There's a reason why the best part of something is known as the "icing on the cake." Learn how to ice a cake like the pros.

Lori Sparkia

How to Ice a Cake

Q. What is best way to ice a freshly baked cake?

Cake decorating is an art that turns an ordinary cake into an elaborate masterpiece. It's not for the inexperienced cook, but with a few simple guidelines and a couple of tips, you can give your homemade cakes a professional touch.

Always cool a cake completely before frosting it. Then use a soft pastry brush to remove all loose cake crumbs.

Place the bottom cake layer on a flat plate, and place strips of waxed paper under the cake to catch any drips. Spoon about 1/2 cup frosting on the top and spread it evenly over the cake with a flat metal spatula.

Top with the second cake layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake to seal in crumbs, and let the cake stand for at least 15 minutes. Then, spread the side with a thicker layer of frosting, working from the bottom toward the top and turning the cake as needed.

To frost the top, spoon a mound of frosting in the center and spread it outward to the edges. Use special tools to give your cake a professional look. To make swirls in the frosting, use the flat, metal spatula or the back of a teaspoon.

The spatula also is the perfect tool to make ridges on the cake top by sweeping it through the frosting from side to side in evenly spaced strokes. A cake "comb" -- a metal triangle with teeth on all three edges -- can be carefully dragged around the sides and top of the cake for a professional look.

Add garnishes or piping, if desired, and you have a cake that takes the cake.

For more helpful baking tips and hints, see: