If learning how to ice a wedding cake with buttercream was a college course, it would be called Caking 101! Frosting, assembling and perfecting a tiered buttercream cake is a skill you’ll use over and over again, so it’s best to learn the right way to do it.
The technique for icing a buttercream-finished cake is essentially the same no matter which kind of buttercream you use. Here are a few fabulous buttercream recipes, sure to please any palate:
Icing the individual tiers
Before we get to stacking, you’ll first need to prep each tier with a crumb coat and smooth layer of buttercream. We have a great tutorial for crumb coating a cake, and here’s an easy method how to achieve a smooth buttercream finish using simple tools.
How to ice a wedding cake with buttercream
These principles remain the same whether you’re making a cake with two, four, six or even ten tiers! I didn’t have 100 of my closest friends to feed this week, so I stuck to a teeny little two-tier cake for this tutorial.
- Buttercream-iced cake tiers, thoroughly chilled
- Scissors or a dowel cutter
- Bench scraper
- Offset spatula
- Straight icing spatula
- Piping bag fitted with a small round tip
- Extra buttercream
Insert dowels into the bottom tier of cake where the second tier will sit.
Trim the dowels with scissors or a dowel cutter so that they are level with the surface of the cake.
Pipe a few small blobs of buttercream over the tops of the dowels and smooth them over with the offset spatula.
Use an offset spatula to help pick up and steady the top tier of cake. Center the smaller cake over the doweled cake below. Gently drop the cake onto the buttercream-topped dowels, quickly pulling your fingers and spatula out of the way. Use the offset spatula to move the cake if it needs to be re-centered.
Cut a dowel about ½” shorter than the entire height of the cake. Push that dowel down through the center of the top of the cake. Tap on the dowel so that it pierces the board supporting the top tier and runs down into the bottom tier.
Keep pushing the dowel until it reaches the base of the bottom tier.
Pipe a dollop of buttercream over the hole created by the dowel and smooth it over with an icing spatula. I typically only add a center dowel for cakes larger than three tiers, but decided to add one today so that you’d see at what point in the process it should be done.
Unless you’ve got moves like Houdini, there are probably a few places where the buttercream was dinged by your fingers, as well as some space where the board supporting the top cake is exposed. To neaten up the seam where the cakes meet, pipe a line of buttercream all the way around the base of the top tier.
Use your bench scraper to smooth the line over, filling in the dents and spaces.
Now you’ve got the perfect clean canvas to create the wedding cake of your (or your client’s) dreams!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and was updated in March 2018.