Ok, people, it’s time to add some yummy icing to our now level layers of cake. So grab your buttercream, cake, turntable (I’m using this beauty), cake lifter, offset spatula (I use a small one for everything – even icing a sheet cake!), and an extra small bowl for excess icing. Let’s get started!
Put a little glob of icing on whatever board/plate you choose to have your finished cake on. Now put your first cake layer on. I like to flip the board upside down on top of my stacked cake, then flip the whole thing back over together. Everybody has their own way, so figure out yours. My mom likes to put on one layer at a time, and I like to work with the whole stack. (Side note: make sure you have the crusts on the outside of your cake. For example, if you are using two cakes to stack, the bottom of one should be the bottom of your cake, and the bottom of the other should be the very top of your cake. That will help when we get to dirty icing, because you won’t have as many loose crumbs exposed. Plus, it looks much nicer when you cut into your cake. Make sense?)
One more side note and a personal pet peeve of mine. PLEASE don’t serve your cake on a plain cardboard cake board. If it’s the same size as the cake and doesn’t show, that’s great. But please don’t put your cake on one where the white cardboard sticks out all around. Yuck! I think it really takes away from the beautiful cake you are creating! At least cover it in some silver food safe cake drum foil. I buy mine pre-covered so I can just grab and go. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but it’s one of those situations where time is money! And I can’t afford to waste mine on covering standard board sizes when filling orders.
Place a nice sized chunk of icing on your cake layer. The amount depends on the size of cake you are filling, and it’s really something you just have to get a feel for. But if you put down too much, you can scrape it off into your small bowl and use it for dirty icing.
Spread the icing on the cake. Use a back and forth motion, keeping the angle of your spatula very low. I always tell my students not to go off the edge of the icing. Instead, when you get close to an edge, go back the other direction. If you go over the edge, your icing will get thin spots, and you will pull up a ton of crumbs. So smooth back and forth, and use the turntable to help move the icing around the circle. Once you have it basically smoothed out, lock that spatula in place parallel to the cake and spin the turntable. This will get everything pretty even and level.
Repeat this process adding cake layers and icing until your cake is fully stacked. I use four layers of cake (two baked cakes split into two layers each), so I use 3 layers of filling. Yours will obviously be more or less depending on the number of layers you have.
Once all the layers are stacked, it’s time to dirty ice! I know, I know. It sounds like we’re doing something inappropriate. Just move on! Dirty icing just means that your icing can be “dirty” with crumbs in it. And it doesn’t have to be pretty and smooth. We are just sealing in the crumbs to keep them out of our smooth coat and sealing in the cake to keep it from drying out. Nobody likes a dry cake!!!
When you dirty ice, you want to start at the bottom and work your way to the top. And you’re going to work in sections using your small spatula. The first trip around you need to focus on making sure that the icing seals all the way down to the board. This is VERY IMPORTANT! See this tiny gap between the cake and the board? Don’t leave that there! FILL IT IN!!!
Then just work your way to the top as you go around the cake. Your dirty ice can be very thin, and you will see cake through it. So don’t panic. Once you get to the top, give it a nice thin coat and clean up your edges. If you have any excess icing on your spatula, scrape it off into your extra bowl. Do NOT put it back in your big bowl of icing or you will be putting crumbs in it and ruining the whole bowl. Been there, done that. It’s REALLY frustrating!
All done! Now let that baby sit for 8-12 hours or overnight to settle. Otherwise, you may have air pockets that try to escape once you have smooth iced the cake. Then you get blowouts where the icing starts to bulge out and eventually crack open as the air pushes out.
Here is a Facebook live video I did on dirty icing in case you need a little more visual reference. Go make me a cake and we’ll see you next time!
See you soon!