It's birthday season in our house! Birthday #1 went off without a hitch, but the chalkboard sadly never recovered and will probably need to be repainted.
On to Birthday #2!
My son is turning 5 and had requested a Spiderman birthday. Easy enough! This time instead of cupcakes, I chose a traditional cake since it's a smaller crowd. When it comes to cakes I tend to half-cheat. The cake comes from a box but the icing I make myself from an awesome recipe I got from a cake decorator friend of mine. I've used it for years and it hasn't failed yet.
I searched all over Pinterest for inspiration for the cake. I wanted to do blue instead of red, and would need a very smooth surface for the decorating. Now I could have gone off and used fondant. However a) I've never used fondant before and b) most people I talk to really dislike the taste or texture of fondant. And I really didn't want to venture into an entirely new icing medium without a little practice.
I had come across this method a while ago when looking for icing techniques for my baby girls birthday. I searched around a little more and found that the method was very similar across the board and the effect was lovely. I won't include a link since there are lots of tutorials and videos.
So I thought "what the heck". If it didn't work, I'd have a bumpy spiderman cake!
I baked two 9" round cakes and made a double batch of buttercream icing. I iced between the cakes, lopped off the top to make it flatter, and did a crumb coat. Then I used almost an entire container of blue food colouring to get the right 'Spiderman blue'. Next time I'd use the gels.
When using buttercream you need to make sure it's at the right temperature to manipulate. Too hot and it'll melt, too cold and it won't spread. Keep this in mind.
Sorry - no in progress pics. Between the icing and the food colouring, my hands and kitchen looked like I beat up a Smurf.
After my crumb coat had set in the fridge, I did a rough icing around the cake. Use more icing then you think you'll need, you can always work it off later. I used a metal icing spatula to get the cake covered.
Now for the smooth finish.
Keep very hot water and a clean paper towel near by your cake and icing bowl. The method I tried worked mostly like this:
- Run spatula under hot water for about 10 seconds (until metal becomes hot)
- Quickly wipe with clean paper towel to remove water
- Sweep the spatula over the icing. No need to push or dig the icing, your just smoothing it out, not pushing it around.
- Scrape excess icing off the spatula onto the bowl
- Repeat and continue working around your cake
It's a LOT of steps and extra work, and I found I had to reheat my spatula for every pass on the cake (I had to redo the spot on the right in the pic above) or it would mess it up. So keep your hot water tap running. But I think it turned out pretty well for the first time and it definitely worth the extra work if you want a smooth finish on your cake but don't want to use fondant.
There is an additional step where you use a Viva paper towel and smooth the icing even further which I skipped. Because it HAS to be this specific brand and no other, and I had just bought a bunch of our regular kind, I passed on this step. But if I really wanted the 'fondant finish', I'd plan ahead and get some.
I'm pretty impressed with myself and this method.
With the amount of work aside, this is a definite win!