How to Frost a Cake

Simple cakes served right from the baking pan can be easily finished with a generous layer of your favorite icing recipe. Make sure the cake is completely cooled and brush off any loose crumbs from the cake's surface before frosting. Layer cakes should also be completely cooled and brushed free of crumbs prior to frosting.

Splitting a cake layer: Most layer
cake recipes
are for two-layer cakes, but if you want to create a fancier dessert with four layers and more filling, you can split each cake layer in half. Use a ruler to measure the height of the cake layer. Insert wooden picks halfway up the side of the cake layer at 2-inch intervals.

Use a ruler to measure the height of the cake layer and insert wooden picks.
Use a ruler to measure the height of the
cake layer and insert wooden picks.

To split the layer in half, place a 15- to 18-inch length of thread at the far side of the cake. Pull the ends of the thread together through the cake, following the line at the top of the wooden picks. Gently separate halves.

 A length of thread makes a clean cut through the center of the cake layer.
A length of thread makes a clean cut
through the center of the cake layer.

Frosting a layer cake: To begin frosting a layer cake, place the bottom layer on the serving plate. Place small strips of waxed paper under the edges of the cake to keep the serving plate clean during frosting; remove the strips after you finish all your cake decorating.

 Tuck strips of waxed paper under the edges of the cake to keep plate clean while frosting.
Tuck strips of waxed paper under
the edges of the cake to keep
the plate clean while frosting.

Spoon a mound of frosting, about 1/2 cup, on top of the bottom cake layer. Spread it evenly over the cake with a narrow metal spatula. Place the second cake layer on top. If you split the layers, repeat the process.

Don't worry about crumbs getting mixed into the frosting between the layers. It won't show!
Don't worry about crumbs getting
mixed into the frosting between
the layers. It won't show!

You will achieve a more professional look and finish on your cake if you apply the frosting in two coats. First place about one-third of the remaining frosting in a small bowl and thin the consistency with a small amount of milk. Spread in a thin layer over the entire cake as a base coat to seal in any remaining crumbs and smooth the surface. Let the base coat dry for about 15 minutes.

A thin base coat of frosting gives the cake a smoother, cleaner finish and makes frosting the cake much easier.
A thin base coat of frosting gives the
cake a smoother, cleaner finish and
makes frosting the cake much easier.

Spread the sides of the cake with a thicker, finishing layer of frosting, working from the top toward the bottom as you rotate the cake. Wipe the spatula with paper towels before dipping it back into the bowl of frosting, and keep it well coated with frosting so it doesn't pick up any crumbs.

To frost the cake top, spoon a mound of frosting in the center and spread it outward to all edges. Hold a narrow metal spatula under hot running water, shake off the excess water and use the damp spatula to quickly smooth a section of frosting with long strokes, moving in one direction. Repeat until the frosting is smooth on the cake top and sides.

A dampened metal spatula is the perfect tool for creating a smooth finish.
A dampened metal spatula is the perfect
tool for creating a smooth finish.
Be sure to properly store your completed cake creation to preserve its texture, flavor, and appearance. Learn how in the next section.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Cake Recipes: Find basic cake recipes as well as ideas for types of cakes you may have never even heard of, all on our Cake Recipes page.
  • Cake Decorating: Whether you just want to add "Happy Birthday" in piped icing or are ready to attempt a field of frosting flowers, this article will provide the cake decorating tips you need.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.