result is a very intricate design that looks like it’s been printed or painted onto the cake. The piped buttercream has been given a facelift!
Tips for this Facelift Frosting technique
As you’re scraping the frosting off, go in different directions with your cake comb. Scrape up the sides of the cake as well as around. It’s quicker to scrape up than around and you'll take off the outer layers faster this way. Then switch to going around the cake to get the curve of the sides smooth at the end.
Remember to attach your cake to the cake board! Before you assemble your cake, spread or pipe a generous dot of buttercream onto the middle of the cake board. Press your first layer of cake down onto that dot. When you chill your cake later, the buttercream dot will get cold and hard and it will act like glue, securing your cake to the board. This is how to prevent your cake from moving around while you’re scraping off the piped frosting.
Don’t leave your cake in the freezer any longer than 20-30 minutes. If you do, the frosting will freeze rather than just getting cold and firm. It will be hard work to scrape off the outer layers.
Replace the hot water as it cools. The hotter the water, the hotter your cake comb and the easier it will be to scrape off the layers of frosting. If you prefer you can use a blowtorch to heat the straight edge of your metal cake comb!
Don’t worry abut the visible cake board at the bottom of these cakes - in next week’s tutorial I’ll show you how to stack a tier cake and as part of that, I’ll be covering up these boards!
Any other questions? Ask them in the comments!
If you like the breakdown of this technique, you’ll LOVE my online courses! Visit my cake school to learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs. Join my ClubPLUS membership for access to every MasterCourse, MiniCourse, Live Workshop and 5 Minute Fridays, where I share a tip or technique or demonstrate an answer to a FAQ in just 5 minutes!
You can watch a video of this tutorial on Facelift Frosting if you prefer:
This small chocolate cake recipe can make:
one tall 4” cake
two short 4" cakes
one short 6” cake
6 mini bundt cakes
a 9" x 6" tray bake cake
The recipe uses cocoa powder for a super chocolatey flavour and butter to make it rich and moist. You can convert it into any of the desserts listed above by adjusting the baking time and temperature. You'll find the recipe card below these directions and photos. Skip to the bottom of the page to watch a video if you prefer!
How to make this small chocolate cake recipe
Start by creaming room temperature butter and sugar together, which takes about 5 minutes at medium speed. I prefer to use a handheld mixer rather than a stand mixer for small recipes. You can angle it to incorporate all of the ingredients, even if they're stuck to the sides or bottom of the bowl. A stand mixer tends to be more effective for bigger batches with larger quantities of ingredients.
At the beginning, the butter and sugar mixture will look gritty or chunky, like this:
Keep mixing until it gets lighter in colour and starts to look fluffy and creamy. Add an egg and the vanilla, mixing until they're incorporated. You’ll notice the mixture getting lighter in colour and runnier and smoother. Your mixer will leave trails behind and the batter will look similar to pudding:
Now whisk together hot water with cocoa powder. The hot water will help the cocoa powder dissolve easily but you’ll need to let it cool before adding it to the butter so you don’t melt it.
In another bowl, whisk together all purpose or plain flour with baking powder and baking soda. The reason for mixing them together is to make sure they mix evenly through the batter later.
Add the cocoa powder mixture to the butter mixture first and mix it in. Then use a spatula to scrape around the bowl to make sure there isn’t any butter stuck to the bottom or the sides of the bowl.
Next, add the flour mixture. Don’t overmix the batter! Stop mixing as soon as you don’t see any white flour in the batter.
Now just transfer the batter into whatever pan or mold or dish you want to use!
How to convert this small chocolate cake recipe
Look at all of the different things you can bake with this recipe!
You can use this small chocolate cake recipe for a 6 inch cake bydividing the batter between two 6 inch pans. Bake at 350F for 16 minutes.
For a tall 4 inch cake, divide the batter into three 4 inch pans and bake at 350F for 21 minutes. If you prefer, you can make two short 4 inch cakes by dividing the batter into four 4 inch pans. These will bake at 350F for 18 minutes.
You can make 7 cupcakes with this small chocolate cake recipe. Fill the wrappers 3/4 full for a slightly domed cupcake. Bake at 375F for 14 minutes.
For mini bundt cakes you'll have enough batter for 6. I like to pipe the batter to divide it evenly and neatly between the molds or cavities without getting batter all over the pan! Bake at 375F for 19 minutes.
For a super easy cake that you can bake, frost and decorate in the pan, make a tray bake cake. This small chocolate cake recipe will fill a 9" x 6" casserole or baking dish. Bake at 350F for 29 minutes.
Frosting and decorating ideas
Of course, there are endless ways to frost and decorate all of these! I love my 4 Minute Buttercream for filling and frosting cakes, piping swirls on cupcakes, and piping gorgeous textures on tray bake cakes.
Chocolate ganache is delicious on mini bundt cakes and it's very easy to make. Heat 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream or double cream in the microwave for 30 seconds and then add 2/3 chocolate chips to the bowl. Push them under the surface of the cream and leave for 5 minutes. Stir together until smooth and then drizzle over the mini bundt cakes with a spoon.
This small chocolate cake recipe is not only versatile, it’s also absolutely delicious! It’s rich and moist and super chocolatey but not too sweet - I can’t wait for you to taste it! Please leave a comment below when you do!
This small chocolate cake recipe is not only versatile, it’s also absolutely delicious! It’s rich and moist and super chocolatey but not too sweet. Follow these directions to use it for small cakes (4 inch or 6 inch), cupcakes, mini bundt cakes or a tray bake cake!
1/2cup hot water
1/4cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4cup unsalted butter
1/2cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa powder and hot water together until the cocoa powder dissolves. Set aside to cool.
2. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and mix to combine.
3. In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Add to the mixing bowl and mix on the lowest speed setting for one minute. Scrape down to the bottom of the mixing bowl with a spatula to loosen any ingredients. Mix again until you can't see the flour in the batter.
4. Add the cocoa powder mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on the lowest speed until the batter is smooth. It will be runny!
In this tutorial I'll show you how to write HAPPY BIRTHDAY on a cake with neat, gorgeous lettering. I’ll share my tips on how to position your message, various materials to write with, and different lettering techniques.
What to use to write HAPPY BIRTHDAY on a cake
The most convenient option is buttercream because you can use the leftovers after frosting your cake. My 4 Minute Buttercream is my favourite type of buttercream! Spoon a little bit into a piping bag fitted with small round tip. If you don’t have one, you can use a ziplock bag instead. After spooning the buttercream in, cut a tiny piece off one corner to pipe through.
Another delicious option is melted chocolate. You can use white, milk, semi-sweet or dark chocolate. Spoon the melted chocolate into a ziplock bag and cut a corner off. Make a tiny hole for thin lettering or a larger hole for thick lettering.
Edible paints are a third option. You can buy them already mixed or make your own by mixing metallic luster dust with a few drops of clear alcohol. You'll need a thin paste rather than a runny liquid. If it’s too runny you won’t get bold coloured letters. You’ll need a tiny paintbrush and I’ll show you how to paint neat letters later in this tutorial.
How to write HAPPY BIRTHDAY on a cake
There are lots of ways to write HAPPY BIRTHDAY and I'll show you the techniques for all of these next:
print the letters in lower case letters, all capitals, or a combination of these
write in cursive
copy a simple font
use a different technique to copy an elaborate font
use imprints or embossers for gorgeous, perfect fonts
Let’s dive into the techniques for writing Happy Birthday on cakes.
How to pipe a line
To pipe a line, squeeze the piping bag to push the buttercream out and pull slowly. At the end of the line, release your pressure on the bag as you pull it away. Doing these two things at the same time will finish the line neatly.
Like I mentioned, you can use a ziplock bag instead of piping bag. Your letters won't be as neat because the metal of a piping tip is much more solid than the plastic of the ziplock bag. Your lines will be straighter with a piping tip but if you don't have one, this is another option.
How to pipe a dot
To pipe a dot, squeeze the piping bag to let the buttercream bulge out into a circle. Stop squeezing the bag as you push the tip slightly into the dot of buttercream and then pull away. This will leave a neat peak on the dot. You can do this for the dot on the 'i' in 'birthday' or for pointillism like in the cake below. For a line of dots, hold the piping tip at the same angle for each dot for neatest results.
How to copy a simple font
If you want to write happy birthday on a cake in a specific font, print out your message in that font and refer to it as you pipe. I like to place the word immediately below where I’m piping. This way, you can look at each printed letter as you’re piping to mimic the font most accurately. Keep in mind that if your piping is thicker than the printed letters, your word will be wider than the printed word.
For cursive I recommend piping one letter or one part of a letter at a time. Then pause to look at the printed message to check what the next letter looks like and how it connects to the previous letter. Now pipe the next letter. This is the neatest method, compared to trying to pipe the entire word at once.
How to copy an elaborate font
To copy a font that you don’t feel confident replicating onto a blank cake, try this technique! Print your message, flip it over, and trace the reverse side onto parchment paper.
Now press the pencil side against the cake and re-trace over the message. Your pressure will transfer the pencil from the underside of the parchment paper onto the cake.
Note that pencils are no longer made with lead. These days they're graphite, which is not toxic, but if this faint trace bothers you, don’t use this technique. If you’re comfortable with it, pipe over the pencil lines with buttercream and voila!
How to write with chocolate
To write with chocolate you'll need a sandwich bag like a ziplock bag. I find writing with melted chocolate trickier than buttercream because it flows continuously out of the bag, compared to buttercream which only comes through the tip when you squeeze the bag. You have a lot more control when piping with buttercream than you do with chocolate. With chocolate, as you finish each line if you pull the bag away you’ll leave a drizzle or tail or peak of chocolate at the end of the letter. You can minimize this by pushing down slightly before pulling the bag away. Then use a toothpick to flatten any peaks. It’s not as neat as buttercream but it’s another way to write Happy Birthday on a cake.
How to use letter embossers
Try letter embossers for gorgeous, perfect fonts. These are made by Sweet Stamp and you can use my code BGB10 for a discount! After chilling the cake to set the frosting, arrange the letters on the cake wherever you want them to go. Press each one gently into the frosting. You’re aiming for a shallow indent, just enough to see the whole letter, so don’t press too hard.
Then use edible paints and a tiny paintbrush, the smaller the better! Fill the letters in by painting with dabbing motions and the imprints will guide your paintbrush to fill each one neatly.
How to position and space your letters
Whichever style of writing you choose to write Happy Birthday on a cake, the neatness of your message really depends on how well you space it. Let’s look at what NOT to do. If you start writing without planning the position of the letters, your words can end up off-center. Even worse, they'll be crammed in tightly to fit onto the cake like this:
So, how do you space your message? Here are six options:
1. Pipe your letters freehand
You can freehand your letters, meaning that you pipe them before planning where each one is going to go. This is most successful if you start with the middle letter. This centers the word, and then you can pipe the letters before and after. So for BIRTHDAY, there are 8 letters and the middle two are T and H so I'm piping those underneath the middle letter of HAPPY, which is the first P.
2. Use a printed word
If you print your message in a certain font to copy, place the printed word above or below where you’re going to pipe. If you center the printed word on the cake and then copy the spacing of the printed letters, your piped word will be centered, too.
3. Use a written word
Even if you don't want to copy a specific font, it can still be a good idea to write your message on a piece of paper first. Hold that up on the cake to use as a guide, centering the word you wrote and then piping below or above it so that the piped word is centered, too. This way, when you write happy birthday on a cake you can be confident that both words will fit on the cake!
4. Outline with a toothpick
Another option is to outline your word with a toothpick before piping, starting with the middle letter to make sure the word is centered on the cake, and then pipe over the letters. This way you can take your time with the toothpick to make sure each letter is the same height and check that you like the shape of each letter, and then when it comes time to pipe, all you’re focusing on is squeezing the piping bag with constant pressure and holding your wrist still and steady to pipe straight lines, rather than focusing on the little details of the lettering.
5. Trace a message
If you’re using the pencil tracing method, spacing is very easy. Just center the message on the cake before you start tracing.
6. Arrange and re-arrange letter embossers
If you’re using letter embossers, arrange and rearrange them until they’re in the exact spot you want them to be. When you're happy with their position, press them into the frosting on the cake.
Tips for success to write Happy Birthday on a cake
You only need a tiny amount of buttercream to write Happy Birthday. Look at how much there is if I scrape a message off a cake - it’s just a tablespoon or so:
But it’s easier to pipe with the bag about half full, than an almost empty bag, so I suggest using more than you’ll actually need. I have another tutorial on 9 ways to use leftover frosting for ideas on what to do with the extra buttercream.
I recommend writing on a cake BEFORE piping borders or other details on top of the cake, so you have the biggest space available to move your wrist, without having to navigate around piping or other decorations.
While you’re piping. Keep a toothpick handy and use it to adjust your letters to make the lines smoother or to manipulate them to make the hole in a P bigger, for example.
I always chill my cakes before writing on them because when the frosting on the cake is cold, it’s firm, so if you pipe a message you don’t like you can scrape it off straight away with toothpick or offset spatula and you won’t damage the firm frosting on the cake.
I hope this tutorial has been useful! Visit my cake school to learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs and join my ClubPLUS for access to every MasterCourse, MiniCourse, Live Workshop, and 5 Minute Fridays, where I teach a tip or technique or demonstrate a frequently asked question like how to choose the best turntable, different ways to store leftover buttercream, and how to freeze a fully decorated cake.
With acrylic discs you can achieve perfectly smooth frosting on cakes and a sharp edge from the sides onto the top. Acrylic discs will make your cakes look professional if you use them correctly and in this tutorial I’ll show you how.
What are acrylic discs and what are they used for?
Acrylic discs are transparent, round pieces of acrylic, which is a kind of plastic that’s very strong. They are placed below and above a cake while you spread frosting onto the cake. Those discs will guide your cake comb as you scrape around the cake to create smooth, straight sides. There are lots of little details to get right for this to work, which I'll explain next.
What size acrylic discs should I use?
You’ll need two identical acrylic discs and they should be about 1/2 an inch wider than your cake layers.
Measure the width of your cake layers after baking and cooling and then choose discs half an inch wider. This is because some cakes will shrink after baking so will end up smaller than pans you baked them in.
For example, this is my Very Vanilla Cake baked in six inch pans but after cooling, they measure 5.75 inches. I’m using a set of acrylic discs that are 6.25 inches wide, which is half an inch wider than the cake layers. This will leave space for a quarter of an inch of frosting all the way around the cake.
What tools do you need to be able to use acrylic discs?
Apart from two identical acrylic discs you’ll need:
an offset spatula
a straight edged cake comb or frosting smoother
a non-slip mat
two cake boards.
Your two cake boards should be at least 2 inches apart. You'll need one cardboard cake board that's as close as possible to the same width as your cake layers. You'll also need a larger one of any material such as acrylic, cardboard or foam core.
To make it easy to remove the top acrylic disc, line it with parchment paper, which is non-stick. Trace around a disc onto parchment paper and cut that circle out.
Use four tiny dabs of buttercream to attach the parchment to the disc. I recommend putting this disc into the freezer for 5 minutes to set the buttercream dots to attach the parchment securely.
How to prepare a cake for acrylic discs
Assemble your cake on the cardboard cake board that's the same width as the cake. Spread a dot of buttercream onto the middle of the cake board to secure the first layer of cake.
Like I mentioned, some cakes shrink when they bake and cool so they might end up being smaller than your cardboard cake board. After attaching the cake to the cake board, trim the board so that it's the same size as the cake. The sides of the board should be flush with the sides of the cake.
Then alternate between cake and filling to assemble your cake. I recommend chilling your cake layers for about 15 minutes in the fridge before you start. When they're cold, they're firmer and less crumbly to frost. Also, if the bottom cake layer is cold it will chill that dot of the buttercream on the cake board to set it and that will hold the entire cake steady while you assemble and frost it.
Get down to eye level to make sure each layer is directly on top of the layer below it. This will ensure that the sides of the cake are straight.
Now cover the cake in a crumb coat, which is a thin layer of frosting to trap any crumbs that come off the cake. If you skip this, you’ll have visible crumbs in the frosting on your cake. Place your larger cake board on your turntable with a non-slip mat in the middle. Then lower your cake on its little cardboard cake board down onto in. The non-slip mat in between the boards will hold the small cake board still.
After spreading frosting over the whole cake, scrape around the cake with a cake comb to smooth the frosting a little bit. This doesn't need to be perfect! As long as there isn’t any exposed cake, a messy crumb coat is fine because it’s going to be covered up in a moment.
The big cake board gives you a large flat surface to rest your cake comb on as you scrape. It also stops the frosting getting all over your turntable.
Trimming the cake board earlier was important because next, the final coat of frosting will cover up both the crumb coat and the cake board underneath, so the board will be invisible.
Now put the cake into the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
How to frost a cake with acrylic discs
When the frosting on the cake has chilled and it’s firm to the touch, take the cake out. Slide an offset spatula underneath the cake, in between the big cake board and the little cardboard cake board the cake is sitting on.
Slice all the way around the cake to separate it (still on its board!) and lift it up. Place a non-slip mat on the cake board and one of the acrylic discs on top.
Then spread a dot of buttercream onto the middle of the acrylic disc and lower the cake back down onto that dot. Let's skip ahead to see why that dot is so important:
The cake will push the dot flat and the coldness of the cake will chill and set the squashed dot, which will act like glue to attach to the cake on its little cake board, so it doesn’t slide around.
After lowering the cake onto the buttercream dot, center the cake on the acrylic disc. Then spoon a generous amount of buttercream onto the top of the cake and spread it around, pushing it out over the edges of the cake. Press your second acrylic disc down onto the frosting with the parchment facing down, so it’s pressed against the frosting.
Push a cake comb sideways, making sure the bottom is resting on the big, bottom cake board so that it’s straight. It should touch both the bottom and top acrylic disc. If it doesn’t, adjust the top disc so that it’s directly above the bottom disc. Your cake comb should now touch both discs.
Now spread buttercream around the sides of the cake. It needs to be thick enough so that it goes up to the outer edge of the acrylic discs. Press your cake comb up against the acrylic discs and scrape around the cake to smooth the frosting.
Scrape around a few times, wiping off the buttercream from your cake comb into your bowl of buttercream after each scrape. Then fill in any indents by spreading on more buttercream to fill those in and then scrape again.
If you’re struggling to get the frosting perfect it's probably because the top disc is sliding as you press against it with your cake comb. Put the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes or the fridge for an hour to chill and set the frosting. Cover the leftover buttercream in your bowl with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out. Take the cake out of the fridge or freezer and spread the leftover buttercream over the frosting. Now scrape again and since the top disc is secured onto the chilled frosting, you should be more successful.
When you’re happy with the sides of the cake, put the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes or the fridge for an hour to set the frosting.
How to remove acrylic discs from a cake
When the frosting is cold and firm, use a sharp knife to separate the top acrylic disc from the cake. Lift the disc off and then peel the parchment off, too. Don’t expect the frosting to be perfect… yet!
The frosting will have little air pockets or indents where the acrylic disc didn’t push down far enough to stick to the buttercream. Spread more buttercream over those areas now, scraping off the excess with your offset spatula or cake comb. Because the rest of the frosting has chilled and set, you won’t damage your smooth sides or top.
Scrape around the sides of the cake, angling your cake comb to press against only the top of the side. You'll push the fresh buttercream you’ve just spread on so that it sticks up above the top edge of the cake. Then swipe sideways with your offset spatula to push and lift it off the cake.
Step back and admire your beautiful sharp top edge! The cake isn't quite finished yet. To separate the cake from the bottom acrylic disc you'll need an offset spatula or sharp knife again. Slide it between the disc and the cake on its cardboard cake board. Pull all the way around the cake and then lift the cake up off the acrylic disc. You can use your hand to balance it because the frosting is cold and firm.
Transfer the cake onto a cake stand or cake board or whatever you want to transport or serve it on. Neaten the bottom edge by spreading gently around it with an offset spatula and tadaa! A perfectly smooth and angular frosted cake!
What do you think? Are acrylic discs worth the extra steps to get super smooth frosting? Tell me in the comments! And visit my cake school on BGB.com to learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs.