How to frost a cake with buttercream – Make it free of crumbs

How to frost a cake with buttercream

Cake frosting is one of the most important skills in the cake decorating world – it is the fundamental of a pleasant-looking cake. But, what should we do now? How to frost a cake with buttercream?

I remember frosting is such a pain for me when I was starting – I was totally confused.

No matter how hard I try, I always failed to get an uneven surface, not to mention the crumbs that mixed into the buttercream. If I need to describe myself at that time in one word, that would be ‘frustrated’.

But the good news is that it is not actually that hard. I am not saying you can do it perfectly in just two days, but what I realized is that there are a few tips that help to make it a lot easier. Seriously, like a lot!

So how exactly to frost a cake with a clean edge with buttercream? Let’s check it out!

How to frost a cake with buttercream – Tools

So, yes. This is the answer to the question of how to frost a cake with buttercream! The first things you will need are good tools – tools that help with measuring and keeping the consistency, tools that help your painful back.

  • Cake turntable
  • Offset spatula
  • Cake leveler
  • Cake scraper

The invention of turntables has made cake decorating so much easier! Before I have got myself a turntable, I was always frosting in an awkward position and often ended up with a painful back and an ugly cake. The other great helper is the cake leveler. This is the key for you to get an ultimate straight and professional cake. I will explain the cake leveller more in the next section.

How to frost a cake with buttercream – Details explained

Leveling your cake

99.9% of the time cakes do not just bake flat. Before going into the frosting part, you will need to level your cake. This is to create flat cake tops that will help to stack nicely afterward as well as to give an easier surface for applying the fillings.

Adjust your cake leveller to your desired height and then ‘saw’ your cake by gently drawing the wire into the cake. You need to make sure that the legs are in contact with the work surface all the time. Do not press your hand on the cake as this will cause the wire to be pushed into the cake and you will end up with a dip in your cake top surface.

I will also remove the sides of my cake to ensure the sides are absolutely straight. You may use your cake board or a plate as a template and then carefully trim off the edge of the cake.

The fillings

Now you have your nice and even layers of sponge and we can continue with the fillings.

Apply a small amount of buttercream on the turntable and stick your cake onto it to make sure it does not slide. Make sure the cake is fixed at the center of the turntable. If you have a cake board you may do the same thing on your cake board too.

It’s time to build your cake! Apply the fillings and spread them evenly by using your offset spatula. Always apply more icing than you think you might need – it’s cleaner and easier to remove the excess icing than adding again. Alternatively, you may use a piping bag with a round nozzle to create spirals of fillings on the cake and then smooth it out with your offset spatula. Using a piping bag will help to ensure you are applying an even amount of buttercream across your cake and levels out easier.

Continue to build your cake all the way up until you reach the top layer.

Crumb coat is the key

A crumb coat, also known as the ‘dirty icing’, is the base coat of icing on a cake that helps in sealing in the crumbs. Creating a crumb coat makes sure that there will be zero-crumb in your second layer of icing, thus avoiding a rough cake icing later.

I always use meringue-based buttercream because it’s soft and silky and easier to be applied.

I tend to work from the sides and then to the top. Spoon icing onto the sides of the cake and make sure that your spatula is held at a 90° angle against the cake and spread out evenly by turning the turntable. Remember, always apply more icing than you need. However, you should also note that you do not need to apply thick icing here. The idea is to apply a very thin layer to lock in the crumbs.

You may find little peaks after you have applied the icing to both top and sides of the cake. By using your spatula, gently swipe them towards the center of the cake and you can get rid of them.

Next, chill your cake in the fridge for about an hour. This will give you a nice firm cake to work on for applying the second layer of icing.

Turn your cake pretty

Yeah! Finally, we can apply the second layer of icing!

Use your spatula and repeat the techniques you used to crumb coat the cake but this time you are applying a greater amount of icing. Target at a thickness of 50-60mm and make sure that you spread it out evenly. Don’t worry too much at this point about the icing on the side not being absolutely straight and smooth.

Hold your cake scraper flat against the side of the cake and turn the turntable so the cake is swiped smooth. You need to keep your cake scraper still and frequently remove the excess icing that builds upon the scraper.

Once the sides are smooth and straight, use your offset spatula to apply and smooth out the icing on the top. Again, you are likely to end up with excess buttercream sticking out at the edge of the cake. Gently use the cake scraper or spatula to swipe them towards the center of the cake.

There you go! A smooth, straight, and beautifully frosted cake!


  1. Go for butter with high-fat content, for example above 80%, for the optimal buttercream result.
  2. Let your cake cool for about an hour before leveling it. Leveling it before it has cooled can result in crumbs everywhere and uneven leveling.
  3. If you find your cake being wobbly and wouldn’t stack nicely during the process of crumb coating, try your best to stack properly and then leave the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes. This will help to harden the buttercream a little bit and you may continue crumb coating it.

If you need a clearer idea, this is for you

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Happy frosting session!

I hope that you have enjoyed this guide on how to frost a cake with buttercream! Remember, practice is key! Don’t stress yourself too much at the beginning. Your skills will get better over time!