9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid

Blossom Lady
May 22, 2022 11:57 PM
9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid

The popularity of cake decorating is on the rise, and amateur bakers everywhere are taking action and displaying their incredible cakes online. Many how-to videos show you how to frost and decorate everything from a special unicorn cake to everyday treats. But very few go into detail about what can go wrong, what causes them and how you can fix them. Whether you are making a professional cake or just want to prepare a beautiful cake for a special occasion, knowing the basics of icing will help you achieve a great result.

We have all made those mistakes that make it almost impossible to achieve the perfect velvety smooth buttercream swirl. I talked to some people in our test kitchen to find out what mistakes beginners make most often when icing a cake and how you can avoid them. I am now going to look at some of the mistakes you can easily avoid in the world of cakes. These include icing at the wrong temperatures, preparing your cake poorly for the process and the best and worst ways to handle and shop your finished cakes. Believe it or not, you can fix most mistakes when icing a cake if you know what to look for and exercise a little patience. Have a spatula ready!

1. Do not make the icing in advance

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
It does not matter what kind of icing you want to make - as long as you make it just before you make the icing. The majority of the icing is made from butter and sugar. If you leave it at room temperature for a long period of time, it will become too soft, and if you put it in the fridge, the butter will solidify. If you want to work in advance, you should always prepare your cake before frosting. You can shop it in the fridge overnight or freeze it on a baking tray and wrap the layers individually in cling film.
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2. Do not frost a warm cake

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
We understand that you are looking forward to eating the cake. But patience is key to avoid runny, unflattering icing. The baking pros in our test kitchen stress that you should definitely let the cake cool completely before frosting. Even better, leave the cake in the fridge for a while to make the process even easier.
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3. Do not overbeat the frosting

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
If you run your mixer on high speed for too long, far too much air will get into the butter. A good buttercream should be pale white when the butter and sugar are incorporated. Gradually add the sugar to the bowl as you see the previous sugar addition disappear into the butter, and finish once everything is mixed together. Overbeating will result in a grainy, unattractive product.
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4. Do not soften the butter to room temperature

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
The softened butter should be soft enough to leave a thumbprint when you touch it, but not so soft that it can be pushed all the way through. If the butter is too soft, it is far too easy to overwork. Our test bakers recommend keeping the butter warm for about 20 to 30 minutes before using it. Also, the icing should never be soupy or curdled. This happens occasionally when the temperature is not right and means that the icing has broken. Then you have to put the icing in the fridge and whip it again.
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5. Do not forget the crumb coat

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
You may think that only professional cakes deserve a crumb layer, but almost any layer cake can benefit from it. Simply spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake, then let it cool a little to allow the thin layer of frosting to set and trap any loose crumbs. This keeps the top layer of icing clean and neat.
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6. Do not use just any spatula

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
Our favourite baking tool for icing is an offset spatula. It is much easier to manoeuvre than a butter knife or rubber spatula. The trick is to avoid direct contact between the spatula and the cake so that no small pieces of cake get into the icing.
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7. Do not use icing sugar straight from the bag

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
It's tempting to measure out a cup of icing sugar straight from the bag to add to your butter mixture. However, you should always sift the icing sugar first to trap extra air, which helps make the icing light and fluffy, and to avoid lumps in the icing.
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8. Do not try to make the icing by hand

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
It may seem like the most obvious mistake, but if a recipe calls for a mixer, you really need a mixer. Do not try to whip your frosting by hand with a whisk. Invest in a good stand mixer or hand mixer to get the best quality frosting.
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9. Do not add fresh fruit straight away

9 Common Cake Frosting Mistakes to Avoid
Some recipes, like the one I tried, require you to add extra liquid-heavy ingredients to your frosting. I made the mistake of adding the strawberries too early, which made the frosting very watery. For best results, make sure the fruit is dry, dust it with icing sugar before adding it to the icing and then gently fold it in.
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