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Why Frost Cakes?
  1. It's decorational.
  2. The hard crust of a set frosting protects the cake inside from drying out.
  3. It's a way to cram even more sugar into your cake-eating experience. (My favorite reason).
Basic Butter Frosting
Ingredients to frost a 2-layer 8 or 9 inch diameter round cake. (A 13 inch by 9 inch rectangular cake frosted in its pan will take about half this amount).
  • A stick of butter (about 125 g)
    Make sure it has had plenty of time to soften outside of the fridge before starting. A good way is to put it out when you start baking the cake. By the time the cake is done and cooled, the butter is ready.
  • Icing sugar (powdered sugar) (at least 3 cups/ 500 g, but it is useful to have extra. You'll need it to thicken the frosting if it's too thin at first.)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
    Being a food snob, I prefer vanilla extract to vanilla flavor. Note that you can use another flavoring, such as almond, for a different effect.
  • About 1/4 cup of milk
  • Optional: About 1/3 cup cocoa, for chocolate frosting
  • Optional: Food coloring, particularly when baking for small children

Put the initial portions of all of the ingredients into a mixer and turn it on. Once everything is thoroughly mixed, look at the texture. It should be too stiff to flow, but sufficiently loose that it will stick the cake rather than to itself. If it's too mushy, add more sugar; if it's too stiff, more milk.

How to Frost a 1 Layer Cake

Just spread frosting over it. Use swirling motions with the back of a spoon to create peaks and troughs, for a dramatic look.

How to Frost a 2 Layer Cake

There are two common ways to put the layers when assembling a layer cake. (Tilt your head to the left to see the illustrations.)

  • The bases can both go down, like so: (|(| This is a slightly unstable configuration, and I tend not to use it.
  • The layers can be placed base to base: (||)

Whichever way you decide to place it, choose the less shapely piece for the bottom layer. Place it on the serving platter. Using a knife, spread a generous coating of frosting on the upper surface. Ignore the sides for now; you'll get to them later.

Place the second layer on top of the frosted surface. If the layers are slightly asymmetrical, make sure the larger sides are opposite one another, so the top is roughly level. Otherwise the whole thing may just slide apart.

Cover the top of the cake with frosting. Don't worry about effect yet; just make sure the surface is covered.

Using a knife, start to frost the sides. You're trying to create a solid cliff face of frosting, with no visible crack where the layers join. This can be the most trying part, particularly if the frosting is a bit sticky. If the cake is sticking to the frosting rather than the other way around, add just a tiny bit more milk.

Finish the top off with a bit more frosting, if you have it to spare. Use the back of a spoon in swirling patterns to make peaks and troughs in the frosting.

How to Frost Cupcakes

The easiest way is to hold the cupcakes by the paper wrapping and dip them in the frosting, then pull them out with a twist of the wrist. This is the best and fastest way, if you are confident that your frosting is thin enough. If it takes the top off your cupcake, add more milk and try again.

Decorations, candles, and fancy writing are left as an exercise for the student.

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