How to Frost a Cake with Buttercream

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Today’s tutorial is all about how to frost a smooth cake. Getting that nice, smooth finish when icing a cake can take some practice, but I have been asked so many times about how I get my icing so smooth, I’ve finally put together some instructions that I hope will be helpful. Just remember you have to be patient. My first cake did not look like my current cakes. It took practice – and the right tools.

Want to frost cupcakes? See my post on how to beautifully frost your cupcakes!

[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”ODb3hyeG” upload-date=”2019-10-25T17:02:20.000Z” name=”How to frost a smooth cake with buttercream” description=”Today’s tutorial is all about how to frost a smooth cake. Getting that nice, smooth finish when icing a cake can take some practice, but I have been asked so many times about how I get my icing so smooth, I’ve finally put together some instructions that I hope will be helpful. Just remember you have to be patient. My first cake did not look like my current cakes. It took practice – and the right tools.”]
Read transcript

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

So to start, let’s talk about the tools you’ll need:

Icing tips (Wilton #789 for icing the sides and Ateco 844 for piping the border)
Icing bags
Turntable (I use Wilton Trim-N-Turn Ultra Cake Decorating Turntable)
Icing smoother (I 100% recommend Ateco Decorating Comb over any other)
9 inch offset spatula (I use Wilton Angled Spatula)
Fondant smoother (I use Wilton Easy Glide Fondant Smoother)
Viva paper towels (Viva brand specifically)

Let’s talk about that icing smoother for a second. I linked to it above, but it’s an Ateco smoother that costs less than $5. It is the best money I have ever spent on a tool. I used to use another one, but it was big and clunky and I had no idea how much it hindered my ability to get a nice, smooth cake until I tried this one. It’s lightweight, small and easy to use.

In addition to those tools, you’ll obviously need a cake and some icing. I used regular American Buttercream (American Buttercream recipe here). For my cakes that are about this size, I go through about 2 1/2 recipes worth.

For this tutorial, I started with a cake that was already crumb coated and had a layer of icing on the top of the cake. It’s important to already have the top layer on the cake and get it as smooth as you can with your offset spatula. It’ll get further smoothed later, but it’s best to have it smooth now too.

The crumb coat isn’t entirely necessary for every cake. Typically chocolate cakes are more likely to need them, since they tend to have more crumbs. But because of the way I add my icing, it’s not always necessary. I use an icing tip and bag, which reduces crumbs mixing into the icing.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

How to Frost a Cake

So to get started from here, you’ll want your icing bag fitted with the Wilton #789 icing tip and filled with icing. Starting from the bottom of the cake, pipe icing around the edge, trying to keep even pressure on the bag so that the layer of icing is even.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

You’ll have multiple layers of piped icing, depending on the height of your cake. The top layer needs to stick above the top edge of the cake. This will be important later for smoothing the top edges/corners of the cake.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

When you are done applying the icing to the sides of the cake, it’s time to smooth it. This is where the icing smoother comes in. Place it against the side of the cake. You want to hold it straight up and down, as straight as possible. Hold your icing smoother in the same place and use your other hand to turn the turntable. Continue to turn the turntable, scraping the icing off of the smoother occasionally so that there isn’t too much buildup. I clean off my smoother regularly and when I scrape the excess icing off of it, I usually also wipe it with a paper towel, so that there isn’t anything left on there that will mess up the icing once I place it back on the side of the cake.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Here is an image showing the angle at which I hold the smoother. I really believe the angle makes a big difference in the way the icing smooths. Do not hold it at 90 degrees. The tighter the angle (like shown), the better the excess icing pulls around the cake and fills in gaps.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

After doing a few turns of the turntable, you’ll notice some gaps that are deeper and should probably be filled in. I usually notice it at the “seems” where the three layers of icing were piped on. At this point, use your offset spatula to add some icing to the gaps. You’ll want to have a little excess icing, rather than too little.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Begin smoothing the sides again, pulling the excess icing around the cake to fill in gaps, then wiping off the icing smoother as needed.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Continue working around the outside of the cake, pulling the icing, then scraping it off of the icing smoother. You can fill in more gaps if needed, just keep working the sides until you are happy with it.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

You should end up with a cake that looks like this. The sides are mostly smooth and the excess icing from the top is still sticking up above the cake. In some places you may have tiny little holes from the air in the icing. The angle that you hold the icing smoother can make a difference in how many of those you end up with. Again, tighter angle is better. Also, some of those will fill in as we smooth the sides again later with a paper towel.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Next is always the scariest part! The top edges/corners. It was even harder to do these while taking photos. 🙂 The whole icing process took longer than normal, so my icing started to crust a bit and so it’s a little drier in the photos than yours should be at this point. You want to work as quickly as you can. If the icing starts to crust, it’s harder to work with.

To do the edges, you can use the icing smoother or the offset spatula. I use either, depending on my mood, though often I do feel like the offset spatula gives me more control. Pull the icing in towards the middle of the cake, making the corner level with the top of the cake. The spatula should be at about a 45 degree angle. The excess icing should help fill in any uneven-ness on those top corners as you pull it in.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!
Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Go all the way around the cake, until it looks like the one below. Again, my icing is a bit drier than yours should be. Hopefully, your cake top is a bit smoother.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Use your offset spatula to continue to work the icing on the top of the cake and smooth the top edges. Do not mess with the sides or side part of the corners yet. Just try to get the top as smooth as you can, the sides should already be smooth.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Next, we use the paper towel to finish smoothing any imperfections that are left from the offset spatula. Like I said above, I ONLY use Viva paper towels for this. They are the only paper towel I know of that doesn’t have raised patterns on it. You’ll notice that one side is smoother than the other – that’s the side you want against the cake.

I usually start with the top of the cake, since it tends to be rougher and need more work. Along with your paper towel, you’ll need the fondant smoother. Place the paper towel on the cake, smoothest side down, and rub in small circular motions with the fondant smoother to smooth out the icing. Press firmly and evenly, but not hard.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Do the same with the sides of the cake, evening out any bumps or air holes.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

To help make sharper corners, place the paper towel on the top of cake, letting it hang over the edge and down the side. Placing your fingers against the side of the cake to keep the icing in place, use the fondant smoother to gently push the icing out towards to edge to help make that corner sharp. Do that anywhere you think the edges could use it.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Keep working that paper towel and fondant smoother until you are happy with your cake.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Next, I like to take my offset spatula and remove excess icing at the bottom of the cake and give it a clean edge. The spatula is placed at an angle so that nothing is actually touching the side of the cake, but just the bottom of the spatula side is grabbing the excess icing. Then pull the excess towards you and away from the cake.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Use your other icing tip to pipe on your border. I used Ateco tip 844, but you could also use Wilton 1M, which is similar, or any other tip you prefer.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

Sprinkle with some spraaaankles (I used Wilton Spring Confetti Sprinkles!

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

And you’re done! Put your cake on your favorite cake stand, add a few more sprinkles and dig in!! It’s time to eat all that hard work. 😉

*Update* For some help with getting the right frosting consistency, check out my new post, How to Get the Right Frosting Consistency, on how I like to do it.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!

This page includes affiliate links.

Tutorial - How to frost a perfectly smooth cake with buttercream icing! Images and animated gifs with detailed instructions!
Learn how to decorate Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Practice your smoothing technique on some of these delicious cakes:

Moist and Fluffy Vanilla Cake
(the recipe for the cake in the tutorial above!)
Moist and Fluffy Vanilla Cake! Such a soft, tender cake!

Strawberry Layer Cake
Strawberry Layer Cake full of fresh strawberries for flavor! Covered in sprinkles for a cute baby shower cake!

Best Chocolate Cake
Best Chocolate Cake - incredibly moist and chocolatey!

Bananas Foster Layer Cake
Bananas Foster Layer Cake - this cake is full of cinnamon, bananas and rum sauce! So good!

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cake
Cherry Chocolate Chip Cake - full of maraschino cherry flavor and mini chocolate chips!

Chocolate Oreo Cake
Chocolate Oreo Cake

Sparkling Cranberry White Chocolate Cake
Sparkling Cranberry White Chocolate Cake - super moist vanilla cake full of fresh cranberries, iced with white chocolate icing and topped with sparking cranberries!

Share a Comment

Have a question? Use the form below to submit your question or comment. I love hearing from you and seeing what you made!

  1. Hannah

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’m just wanting to get into decorating cakes and your video on how to decorate a cake is amazing, I can’t wait to try all of your wonderful tips, but I have a few questions:
    It doesn’t look like the turntable you used is made anymore, is there one that you would suggest to use instead? What size and brands cake boards and piping bags did you use? What size bags did you use as well?

    Thank you so much,


    1. Lindsay

      I’m glad you’re finding it helpful!

      As for the turntable, I haven’t used any others, but it looks like there’s a similar one by Ateco on Amazon and I’m guessing that one would be good. The size of the cake board depends on the size of your cake, but for an 8 inch cake, I usually use a 10 inch cake board. The ones I have are Wilton. My piping bags are also Wilton, 16 inch. I hope that helps!

  2. Donna

    I just watched your tutorial on icing a cake — awesome! Quick question, what consistency of icing would I use to crumb coat a cake? I’ve looked in your website for some information on crumb coating. I can’t find any information, but that doesn’t means it’s not there! Thanks for great recipes and tutorials!

    1. Lindsay

      I haven’t done much on crumb coating, because I don’t usually do much of one. The way I apply the frosting with the piping tip makes it so that it’s not typically necessary. If I were to use one, I’d use the same consistency as the buttercream I was putting on the cake. I hope that helps!

  3. Lynn

    This is my new favourite page! I love your tutorial videos, they are the best I have seen, thank you. I picked up a fondant smoother and will also be picking up an icing smoother.
    Just a couple questions though, should the cake and icing be room temperature to smooth it or put in the fridge before smoothing? Also, have you ever used parchment paper instead of paper towel? I think I have seen some people use that before but not sure how well it works.

    1. Lindsay

      So glad you’re enjoying the tutorials! The cake and frosting should be room temperature and you’ll want to smooth it right after frosting it, so that the buttercream doesn’t have time to crust over. In theory parchment paper would be ok, but you have to be really careful not to crinkle it, or the crinkly will transfer over to the cake.

    1. Lindsay

      You will want to use gel icing color, not food coloring. Gel icing color is much more concentrated and will give you brighter and more vibrant colors.

  4. Marilyn Tyndall

    I must follow your video on frosting a cake with buttercream. I have had problems in the past with getting the finish I want. Thanks for all the helpful tips. Could I also achieve these results using ermine buttercream? I often find regular buttercream too sweet

  5. Jacquelyn Palmer

    Hi! What size cake pans did you use for this cake? I saw where you said how many frosting recipes you had to make for this one. Was just wondering!

  6. Holly

    Thank you so much for this tutorial yours was the best tips to apply smooth BC. Question though, I bought viva paper towels and the paper towel stuck to the frosting, it did not work to get the air bubbles out and to create a smoother finish. What happened, do I need to put my cake in the frig for a couple minutes to create the paper towel secret? Help on this, I really want to make your secret trick work.

  7. Marjorie

    Hi, did you chill your cake between the final frosting and when you used the paper towel with the fondant smoother ?

    1. Lindsay

      No, definitely not. You need to use the paper towel immediately or the buttercream will crust over and you won’t be able to smooth it.

  8. Kathleen A Schmaltz

    I have made your German Chocolate cake once and it was the best ever! A friend of mine has requested that I make it for her husband’s birthday. I am going to try to be more professional when I frost it this time. Can you tell me which pastry bag (and size) you use with the Ateko 789 tip?

  9. Glory

    Nice tutor, the teaching was helpful
    I find it hard to get my butter icing right, after mixing it it will be soft but after using it to cover the cake few mints later it will become very hard
    What could be the problem

  10. Nancy Morra

    Where do I buy that turn stand I’ve been looking everywhere please let me know what size and where to purchase this thank you

  11. barbara

    What carrier to you use for 3 layer cakes? I made the Almond Joy Cake and it was a huge hit! i for got to put the almonds in between layers and ended putting them on top and around the bottom. Still perfectly wonderful. I appreciate the tips you provide. What a difference it makes in the cake. Goes from just delicious to magnificent!

  12. Nash

    I have watched so many frosting videos and must say yours is the only one that’s so finely detailed. A big help for a neebie like me

    I want to share a picture with you so you could advise on where I went wrong
    I think I allowed my frosting to cool in the fridge before using the smoother. Which then led to bubbly cracks in the frosting
    Luckily the cake was moon themed so it looked more like rocky surfaces moon cake
    I would have sat and cried and totally given up on my decorating skills had I not stumbled upon your website tonight

    1. Lindsay

      I’m glad you found my tutorial! Yes, if you let the cake sit for a while before using the smoother, that could definitely cause cracks. Sorry to hear that, but glad it worked ok with the theme of the cake!

  13. Katy

    Thank you for this tutorial! I love all things cakes and cupcakes and have been struggling to get those crisp corners and smooth sides. I’m tossing around the idea of possibly starting my own business and have a question for you. I’m unsure if it’s the consistency of my buttercream or that I’m not allowing my cakes to cool enough before frosting them or if it’s my cakes texture that’s the problem, but every time I start to frost I’m taking away more than just “crumbs”. How long do you let your cakes cool before the crumb layer and how long do you let the crumb layer harden in the fridge before your final layer? Thanks!

    1. Lindsay

      Glad you found it helpful! I let my cakes cool completely. If they aren’t completely cool, you could certainly have trouble with them staying it tact or with the frosting melting a bit. I don’t typically let by crumb coat harden, unless there’s a very thin filling in the middle of the cake or something that I want to be sure stays in place while I frost my cake. Are you using my buttercream recipe? It’s hard to say if something with the buttercream is the problem or maybe how you’re adding the buttercream. But check out my frosting consistency post and maybe there will be something helpful in there.

    1. Lindsay

      I depends on the cake filling. If it’s thinner and the cake layers aren’t as stable, then yes. If it’s filled with a stable frosting or something, then I don’t usually refrigerate it.

  14. Liset

    Great tutorial, thank you, my problem is the frosting fell off the cake when try to crumb coat, what is wrong?, is the frosting to thick?
    Thank you

  15. Andrea

    Thank you so much for this tutorial, so useful and complete!!! I had never heard about using paper for a smooth finish! However I wonder if this will work with swiss meringue buttercream? I see that you use american buttercream ..
    Also I feel like using paper will stick to the frosting lol!! Excited to try this technique 🙂

  16. Courtney

    I am so amazed! And just bought three of the tools you recommended from amazon! Baking a perfect cake is my new goal for the rest of the year… this was so helpful! Thank you!!

  17. LAMIDE kafayat

    Please my question goes,please before you frost your cake do you normally refrigerat the butter cream.

  18. Coco

    Oooooh that smoothing phase! I never knew you were supposed to do that, i’ve been stuck with scraping and thinking why i can’t make my cakes as smooth as professionals, i just thought i was a bad scraper 😀 i feel enlightened, thank you!!

  19. iris lizardi

    Can you share what piping bag you used for the layers on the sides of the cake? It looks bigger and much different from the disposable ones you linked. Would like to get the one you were actually using in the tutorial along with the other items you linked which are already in my Amazon cart as I write this.

    1. Lindsay

      You could leave it at room temperature for about 24 hours, or refrigerate it. If you felt like it was watery, then it sounds like you added far too much liquid.

  20. Penny

    Wow!  Never really knew how. Thank you so very much. I have just joined and I am really enjoying your posts. 
    Love the little family touch and all. Too sweet. 
    Take care in these trying times. 
    Sincerely xo

  21. LAURA

    Hi can you tell me what type of buttercream you have used? Would this work with American style buttercream with white chocolate?

    1. Lindsay

      This post doesn’t have a recipe. Is there one in particular that you tried and had trouble with so that I could look at it?

  22. Kim

    Hi, thank you for your tutorial. I have been practicing but mine never look like yours does. Did it take you a while to get this technique down? I’ve made 3 cakes so far. Just wondering if there’s hope for me?!

    1. Lindsay

      I’ve made literally hundreds of cakes over the years. 🙂 It shouldn’t take that many times, but it will definitely take practice to get the feel of it.

  23. Vilna

    Do yo7 let the butter cream set before using the tissue and fondant scraper. I tried it but the tissue stuck to the frosting.

  24. Hilda

    please where can i get the parchment paper in Nigeria so i can have a smooth butter cream frosting decoration on the cake?

  25. Joanne Engle

    Hi I’m new to cake decorating and I found this tutorial helpful 
    My question is …. when using a paper towel to smooth should you let the frosting crust over first or can I do this right away 
    Thank you 

    1. Lindsay

      You want to do it right away. If you let the frosting crust first, you won’t be able to smooth it properly with paper towels.

  26. Amy

    Dear Lindsay,
    Thank you so very much for your incredibly helpful tutorial. I decided to be brave and try it since I wanted to volunteer for Cake4Kids to make a young man’s 18th birthday cake. The cake turned out amazingly well for a first time effort thanks to your clear instructions, and I think it was a blessing to him. Now I can’t wait to try it again!  Thanks for sharing your talents with us. 
    May the Lord bless you and your family!

  27. Martina

    What an awesome website it’s by far one of the best! And the tutorial is so detailed and perfect. I frosted my cake as I watched your tutorial and it was so much easier to watch it and follow along in steps. Thank you for such a detailed class. I’m going to keep making this cake until it looks like yours! Can I ask you what kind of food coloring you use to get that gorgeous pink?

    1. Lindsay

      I’m glad it was helpful! I use gel icing color. Wilton and Americolor both make good gel icing color options.

  28. Hilda

    this is a very educative tutorial. but I have a question. which is; is paper towel the same thing as baking paper?

    1. Lindsay

      I typically use Wilton brand piping bags, which are easy to find in Michaels, Hobby Lobby or Walmart. The 12 inch bags are good for smaller piping things (like little borders or decorations) and 16 inch bags are best for piping onto cupcakes or frosting the side of the cake, as shown in this tutorial. I often get reusable bags, but disposable ones are also available.

  29. Marian

    “Thank You” doesn’t begin to convey my gratitude for this tutorial. Working slowly with explanation as you go is a priceless gift to bakers. I needed to learn to slow down. The cake won’t age by me taking my time and with your guidance, I take control, the cake doesn’t! You’re a gem…. with a lifetime follower. And thank you for the most awesome recipes!

  30. Jesse

    Hi there–

    2 questions: 1) does this work as well with meringue buttercreams? I strongly prefer something less sweet, and would love to find a way to get the same texture on something a little lighter.

    2) do you have any advice about the temperature of either the icing or the cake? I’ve had to mess with both in the past to get decent smoothness.


    1. Lindsay

      This method will work with meringue buttercream up until the paper towel part. Meringue buttercream is probably going to stick to the paper towel. I typically frost a room temperature cake with room temperature buttercream. I’ll occasionally refrigerate the cake after the crumb coat but only if there is a thin filling between the layers, like lemon curd.

  31. angela

    do you have to put the cake in the fridge before using the paper towel? everytime i have done this, my icing peels off?

    1. Lindsay

      No, I actually wouldn’t refrigerate it or let it sit first or the buttercream will crust and then you won’t be able to use the paper towel to fix imperfections without actually creating more imperfections. If the paper towel is sticking, it’s because of the frosting consistency. It it’s too thin or sticky, it will stick a bit. Feel free to check out my post on frosting consistency.

  32. Lisa

    Great tutorial! This is a valuable information for newbies like me…Thanks!

    I just wonder if I really need to use the tips you suggested (the Ateco 844 and Wilton 789)? I already have a high quality decorating tip set (Chefast brand) that I just bought on Amazon. I think the tips 47 and 17 included in the set are similar to those tips you mentioned… Can you tell me if those tips I mentioned are ok to use for smoothing a cake?

    1. Lindsay

      If you have other similar tips, they should be fine. I did a quick google search of those tips, but couldn’t find a picture of them. I’d check out the Wilton ones and see if they look similar to yours.

  33. Cate

    That’s a lot of work and time. With acrylic icing guides you can skip the crumb coat and paper towel smoothing, which is unhygienic, and create flawlessly smooth iced cakes in 5 mins. 

    Food safety and hygiene mandates the only tools that come in direct contact with food are tools that can be sterilized. 

  34. Ashley

    Thank you so much for this! I made your cherry chocolate chip cake yesterday and was so frustrated with my lack of frosting abilities… blah. All in all it was fine but I want to be able to achieve a nice, smooth cake. I never have seen these tips before so thanks so much!! Looks beautiful.

    1. Lindsay

      It’s a very specific paper towel – the Viva. It’s the only smooth paper towel that I’m aware of. Parchment paper becomes an issue if it wrinkles up and transfers those wrinkles onto the cake.

      1. Ondie

        Ok that makes sense 🙂 I already have all the tools except the fondant smoother which I ordered yesterday (Its an add on only item on Amazon) with a few other supplies I was running low on. Anxious to give this a try sometime soon 🙂

  35. Faye

    Lindsay I found you website today when I was looking for Easter egg recipes for my grandchildren I am always looking for something new and today I hit the best thing ever it was so nice to see a young person so passionate about their baking skills but I also enjoy the words you have to inspire others I am 73 years old always liked baking and cooking and making things for the tea and snacks we have at our Church

  36. Debbie

    Hi Lindsay, Thanks so much for these instructions on the perfectly iced cake. But, I do have a question also my family love swiss buttercream which works great under fondant that I never use. But it isn’t a crusting recipe can you use the paper towel with it? Also I bought all the tools from your link and was wondering how you put that large tip into a bag and what size bag, and do you have to use a disposal bag for it? If so, how much would you trim it off so the icing doesn’t come out the sides of the bag, I seem to always cut the disposable bags to much with larger tips and my frosting comes out of the sides of the tip. Your cakes look beautiful by the way. I am doing my grandsons cake tomorrow for his 21st birthday so it has to be perfect. I hope you read comments still from older post so I can use this method on his cake tomorrow. And he has specifically requested your best chocolate cake that I made for my daughter in Nov. He said after eating a slice of hers. That I should open a bakery lol. She loved the frosting he couldn’t stop talking about your cake how great it tasted and I have to agree.

  37. Jeff Pelletier

    Great video and pictures!  I hadn’t tried the very fat nozzle for the sides before, and had only used a (hot) offset spatula.  But the fat piping nozzle is obviously the way to go when you’re striving for smoothness.  My question is actually about something different:  you seem to be using some sort of platform on top of the cake turntable.  One really wants such a thing, unless you’re going to serve the cake directly off the turntable, since removing the cake from the turntable is a very tricky (and messy, at least for me) job.  You didn’t mention what these platforms were, and I wonder if they are easily available?

    1. Lindsay

      These are the tools I settled on after trying many. I find them to work best to give the best result. As far as this tutorial is concerned, they are the ones I recommend and would deem “necessary” so to speak. They should be pretty accessible, for the most part. I’ve provided Amazon links, but many of the Wilton products can also be found at craft stores like Michaels and even Walmart. The Ateco products are usually also available in stores at Sur la Table.

  38. Anna

    I looove your blog and his tutorial in particular is really fantastic! I hope you do more tutorials… you are quite gifted at it!  I’m writing because my sons first birthday is coming up and I’m doing the cake!  I wondered if you could offer some insight as to whether the type of frosting is negotiable for this technique. I want to use a recipe for frosting that includes cream cheese. Is there a reason you use buttercream icing? Is there a disadvantage to cream cheese icing. Here’s my fav cream cheese icing recipe:

    1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
    5 cups confectioner’s sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup half-and-half {original recipe calls for whole milk, but I like to use this instead}
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    1. Lindsay

      I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the blog and tutorial! Cream cheese frosting is a little more tricky because it is usually sticky from the cream cheese. I use the same method for cream cheese frosting, up until the paper towel which would stick to the frosting.

      1. Anna

         I read more of the comments that other people left after I left the comment to you and found that you’d already answered this question before. I felt bad then. Thanks so much for getting back to me. Really love your blog. Looking forward to more tutorials! 

  39. parisa

    So good instruction. Thanks. Can i use other tools for frosting? please tell some simple tools for frosting….

  40. christanah

    Hi christin from nigeria pls i want to ask is this butter icing or royal icing? Cos the way u smoothen it with the paper towel kept me wondering

  41. Nicky

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I’m a self taught cake decorator and it’s tutorials such as yours that has helped me iron out some lumps and bumps (pun intended!) of the cake decorating world – I will be using your tips going forward! I can’t wait to do my next cake 🙂

  42. Tessa

    Hi Lindsay! Your site is so helpful that I bought a few more stuffs like yours such as the cake icer and smoother. It made my life easier with decorating cakes! Quick question though, I rarely use buttercream as I find them too sweet so I always opt for frostings with cream cheese , mascarpone or whipping cream. Will this smoothing technique work with these kinds of frostings that I use? Thanks in advance!

    1. Lindsay

      I’m glad you find it helpful Tessa! This technique probably won’t be great with those other types of frosting because of the way it would stick to the paper towel. Everything else will be fine, but the paper towel smoothing won’t be successful.

  43. Kathryn

    I have tried and tried techniques for smoothing a cake, but always fail. When trying this method with using the paper towel…. the icing is always lifted with the paper towel when I go to remove it. SOS!!!!!

  44. Vicki

    I love the look of your site. I agree that you need a great go to vanilla cake. I have been looking for one. I am trying out the cupcakes. They are in the oven and smell wonderful. I also like your icing tutorial.

  45. Anna

    I usually use Russian piping tips for frosting such big cakes.
    Very easy to use it as for me the biggest problem before was to make flowers 😀
    Btw I like your tutorials a lot. I learned many good techniques. Thanks for that.

  46. Kay

    I found this so helpful. I wonder if you would consider doing a video showing how you level the cakes. Yours are so perfectly level before frosting. Thank you!

  47. Luciana

    Oh my gosh! This is my first time commenting on a tutorial and I’m doing so because this was awesome! I was totally engaged from the starting to the ending instructions. You made this feel so effortless for a beginner like me; I thank you!

  48. Renee

    I have never decorated a cake before but would say all around I’m a pretty crafty gal. I did some research before starting and came across your blog. I used your vanilla frosting recipe and this tutorial. This was so helpful. I love the way the cakes turned out. Thanks!

  49. Laura D

    I have been struggling for a while one which frosting to use and a technique. Your instructions are phenomenal!! I feel i could make anything after reading your blog!! Thank you for being so thorough and all of the wonderful pictures. Just looking at your frosted cupcakes made my mouth water!! Thank you 🙂

  50. Jessica

    Oh my goodness!!!! Thank you so much for this tutorial! I HATE fondant, the flavor and texture. Definitely trying this out tonight.

  51. Omaida

    What an awesome tutorial ???????????????????? So detailed n well written   Thank you so much for sharing it, I can’t wait to try it.

  52. Nadia

    Great tutorial!! Just wondering, does it have to be a paper towel? We don’t have Viva here in Montreal, Canada. Do you think parchment paper or waxed paper would work?

    1. Lindsay

      I’m not sure of something other than Viva paper towels that works well. Parchment and wax paper will likely crinkle and put lines into the sides of the cake.

  53. Karie

     I used store bought Betty Crocker vanilla cream frosting between the layers, thin layer on top, and also as my crumb guard around the sides.  Then I used the homemade icing on top of that . Do you think that it was too thin?   I know everyone likes a true buttercream and my homemade version tasted more like cookie dough according to my 14-year-old daughter. So I use both kinds.   She said it certainly didn’t taste bad, it just tasted different than traditional buttercream.  Do you think this was my problem?

  54. Karie

     I have never been able to get buttercream icing smooth
    :(. I stumbled across your post and followed all your directions. At first my three layer strawberry cake looked really nice… (smooth and tall) But then it started to collapse and looked more like a donut (w/o the hole) with rounded sides I tried pushing it back together, I tried  adding more frosting I made from recipe (1/2 butter/ 1/2 shortening version) and also tried removing some with the icing smoother. I don’t have a lot of experience but feel that something I did went wrong. Do you think it’s the weight of the icing when the cake is very light and spongy? I’m just trying to figure out where I went wrong!! 

    1. Lindsay

      Did you have a filling between the layers, or just frosting? It sounds like whatever was between the cake layers was too thin and started seeping out. If it was a filling, you need to have a good sturdy dam of frosting around the outside edge to keep the filling in place. If it was just a frosting, it sounds like it was too thin.

  55. Lori

    I’m in Canada and not sure if we have Viva paper towels here. If I can’t get them is there anything else that works? Parchment paper??

    1. Lindsay

      It’s hard for me to know what other options might exist in other places, you know? I don’t know of an alternative here in the U.S. unfortunately. Parchment paper is too stiff and will get wrinkles in it, but you could try. I’m sorry!

  56. Megan

    I’m so excited to try this technique! What size of cake pan did you use here? I’m not sure if should do an 8″ or 9″ layer cake. I want to make a 4 layer unicorn cake for my daughter’s birthday. Do you think it would sag using a dense cake? Should i do a thicker 3 layer or a thinner 4 layer?

  57. Marna

    I am having trouble after my cake has been completely decorated and finished with it cracking. Especially on the a 9×13. After I pick it up and move it it wants to crack. Any tips on how to avoid this?

  58. Catherine

    Hi lindsay thank u for sharing ur decorating method.
    By the way, doesnt the paper towel stick to the frosting at all? Or tear as u lift it up from the frosting?
    I am in Australia and i dont know if theres viva paper towel here so im just thinking to get the strongest paper towel with a smooth side.

    1. Lindsay

      You want to make sure to have the right consistency frosting so that the paper towel doesn’t stick. Since I’ve received several questions about that, I’m currently working on an addition to this tutorial to talk about that.

  59. Sidney

    Hi Lindsay,

    I have followed your tutorials and have tried this method on two cakes with your buttercream recipe as well. It worked very well on the first, but on the second, I struggled with still being able to kind of “see” the cake layers through the icing. I wasn’t seeing the actual layers, but more of the shape of each layer and the filling between them, which really distracted from the smoothness of the cake. I’m thinking that I might be piping too little icing on the sides, and that us what is causing it. Do you have any suggestions?

    Also, I have been leveling my cake layers to the point that they look great with a crumb coat, but when I add the rest of the icing, they end up leaning a bit, or tilted. Any recommendations to keep my cakes straighter?

    Thank you for all your yummy recipes! Your blog is one of my favorites!

    1. Lindsay

      Hi Sidney! Do you know if it’s the frosting kind of squeezing out from between the cake layers that you’re seeing? It’s possible that it’s not the thickness of the layer of frosting on the outside of the cake, but the consistency (thickness) of the frosting itself. I’ve had a couple questions lately related to the consistency of the frosting, so I’m thinking that might be my next tutorial. 🙂 In your case though, it sounds like the frosting might be a bit thin for the cake layers. I tend to use a thicker frosting than some people so that it doesn’t smoosh out when the cake is stacked. Does that sound like what’s happening? The leaning cake issue could also be from the same issue of the frosting moving around after you stack the cake because it’s thin.

      1. Sidney

        I’m not sure. I followed your advice on checking consistency by how much sticks to your finger. I made your raspberry almond layer cake, and the raspberry buttercream was thinner than the normal buttercream and the almond that covered the cake. So that might have been part of the problem. But I do think I might still be piping it on too thin around the outside.

        A tutorial on consistency would be great! Thanks!

      2. Sidney

        Sorry to respond twice! I did notice that the cake felt very sturdy and straight, the layers weren’t sliding at all, until I put the icing on top of the cake and started doing the sides, then it started oozing a bit. I wonder if I put too much on top of the cake?

  60. Erin

    HI Lindsay, I love your tutorial about using the paper towel and I even have started using your buttercream recipe! I like the texture of it with half of it being shortening. However, I tried the paper towel method with it, and it keeps sticking. The icing is not crusting. I put the cake in the fridge for a few minutes hoping this would help and it crusted, but still stuck to the paper towel after a couple minutes of working with it. Do you have any advice? Thank you!

    1. Lindsay

      It sounds like the frosting is a little thin, so it’s sticking. To test the consistency of frosting for the paper towel method, I tap it with my finger when it’s in the mixing bowl. I want it to stick to my finger a little bit, but not too much. If it sticks really easily, it’ll likely stick to a cupcake. If it doesn’t stick to my finger at all, it’ll be too thick for spreading. I hope that helps!

  61. Shannan

    I can’t thank you enough for such a detailed tutorial! Any chance you could do one in getting a smooth buttercream top on a sugar cookie? I can’t seem to ever get mine smooth without using royal icing.

    1. Lindsay

      Hmm, I’ve never tried or seen cookies with smooth buttercream I don’t think. I’ll have to do a little looking around. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the tutorial!

  62. fb

    I want to make this cake, but if i crumb coat it the night before, wouldn’t the remaining frosting dry out? How could you tackle this problem?
    I love your cakes by the way, they look so proffesional!

    1. Lindsay

      The frosting on the cake will definitely crust. It might be ok if it’s refrigerated. Also, if you’re using the same method of adding the frosting with the piping tips, it might be ok. Just re mix the frosting a bit to soften things up again.

  63. Dani Gonzales

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU Lindsay!! I decided to make my 3 year olds birthday cake for the first time as I realllly didn’t want to pay $$$ for it. I followed the tutorial step by step and it turned out fantastic (including your recipe for strawberry and vanilla frosting)! This was my first attempt at a buttercream cake as well, so I could not have accomplished it without your guidance! Happy New Year to you!

  64. Chava

    Can you please explain what the crumb coating is that you started off with at the beginning of the directions? I’ve heard of this before but when I try to google it all I get is cakes covered with crumbs. Like, on purpose – “Crush oreo cookies and sprinkle over the top to coat it with crumbs.” Ummmm don’t think so!

    1. Lindsay

      It’s really just an initial thin layer of frosting. It’s called a “crumb” coat because it typically is used to keep all the crumbs in place so that when you add a final layer of frosting, you don’t have crumbs showing.

  65. Susan

    This is the best tutorial I’ve seen! Thank you for giving out so many tips!
    I’ve attempted a “smooth cake” but using fondant – but that’s sorta cheating 😉
    I’m so glad I found YOU ! <3

  66. Marnee

    Thank you very much for the tutorial. I have just ordered all the accessories. I would like to make the vanilla buttercream frosting in pink as you have done. What do you add to the original recipe to make it pink? Have I missed something? I looked on your blog at other frostings and they added chopped strawberries or raspberries. Is that what you have done here? I live in Spain and cannot get the Viva paper or any other make without patterns. Any other suggestions about what I could use instead?

    1. Lindsay

      I’m glad you found it helpful! You can use icing gel color to color the frosting. As for another kind of paper towel, I’m not sure of another option. You should still be able to get it pretty smooth though without it.

  67. Rabia

    I live in india . I am not sure if I could get this paper towel brand ( Viva).
    Does this technique work for whipped cream also?
    One question. Should we freeze the cake before we smoothen out with paper towel and smoothener. will the cream not stick if we dont refrigerate?

    1. Lindsay

      Everything but the paper towel would work with whipped cream. I don’t freeze the cake first. It’s really more about the consistency of the frosting. If it’s too thin and sticky, it’ll stick to the paper towel.

  68. Elikwu winifred

    Wao ! Tnx for sharing have just gotten another knowledge about the application of egg using only white & using viva paper to get a very smooth work. Nice tutorial.

  69. carmenesteladuqueramirez

    muy agradecida por compartir estas deliciosas recetas.pronto empezare a practicarlas para iniciar mi negocio propio.  me encanta todo sobre  reposteria .y se que con sus aportes lo podre lograr. miles de bendiciones.

  70. Melanie

    This is such a beautiful cake! I just ordered all of your recommended products so I can hopefully attempt to make this! I will be doing a two-tier cake (9” and 6”) and will need to tweak the instructions to accomodate the second tier. My instinct tells me I should frost them both separately, then very, very carefully place the 6” tier on top, secure with a dowel, then re-smooth the top. What do you think?

  71. Paula

    Have you tried this with a cream cheese frosting? Half cream cheese/half butter? Would like to use this technique for my daughters cake this weekend.

    1. Lindsay

      Yes, I have. Depending on how thick your cream cheese frosting is, the paper towel may stick. The rest of the method will work fine.

  72. Virginie

    Thank you so much for your explication <3
    I'm very curious to try the recipe (because I just bought new nozzles 😉

    Though I have a little question, because my original language is Dutch, and I don't understand what "shortening" means.
    I tried to search on www, but I do'nt seem to find it here.
    Can you please give me some brands, that I can ask in our stores if they know something similar?
    Thank you very much in advance! x

    1. Lindsay

      This is the one I use. If you don’t have it available in your area, all butter frosting would be the way to go.

      1. Virginie

        Thank you very much for your help, Lindsay! It doesn’t seem familiair to me, but I will ask in a bakery store and show the ingredients, maybe they know what it it 😉

      2. Marllen

        I realise this thread is a few months old, only just found your blog. I’ve been baking cakes for 25 years and have only used an offset spatula, will now give your paper towel and buttercream recipe a go. 

        In response to Virginie: the Crisco brand is sold by some Jumbo stores. Shortening is bakvet, een plantaardige olie. I am Dutch myself and find living in Australia, I have to adapt Dutch recipes to the ingredients I can source here. Good luck with your baking.

  73. Jeanne

    Really appreciate your tutorial…your pictorial how-to’s are great and the finished cakes are so smooth and lovely. Something to aspire to……so, a big thank you, all the way from Kenya

  74. TerriSue

    Oh Lindsey, If I had only found you in February!  My son and then fiance wanted me to make their wedding cake.  Since this was a very informal affair I agreed.  It was just immediate family.  They are planning a big ceremony when they can save the money for it.  I am 58.  My mother decorated cakes having taken Wilton classes in the 50’s.  What little I know came from watching her.  Styles of cakes have changed so much.  My mother never tried to get the finish you have just explained here.  I looked all over the web trying to figure out how to do this.  I was working with an Italian Buttercream.  The best help I came up with was using a hot offset spatula to smooth the icing.  Long story shorter, the cake was wonderful, I piped lilies that looked like lilies. (the bride loves lilies and doesn’t like roses), my first attempt at making a meringue buttercream sold me on them forever.  The icing was smoother than I can usually get it by just putting it on with an offset spatula, but it wasn’t anything like your beautiful cakes always look.  I want to try your method now.  I came to this page via your Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake.  I am going to make it just to try this method, not to mention I am a citrus lover, and my granddaughter goes crazy over anything with a berry in it.  I guess my only problem is going to be buying the paper towels.  We don’t buy disposable paper products except for TP.  So do I want that completely smooth cake or am I going to chop down a tree? lol

  75. Niki

    I tried this method the other week.  The icing stuck to the paper towel.  I did not use your recipe, but my own buttercream recipe that does crust.  Is there a magic time I should wait before putting the paper towel to avoid it from sticking to the paper towel?

    1. Lindsay

      Without knowing much about your buttercream, I’m going to guess it has to do with how much liquid you use in the frosting. I make mine quite thick so that it doesn’t stick. When I tap my finger up against the frosting in the bowl (when I’m mixing it), just a little bit will stick to my finger rather than a bunch sticking.

  76. Katy

    This may be a silly question, but I’m not the biggest fan of fondant but I want the same look. So I was thinking instead of doing fondant over the entire cake I would try doing your smooth buttercream frosting tutorial, but then I got to thinking, would you still be able to stick fondant decorations onto the sides of the cake without the icing peeling away? For some reason I just get this horrible vision of doing all this work just to see it fall apart haha. Thanks again for your great tutorial!

    1. Lindsay

      Yes, you can still add fondant decorations. I use a sugar water made by dissolving some fondant in a little bit of water. Then I use a brush to add the sugar water to the fondant decoration (making it sticky) and press it lightly onto the cake. As long as they aren’t really big or heavy decorations, they should be fine.

  77. Chris

    Thank you a million times for this tutorial. It is by far the best one I’ve found on the interwebs. : )
    I’ve already tried it once and my cake looked 150% better already. Love your site!

  78. Carla Walton

    I’ve used the Viva alone and it workedpretty well but it is so great to see your steps prior to the Viva. One little question though. What size piping bag are you using? I just fussed at myself for buying so much baking stuff but here I go again! Thanks for the great directions!

  79. DeeDee Bryans

    I have a question that may seem silly. How do you keep your cake from sliding around on a cake turntable and how do you you transfer the cake to a pretty cake stand after it has been frosted?   Thanks!     Btw, love your tutorial! DeeDee

    1. Lindsay

      My cake stand actually has a non-slide surface, but if yours is sliding around a great trick is to use the stuff that helps rugs not slip around on a hardwood floor. I use them all the time when transporting cakes and desserts to keep them from sliding around the car. Just cut it into small pieces. A small piece will work wonders. As for transferring the frosted cake to a stand, I frost cakes on cardboard cake circles. If you look in these photos of the cake on the stand, you can see it underneath the sprinkles. I trim it down so that it fits within the stand. I hope that helps! Thanks!

  80. Kate

    These cakes look so exquisite and the frosting is like art. I love making cakes and I consider my mixes to be super delicious. When it comes to frosting though, that is an art I have yet to perfect!

  81. Shellie

    That’s so much for an amazing tutorial I’m so excited to try! I’m new to trying my own decorated cakes so is it best to freeze for a short time before icing it? Thanks so much!

    1. Lindsay

      I read a lot of tutorials that talk about refrigerating cakes first. Unless my cake has a filling that is supposed to be refrigerated and I want it to firm up before frosting (like a lemon curd), I don’t refrigerate or freeze it first. If you try it though and find that refrigerating helps, you certainly can.

  82. Nancy L

    This is the MOST beautiful cake ever!!  I love your tutorial.  I want to try to make a cake as smooth as yours!  I’ve dabbled in cake decorating in the past and I really love doing it, but I haven’t made a cake in years!     I think I might dig out my pastry bags and give this cake a whirl!  All of your cakes are gorgeous and look so wonderfully delicious!  I don’t remember how I got to your blog, but I am so glad I did!    🙂

    1. Julie

      Beautiful cake! How do you keep the seam between the layers from showing? I tend to have a line that i can never seem to hide. Also is the paper towel dry or damp? Thanks for your help!

      1. Lindsay

        The line you mention I’m guessing is from the filling between your cake layers. That usually is a frosting or filling consistency issue. You want any frosting between your layers to be thick enough that it isn’t going to squish out and create those lines or bulging. Check out my tutorial for filling and stacking cakes, if you’d like. And the paper towel is dry.

  83. Anjuli

    This is a beautiful cake and I appreciate your step by step tutorial with photos. I do have one question and it’s how do you avoid frosting sticking to the paper towel? Did the cake go into the the refrigerator for a bit?

    1. Lindsay

      No, I don’t refrigerate the cake. The buttercream is a crusting buttercream, so you actually need to use the paper towel right away. I linked to the buttercream recipe I use in the post above. Not all frostings will work with the paper towel.

  84. Chandra@The Plaid & Paisley Kitchen

    I have alwaysed loved your frosting on your cakes! I am so glad you created this tutorial. I have used wax paper similarly to the paper towel. But there is a chance of wrinkles with the wax. I am going to try this method soon!


      Thanks Chandra! Yes, I’d think wax paper could give wrinkles. The paper towels are great!

  85. lidia

    really nice and helpful , but can i use something else ,like baking paper ,as i do not live in america and i can’t use the Viva paper towels , as not found where i live and i looked around and can’t find any smooth paper towels ,all the brands have paten , only the blue paper towel used on the kitchens restaurants or cafe do not have ant paten buy they blue and i am afraid not good enough or maybe the colour will transfer . Thank you and good luck with all you do.


      You could try baking paper, but just be careful to not wrinkle it or that will transfer to the cake.

  86. Sandi

    You are a skilled woman. Will be back to your blog again and again. My house is filled with the lovely smell of the chocolate cakes from the Turtle Cake recipe. My friend is going to love this for her birthday cake. I am looking forward to trying your icing techniques.

  87. Kim

    Hi Lindsay! This isn’t really a comment- I didn’t know how to contact you. I just started reblogging after a long break and I made a cake utilizing your method. I have received some good feedback on it on IG and will be posting it on my blog. I would like to to put a link in my blog to send them to your page since I used your method/tools. I think your post was so well done that it inspired me to try it and I’d like to share it with my friends! I would be happy to send you a pic of the cake if you would like to review. Thanks! Have a great holiday!


      Hi Kim! I’m so glad you found the tutorial helpful. I’d love for you to share it by linking back to me for the instructions – thank you!

  88. Holly N @ Spend With Pennies

    You are insanely talented! The thought of trying to ice a cake like that is really daunting… however your tutorial is awesome! I’m going to give it a try!

  89. judeloren

    Hello. Wonderful tutorial. My question is how does the paper towel not stick to the cake? Every time i have tried this it sticks and pulls off my frosting. ideas?


      Hmm, have you looked at my buttercream recipe? I’m not sure if it’s the one you use or not, but I’m guessing the amount of liquid in the frosting is probably the culprit. The paper towel method doesn’t work on a frosting that’s really moist.

  90. Amir

    Such a helpful tutorial! Definitely going to try this on my next cake 🙂
    Was also curious if you had any cake storing tips (to keep the cake moist and happy between servings)?
    All the best to you!


      Thanks Amir! I’m glad you find this tutorial helpful. As for storing, I typically leave my cakes at room temperature unless there is a filling that needs refrigeration. I think they stay more moist that way. I usually just store mine in a cake carrier.

  91. Natalia

    Amazing Tutorial!! I´m in love with the result. But I have a question. Do I have to wait a little between the last smoothing and the Paper Towel Step? For the icing get dry?

    Thank you so much for your time and Tips 😀


      I’m glad the tutorial is helpful! I don’t usually wait for the icing to dry. Reason being that once the buttercream has crusted, it’s hard to actually smooth any imperfections out. If the icing is too wet, you could wait a few minutes, but not too long. Also, if the the icing is too wet, you might want to reduce the amount of liquid next time.

  92. kristin smith

    I was wondering do you ever get air bubbles under the frosting. This happened to me and I am not sure why. P.S. Your cakes look fantastic.


      Yes, I do! I hate that! I don’t know exactly how it happens, but it usually is the result of air trapped in the cake that builds up pressure until it releases. It’s hard to say how to completely avoid them, but when they happen, I use my paper towel and smoother to try and get the icing back into place and smooth.

  93. Allison - Celebrating Sweets

    This tutorial is amazing! Thank you SO much for taking the time to share your tips and tricks. I’ve ordered some of the tools you recommended, and I’m ready to give it a try! Your cakes are always inspiring, Lindsay!


      That’s dependent on the frosting you use. The one that I linked to up near the top of the tutorial is called a crusting buttercream, which is ideal for this method of smoothing a cake and using a paper towel. If you don’t use a crusting buttercream, then yes, the paper towel will likely stick.

  94. J.nelly

    I had no idea so much was involved. I literally thought you scooped the icing on with spoons and smoothed it down with one spatula. Or maybe that’s just how I do it when I cook boxed cakes and use canned icing. Awesome job sister… it looks great!


      Ha! You make me laugh Nelly. Come spend a day in my kitchen and I’ll show you how I can complicate ALL THE THINGS! P.S. I made your pie today. 🙂

  95. Rachel @ Baked by Rachel

    Seriously gorgeous and I love every single tip! The top has always been the hardest part for me. Definitely giving paper towels a try. I’m surprised that they don’t stick to the frosting at all! And now I totally need to go shop on Amazon for a few new tools 😉


      Thanks Rachel! The paper towels won’t stick to a crusting buttercream, like the one I use (linked in the post). They probably would stick to a sticky icing though.

      1. lisa

        This is the problem I had. My paper towel lifted the icing when I removed it. What should I have done differently. Should I have left the iced cake to sit for longer before smoothing? or is it the type of buttercream I had? I used half the amount of butter to icing sugar.
        If I can figure out what went wrong I’ll definitely try this tutorial again as I’m desperate to master smooth sides and strong edges.

      2. Lindsay

        No, you don’t want to let the cake sit – the buttercream will crust and then crack when you try to mess with it again. The issue would be frosting consistency. If it’s too thin, it will stick to the paper towel. Here’s a tutorial I put together to help with getting the right consistency. I hope it helps!

  96. Alma Cerezo

    Very nice tips. I admire your very clean, smooth frosting on cakes. However, when i check the materials used, the icing tip in Amazon looks different from the one you use in the picture? Kindly check again. Thank you :))

    1. raina

      I know this is 2 yrs later but if you’re still looking it came up wrong for me as well… search for Wilton 789 and the right one will come up on Amazon

  97. Jocelyn @BruCrew Life

    Love this post…you do always have the smoothest looking cakes! I use paper towels to smooth out my cakes too, but I never though to use a fondant smoother over the paper towels. I’m definitely getting one of those before I do another cake.

  98. Trish - Mom On Timeout

    I just bought one of everything Lindsay! This is AWESOME! Now I want to bake a cake 🙂 Pinned!

  99. Jessica @ Sweetest Menu

    WOW! Lindsay, this is fantastic! I just learnt so much – I didn’t know you should put the icing on the top first or that you could use a tip like that to pipe on the icing OR that you could smooth it over with a fondant smoother and a paper towel. I will be referring to this tutorial often! Thank you so much!

  100. Lise @MomLovesBaking

    Very nice! What a perfect cake. Great tutorial! The tools are so important in cake decorating! Now I need a GIF file tutorial from you. Love the animation. p.s. Your nails look so pretty! 🙂

  101. Erin R.

    My goodness, this is one of the best tutorials I’ve ever seen. The careful explanations and many photos are so much more helpful than just do this, then it should look like this, then you’re done. I like that you give the reasons WHY you do things a certain way as it is clear you’ve had a ton of experience and have worked out the best methods through practice. Stunning cake. Bravo.

      1. Anne

        Can you do 3 layers of cake to one tier and not worry about it sagging I’ve wanted to do it but was afraid the a 3 layer tier would not hold up.  Can you do this for any size. Even a 16 rd

      2. Lindsay

        It should be fine with 3 layers of cake. I have many like that on the blog. The method should work for most any size cake, it’s just a little trickier to execute at a large size.

  102. Beth @ bethcakes

    Oh man, I love this! I always have a hard time getting the smooth cake look. I really like your use of gifs, very helpful! Piping the frosting around the outside of the cake and smoothing it out seems so much easier than slapping some frosting on there. I’m going to have to try this! 🙂

  103. jenifer

    Thank you SO much for this tutorial. Your descriptions and pictures make everything easier to understand. I had heard of the Viva papertowel thing before but wasn’t sure (until now) how exactly to make this technique work.

      1. Maggie

        I’m just surprised how the paper towel doesn’t stick to the frosting and manages to come up clean!

    1. Kim

      Love your very helpful tutorial. Are the viva paper towels select a size or does it matter?
      Thank you so much,

      1. Lindsay

        I’ve never used the select a size one, so I’m not sure what those are like. As long as they are smooth, I’d guess they’d be fine.

  104. Martha T

    This is a great tutorial and I now have Ateco icing smoothers in my Amazon shopping cart! Thanks for sharing!

  105. cupcake recipes

    This is awesome, I love that you use a lot of photos to make it easy doing at home, I like tutorial gif photos that show how to put cream on the top of the cake

  106. June @ How to Philosophize with Cake

    Love this!!! The gifs are awesome. I will have to get a bench scraper, since I have seen so many cake experts recommend it! 🙂

  107. Mir

    I am completely in love with this tutorial, Lindsay! I’ve taken a lot of decorating classes, but I’m not anywhere near as good as you. Your pics and instructions are so clear and helpful!

About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29