Monday, 18 May 2009

Hot to perfectly Cover a cake in sugarpaste / roll out icing / fondant

This is a very plain stacked wedding cake that we actually ma... on Twitpic

So you're fairly new to cake decorating but you want that beautifully clean finish seen in magazines.

This is how to do it

First of all look at the type of cake you are baking!

If you're making a fruit cake skip straight to icing.
Many people use a basic Victoria sponge cake recipe - this is not great for covering in sugar paste.
Because a Victoria sponge is very light it doesn't always support the weight of the icing very well. So we thoroughly recommend using Madeira cake - you can find basic Madeira cake recipes at BBC good Food Website

Sheep and Train cake - well the bride liked sheep and the gro... on Twitpic

Preparing the cake for Icing
Once you've baked your scrummy Madeira Cake, you need cut off the domed top (you should aim to get your cake about 2.5" tall. Turn the cake upside down and put onto a cake board 3" bigger than the cake (this leaves you just over an inch around the cake when iced). Cut through the middle and fill the cake with Jam and Butter cream. We prefer to use Strawberry Jam, though many recipes say to use Raspberry, as Raspberry will take away some of the sweetness of the cake away. We like our cake sweet though!!

This bit is really important! Once you have the cake filled, take some of the Butter cream and coat the whole of the outside of the cake in a very thin layer - You get the sides of the cake straight and smooth but best of all the icing can stick to Butter cream!

Now for a trade secret - Put the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes or so. This firms the Butter cream making it really easy to ice!

Watch our video on how to Butter cream a cake ready for icing

If you are icing a fruit cake, coat the marzipan very sparingly with clear alcohol e.g. Vodka, this well stick the icing to the marzipan.

It is absolutely essential to make sure that you have enough icing to cover the cake - people always get this wrong resulting in a nightmare finish!!

1kg pack of sugar paste (roll out icing) to cover an 8" round or Square cake or 1.5kg to cover a 10" round or square cake.

You need to be able to roll out the icing to approximately 4-5mm thick, so if your cake is 8" round you need to roll out a circle of icing 14" or bigger round - WHY? because the sides of your cake will be about 3" deep now the cake is Butter creamed, and you need to cover the top and sides of the cake and have a bit left to be able to move the icing to get straight sides!

Knead your icing to get some heat through it, roll out on White vegetable fat (we prefer TREX, find it in the Butter section of your UK supermarkets). This might sound odd, but it is tasteless and odorless, it prevents your icing from drying out and it's superb at stopping the icing sticking to work surface - Don't use too much though!
Rolling Pins

Don't use a wooden rolling pin! Wooden rolling pins leach the moisture out of the icing, the problem being your icing dries out, and when you come to cover the cake you get lots of cracks and crazing or what we call in the trade - elephant skin! We thoroughly recommend investing in a cake decorators rolling pin, the bigger the better, so you can roll out large sheets of icing for bigger cakes, you can buy great quality rolling pins from Cake-Links.
Start with your ball of kneaded icing - make sure there are no creases in the icing before you start rolling. Roll out your icing, trying to keep it round for a round cake and square for a square cake - DO NOT roll it out like pastry - you do not turn over icing. Once you have rolled out enough icing, pick it up with the rolling pin - i.e. hang the icing over the rolling pin (don't roll the icing over itself as it will stick!

Put the icing over the cake and allow the sides to drape.
Top tip - if the weather is really hot, try icing your cakes early in the morning, as you may struggle later in the day when it's really hot. If the weather is very cold, knead your icing for longer to get more heat through it, because if you don't knead the icing for long enough you will get cracking and crazing. As you do more cakes you will find that you know when your icing is at the right consistency to roll out.

Smoothing the icing

Start with the top of the cake, and use the flat of your hand to smooth the icing (basically your are sticking the icing to the Butter cream), now with the sides of the cake gently tease out any folds by pulling them away from the cake and then smooth back on to the cake. ALWAYS SMOOTH UPWARDS, if you smooth down you will stretch the icing on the top edge of the cake, causing it to crack or show the cake through. If you are icing a square cake - start with the corners - if you start with sides it will be a disaster! smooth the corners down and then start with the sides, teasing out the folds. Once you have the icing on the sides of the cake with no creases, you can begin to smooth and polish - you need a smoother for this, it is an essential piece of kit!

The excess icing on the board of the cake can be smoother down using the smoother - so you don't need to ice the board separately!!

Watch a video on how to ice a cake in sugar paste / roll out icing /fondant

Once your cake is iced

Do any embossing or crimping straight away, while the icing is fresh - you will not be able to do it later as the icing would crack around any imprinting.

Store in a cake box, preferably not a plastic or airtight box, as this can make the icing sweat. Once the cake is cut you can store in an airtight container to keep the cake fresh.

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  1. Great blog! Informative and straight to the point, thank you very much :)

    1. The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface. cakes torrance california

  2. Thanks. Great explanations and videos. Given me some confidence for my 1st wedding cake in a couple of weeks. x

    1. Glad you liked the videos - hope the wedding cake went well, we are hoping to make some more videos soon - keep an eye out at Cake-Links

  3. really really well done for not only super clear text but amazing supporting videos. Now i can make my christening cake! Thank you!!! x

    1. Glad you liked the videos - we're hoping to make some more soon - keep checking at cake-links

  4. I have just seen your icing videos, and I can't believe I have been decorating cakes for years (only as a hobby), but I've been using the wrong method everytime, you make it look so much easier and I shall definitely follow your icing technique in future. Thank you x

  5. annette, glad you like the videos, it is a lot easier using a good quality sugarpaste icing, and rolling out on trex (white vegetable fat). We are embarking on a new project of videos as we haven't made any for some time, so keep an eye out for those at

  6. brilliant demo thank you :-).
    I am now brave enough to do my hubby a surprise birthday cake

  7. some of your links are broken

  8. Big thanks to you for writing this and for the video's. I successfully baked & decorated my first celebration cake! The info here massively helped me

  9. Yesterday I could hear instructions on video but today just music, how do I get the instructions back please?

    1. Hi - I'm not quite sure on this - our videos were made with just music and annotated text, so we don't have any that are made with voice over?