All these years, I never knew these tips

Kitchen How-To: Frost a Cake from Cooking Light magazine.

Step-by-step instructions for sweet results.
No matter if you're making a simple sheet cake or a showier layer cake, icing is easy when you follow these tips from Test Kitchens professional Jan Moon. For the best results, use an offset spatula, which allows for even spreading and keeps your hand away from the cake.

Before frosting, cool cakes on a wire rack. Brush away loose crumbs with a pastry brush, then cover the cakes in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for two hours.

For a smooth finish, lightly mist the cake with water after applying the final coat, then use a spatula to smooth out bumps.

Step 1. Unwrap cakes, and place one layer on a cakestand. Slip strips of wax paper beneath the edges to keep the stand clean. (Place stand on a lazy Susan to make frosting easier.)

Step 2. To frost between the layers, place about one cup of frosting onto center of layer, and sweep outward with the spatula. Leave a 1/2-inch border around the edges.

Step 3. Place unfrosted layer bottom-side up on frosted layer. Apply a thin layer of frosting to the entire cake to seal any loose crumbs. Allow to set in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

Step 4. To frost the top of the cake, place about one cup of frosting onto the center of the cake, and spread to the edge. Cover the top with an even layer of frosting.

Step 5. For the sides, load spatula with frosting, and lightly push it toward the cake as you turn the stand. Continue spreading until the cake is evenly coated; let set before decorating.

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