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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SFU chapter.
How hard can it be? It’s just a cake!

Baking a cake can be easy-peasy lemon squeezy, but icing one is an entirely different story. At some point we have all seen people on social media turn their ordinary 10 inch vanilla confetti cake into something we would see only at a destination wedding in Mexico, and think “that’s doable” from our own midget kitchen. We may have even attempted to recreate it before coming to the obvious conclusion that we have no clue what the heck is going on. To avoid our cake resembling the great Leaning Tower of Pisa, here’s an introduction to the abc of cake icing.


Having the proper tools is just as important as baking the cake. Your toolset doesn’t have to be fancy but if you truly believe baking may just be your true calling in life, it wouldn’t hurt to have the right equipment to make the job easier. I would recommend purchasing the starter piping kit from Amazon because it has everything an icing rookie would need to have. If purchasing a kit sounds a bit too over the top, purchasing some icing bags, decorative tips, a rubber spatula, and icing smoother from your local Micheals will do the trick. A revolving table would be the cherry on top, but it isn’t necessary.

Icing Quality Matters

Whether you are using buttercream or royal premium icing, the texture of the icing matters! Don’t be fooled by the common misconception that the runnier the buttercream icing, the easier it is to apply because chances are, the runnier it is, the more likely the second layer of the cake will slip right off and so will your hopes and decoration. 

Third Time’s the Charm

More often than not when doing your first crumb coat -the first icing layer to your cake, you will see the crumbs quite visibly. For beginners learning how to work with icing and trying to get that clean pristine base layer with no visible crumbs, doing three coats of the icing, each coat followed by a 30 minutes interval where it’s stored in the refrigerator, is the best option.

Freeze the layer

The refrigerator can be your frenemy when you’re struggling to finish on time. After my cake is out of the oven and it’s done resting outside of the pan for 15 minutes, I like to shove it in the freezer for 30 minutes to become firm. Not only does it allow the cake to cool down faster, but it also comes in handy when you cannot afford to wait 30 minutes for the first/second/third crumb coat to set in and stick. It sure works wonders when creating double or triple layer cakes but word of caution: do not forget to take it out of  the freezer!

Taking a break is a big no no!!

Do not take breaks, especially when working with buttercream icing. Buttercream can harden quite quickly, making it difficult to change details or add final touches, which is why I recommend not freezing or refrigerating the half-done cake until you’re entirely done with the icing and decorating process.

My high school home economics teacher always said, “cooking is an art, but baking is a science.” I would wholeheartedly agree but when it comes to icing, it’s an art that requires patience and practice. 

Manpreet is a Psychology student at Simon Fraser University and also happens to be a heavy baker of anything sweet and a hopeless romantic by heart. When she is not busy reading, writing, working part-time, or drinking wine, she can be found with her high school friends planning something.