Getting your icing smooth can be quite a task, however with some of the right tools your task can be quite easier. I get many emails asking how I get my icing smooth. So I thought we would go over some of different techniques used to get smooth icing and while at it I will share my particular method for getting my icing smooth.
The first thing that must be done to ensure a smooth cake is to make sure your cake is level.
Once you have crumb coated your cake you can place your cake into the refrigerator for approx. 20 minutes while the crumb coat of icing sets up.
Now that your crumb coat of icing has setup it is time to prepare to ice your cake. There are many different techniques used to ice a cake. Some use a pastry bag with a large icing tip to apply to the cake and then use a spatula to smooth out, others use a spatula to apply the icng. Find a method that works best for you and go with it.
Make sure that you put enough icing on the cake so that you do not see the under side of the cake, (please pay no attention to my cake in the pic where the cake is showing through, I did this so that I could show you the steps) I have seen cakes that do not have enough icing on them and the cake shows through. Once you have your cake completely iced it is a good idea to put it back into the refrigerator to allow it to setup or as some call it allowing your icing to crust. 20 minutes should be enough time for this however if the icing is not crusted to the touch leave it in the refrigerator for a little longer.
Ok, finally we are ready to smooth our icing. As you can see there are many steps leading up to getting your icing smooth and all these steps are important because they provide you with a good base to work from.
Once the icing has setup and crusted it times to figure out which method you will be using. So lets touch on some of the methods that are used regularly.
The hot water method involves having a hot plate for keeping a pan of water warm, then using a warm metal spatula to smooth accoss the cake. i have used this method however it was just too messy for me, now I know other cake decorators who do a fabulous job with this method so its a matter of personal preference.
Another method which is very popular today is the viva paper towel method and that involves using viva paper towels to lay on the cake and then use a fondant smoother to run over top of the icing with just the right amount of pressure. I use this method from time to time and it works great. Now if you find that your paper towel is sticking that means that the icing is not setup enough so way a little longer and try again. I have seen a little twist to the paper towel method and it involves the same technique but instead of using a paper towel you use a piece of plaon white copy paper. Believe it or not this works out very well!!
And last but not least is my favorite method and one that I happened upon accidently. I was going to use paper towels to smooth my cake, however I was out so I began to panic thinking ,I do not have time to go to the store. So I started looking around the house like I usually do when I need a tool for cake decorating and there it was inside a bag in the closet, the perfect tool just waiting for my discovery. And that tool was a brand new small paint roller I had purchased for when I got the desire to paint the bathroom. I was soo excited and could not wait to give this a try. Now the roller that was on this paint roller was not the typical fuzzy type. It was a new erfoam kind that I thought I would try so this would be perfect for what I need. I got the paint roller together and got started. I placed the roller on top of the icing and began rolling just as if your were painting a wall. I could not believe how perfect this worked to smooth my icing. So this has now become my preferred method for smoothing my icing.
As you can see there are several techniques that can be used to smooth your icing. If you are new to cake decorating I would recommend trying different methods to see which one actually works for you and one that you feel most comfortable with. I am sure there are many other methods that decorators use however the ones listed are ones that I have tried and can speak of personally. If you would like to practice the different methods and do not want to bake a cake just to practice with. Then you can do what I did in the very beginning and that is to use a baking pan, just flip it over and use the bottom side. I did this alot when I was just getting started so I did not have to waste cakes while learning. I would ice the entire pan just as if it were a cake and then I could remove the icing and start over. Hopefully these tips will give you some ideas to get your icing smooth and looking great.
Here is an example of what my cake looks like after using a paint roller to smooth the icing.