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Top Tips For Picture Perfect Icing

Have you ever seen a recipe for a beautifully iced cake, and been disappointed when your own lumpy efforts looked nothing like the alluring sugary confection in the photograph? Icing can be deceptively tricky to get right! Here are some top tips to help you pull off the perfect cake decoration, and wow your friends and family.


1. Have the right tools

Using the right equipment will make the job easier. Ideally, you should have a palette knife and a cake turntable. However, if you do not have these items, a butter knife will do.


2. Mix the icing to the right consistency

The icing needs to be stiff enough so it doesn’t run down the sides of the cake and look thin. However, if it is too stiff, it will be too difficult to spread smoothly. The icing should form soft peaks when a flat knife is placed in it and lifted away. If the peaks melt away quickly, add more icing sugar to the mix. If the icing sticks to the knife, it needs more water.


3. Apply a base layer

Applying a thin layer of icing first, known as a ‘crumb coat’, will seal down the loose crumbs on the surface which can spoil the appearance of the icing. It will also seal any cracks, and give you a more even surface for the top coat. Brush off any loose crumbs with a pastry brush before applying the first coat of icing.

Using the spatula or butter knife, place a dollop of icing on top of the cake which is just enough to cover it. Spread it thinly with a back-and-forth motion, so that the colour of the cake still shows through. Ice the sides in a similar way, taking care to seal the top edge of the cake. Once this is done, pop it in the fridge for half an hour or so to set.


4. Apply the top coat

After at least 30 minutes, or until the crumb coat is stable, remove the cake from the fridge, and, using the spatula or butter knife, apply the final coat. Use more icing this time, and hold the spatula at a slight angle away from the cake. Remove the excess icing that has accumulated with each motion, and place it back in the bowl.

Move on to the sides of the cake, until the whole is covered. Remember to use sweeping motions and pull the knife away slowly at an angle, to avoid lifting crumbs from the surface of the cake, which will spoil the appearance of the icing. Tidy up the upper edges of the cake by gently pulling the icing forwards, towards the centre.


5. You are ready to decorate

Once you are happy with the top coat, leave it to set once more. You can now decorate the cake further if you wish. Here, there are endless possibilities, from piping, to stencils, moulds, sparkles and sprinkles, so you can let your creativity run free!


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