Hey guys! I just wanted to tell you about this awesome FREE craftsy class for all you beginner decorators. Click the link below to watch!
It is SO awesome and taught by one of my favorite cake decorators, Joshua John Russell. He breaks the whole process down for you on how to successfully buttercream your cakes. He shows you how to make the perfect buttercream, trim and prepare your cakes, ice them with different techniques, stack them and decorate them! This is SUCH a super helpful cake decorating class and I seriously wish I would have known about these modern methods when I was first starting out.
The video is super easy to understand and follow the directions. He starts out by showing you how to make a batch of perfect swiss meringue buttercream (my favorite!) Before I made SMBC, I was using a powdered sugar/shortening based buttercream and I could NOT get those sharp edges or smooth finish that other decorators would get and I always wondered how in the world people got that flawless buttercream finish! The secret is (wait for it) BUTTER! If you don’t have butter in your buttercream, your buttercream wont get firm in the fridge. I also did not know about the paddle step to get rid of bubbles. I ALWAYS have bubbles so I will definitely have to try this step out. Joshua also says you can use shortening. I do half shortening half butter for my cakes in the hot summer but wouldn’t recommend going all shortening as it tastes pretty greasy and has no flavor and does not firm up in the fridge.
Joshua shows us how to split and fill a cake and then trim down the edges but he doesn’t give us a recipe. I am guessing he is using a buttercake recipe because his cake is dense. Buttercake is super popular for wedding cakes because it is firm, refrigerates well and has a great mouth feel. When I first started out baking and decorating, I had no idea what kind of cake to bake. I started out with boxed mix and had horrible problems with how soft and fluffy they were. Great for eating, not so great for stacking a wedding cake. Here is my recipe for the perfect vanilla buttercake that I use for all my cakes. I have adapted it to make other flavors as well like lemon or spice but the basic recipe is the same. I also use simple syrup on my cakes as I stack for added moisture. Simple syrup is an old school technique so you can have the tight crumb of a buttercake and the moistness of a boxed cake.
This is what the inside of my cakes look like
As you can see, there are no huge holes or spongy texture. The crumb is tight and melts in your mouth. This is what you’re going for. If you have huge holes in your cake, you are over-mixing and this can cause uneven rising. Plus it doesn’t look very good when you cut into it.
Ps. the method in this recipe is very very important. You must whip up the first portion of dry ingredients and liquid until your batter is light and fluffy or you will have a bad texture. I know it feels weird but you have to do it. This is what your batter should look like when you first add in the liquids, after you whip up the batter and then after you add the rest of the liquids. Watch this video on how to perfect the mixing method!
A single batch makes two 8″ rounds. Fill pans 3/4 of the way full for 2″ tall cakes or it can make two 9″ rounds that are shorter. It depends on how full you like your pans.
One thing I do that Joshua doesn’t do (and this is probably just a recipe difference) is I don’t trim down my cakes. When my cakes come out of the oven, I gently press the domed part of the cake down until it is flush with the cake pan. This does not damage the cake at all and creates a nice flat top so you don’t have to trim. I also bake my cakes at 335 degrees (low and slow) so that they don’t get as brown around the outsides and tops.
I also chill my cakes in the fridge overnight so they are easier to handle when stacking and filling with buttercream. Chilling your cake is HUGE. Trust me, once you discover how easy it is to cover a chilled cake, you’ll never go back
Some other tips that I got out of this cake decorating class that I wish I would have known as a beginner cake decorator is how to make my buttercream smooth. I always thought cake decorators somehow managed to get their buttercream cakes super smooth and straight with only a spatula! I never knew about using bench scrapers to smooth the surface. The heating of the bench scraper to make the final coat super smooth is genius!
I actually do a fast crumb coat after I fill and then do a really thick messy final coat and then do all the smoothing with my bench scraper after the cake has been chilled. This is the point that I cover my cakes in fondant as I am a fondant cake kind of gal but you can’t have smooth fondant without a perfectly smooth buttercream base. YES you need buttercream under your fondant Here is my recipe for my homemade marshmallow fondant that I use on every one of my cakes.
Next, Joshua shows us how to do some various buttercream finishes. I am partial to the rough buttercream technique. He also shows us how to make gumpaste butterflies for decoration that look super pretty. The tips about drying them on the cake dummy so they are formed to the shape of the cake is really genius.
After finishing each tier, Joshua shows us how to properly stack and support a cake using dowels or straws. This is super important info for anyone who wants to stack a cake. The process is simple but very important. Especially the final dowel down the center so the cake wont fall over during transport.
Overall I feel like this is a must watch for any beginner cake decorator. You can use the craftsy platform to ask questions if anything is unclear and Joshua or other bakers will jump in and help you out. You can rewind, fast forward and re-watch as many times as you want. There is a recipe included in the class for the swiss meringue buttercream as well as places you can purchase the tools Joshua uses during the lesson. This class is basically a compilation of all the best beginner tips for beginning decorating. For more cake decorating classes, check out craftsy’s other cake classes!