How to Make a Picture-Perfect Cake
Sick of having the same old 9x13, funfetti cake with lumpy white frosting and some cheapo candles for every occasion needing a cake? You know exactly what I'm talking about. Time to step it up, for the sake of your kid's scrapbooks and your Instagram feed. With a few small tweaks, you can still hang onto your Betty Crocker cake mix and frosting, but end up with a professional looking, picture-perfect cake. No piping bag or tips required! Basically, this is "Cake Decorating for Dummies" and will save your life next time you're throwing a bridal or baby shower.
What You'll Need:
Told ya you could hang onto your cake mix. To make a double layer cake, you will need 1 box of cake mix, 1 container of frosting, a 6 inch round cake pan (preferably 2 pans, but I'm cheap so I just have 1) and a cake stand of your choice. Pick whatever flavors you want and remember that you can dye white vanilla or cream cheese frosting whatever color you'd like!
If you're not feeling a cake mix and want to do something a little fancier... Here is a fabulous white cake recipe from Live Well Bake Often.
Now for the fun stuff... Pull out some fun ribbon, pearls, artificial flowers-whatever you have on hand that might be cute on your cake. This cute flower trim on the left (use on the first cake picture) is my go-to because the detail on it almost looks like piped flowers (fooled you!) Click here for this trim. Don't forget the food coloring!
Before starting on the cake, if you plan to dye your frosting a different color, do it now! I chose a few drops of red food coloring to make this pink. Mix in the container, replace the lid and put it in the fridge to chill while preparing your cake. This is important- don't skip this step! Chilling your frosting will make it thicker and give your cake a more professional, fondant-looking finish.
If you're up for it, try this DELICIOUS buttercream frosting recipe here.
Follow the directions on the boxed cake mix. Pour half of the batter (it will be full!) into a WELL GREASED pan. Grease with softened butter or Pam. Again, this is really important if you want your cake in one piece.
Bake for 15-25 minutes or until brown on the edges and cooked in the middle. Remove from oven, let cool in pan for a few minutes, then carefully use a butter knife to pull the edges away from the pan. Flip your pan upside down and move cake to a cooling rack. The cake should come right out if you greased the pan well and allowed it to cool enough.
Repeat with the rest of the batter. As I said before... ideally you should probably have 2 cake pans so you can bake them at the same time...but I'm a cheapo and haven't gotten around to buying another cake pan. *Face palm*
After cake has cooled completely, remove frosting from the fridge and stir well. Break out your cake stand (click here to see a similar cake stand to the one I used) and put a blob of frosting in the middle. This will hold your cake in place when you're smoothing out that frosting. Place the first cake on the stand with the flat side on the cake down. If the top of this cake is very rounded, use a bread knife to cut off the top and make it more flat on top. Next, put a thicker layer of frosting on top of this cake and place the second layer on top of it, the flat side UP. This creates crisp corners and add to the "professional" look.
Put the cake in the freezer for at least 15 minutes and place your frosting back in the fridge. This will allow the frosting to harden up to make sure it won't slip around when you're decorating.
After freezing the cake, use a butter knife or cake spatula to spread frosting on the top of your cake. You want to have plenty of frosting to work with so that you don't scrape crumbs off the cake. In cake decorating, (an art you and me obviously aren't very versed in, otherwise we wouldn't be here today) the first coat we are doing is called the "crumb coat". We don't want crumbs.
After smoothing out the top, work towards the side. Again, make sure you are working with plenty of frosting!
Be sure you hold your knife straight up and down, no angles! After getting your "crumb coat" on pretty thick, work to use moderate to heavy pressure on the sides. You want to have enough pressure that you are scraping off some frosting onto your knife. Stop every few seconds and wipe your knife clean. Continue this process all the way around your cake until the sides are as smooth as possible. If you're having a hard time smoothing, chill your cake in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes and then try again.
When the sides are as smooth as you can get them, hold the knife at a 45 degree angle and smooth those edges out.
Time for the fun part!
Experiment with whatever trims and flowers you want. Simply set or lightly press them into the frosting and remove when you're ready to slice and eat it. Some cute ideas from Hobby Lobby: lace, gold leaves, pearls, crowns.
Fake It 'Til You Make It:
Okay so you defied the typical Betty Crocker, funfetti, lumpy birthday cake. Well done. No one needs to know you wrapped it with Hobby Lobby ribbon trim- right? Now you have the perfect cake for a birthday party, bridal shower, first birthday cake smash photo shoot, or just for fun.