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How to Master Buttercream Frosting

Mastering buttercream icing (also known as frosting) is one of those baking skills that every homebaker should get to grips with. The good news is that it’s a piece of cake and we’ve put together a few easy-to-follow recipes, ideas and instructions, as well as tips for icing a cake and decorating using buttercream icing. So get ready to finally perfect the art of making the smoothest buttercream from your own kitchen. P.S. Tasting as you go and licking spoons is actively encouraged.

And, whilst you’re here, why don’t you check out our home-baking shop to find everything you need to become a master-baker!

Here’s how to cover a cake using buttercream in three simple steps

Step 1: Let’s start at the top

Add a few scoops of buttercream to the top of the cake. Rotate the turntable (if you have one) as you smooth the buttercream down flat. Holding the angled spatula as parallel to the cake will help you create a level finish. Keep smoothing and rotating until your buttercream reaches over the cake’s edge slightly. But don’t worry too much about getting the top perfect at this point but make sure the frosting is level and reaches over the edge.

Step 2: Frost the sides of the cake

Use your angled spatula to apply a 1/4 inch layer of buttercream around the sides of the cake. When the sides are covered, hold your icing smoother at a 90-degree angle parallel with the cake as you rotate the turntable. The tighter you can angle the icing smoother with the sides of the cake, the easier it will be to smooth the cake. 

Step 3: Making sharp edges

Using your angled spatula, swipe the outer edges of the buttercream crown toward the center of the cake until they’re as sharp as you like. Et voila, your masterpiece is now ready for decorating (but take a photo in all its smooth glory first).

Here’s how to decorate and pipe using buttercream icing

How to pipe onto cupcakes

For a classic cupcake topping, you’ll need a large star nozzle. Drop your nozzle into a clean piping bag before filling it up about ⅔ of the way with your buttercream. Remember to avoid overfilling your piping bag. 

Twist the end of the piping bag and hold it with one hand. Hold the tip of the bag in your other hand. Then squeeze the top of the bag to get rid of any air bubbles and help the icing move down the bag. Try piping a little bit of icing first before you start on a cupcake.

Now for the fun part: pipe a circle of icing on the top of your cupcake and continue piping in a spiral, overlapping the circle. When you get to the middle, stop squeezing. To finish, push the bag down briefly then draw up and the line of icing should detach. 

How to pipe rosettes

To pipe buttercream rosettes, you’ll also need a large star nozzle. Fill a piping bag the same way – nozzle first, then buttercream until the bag is ⅔ full. 

Just like with cupcake icing, hold your piping bag in the same way. Pipe a single blob of buttercream where you want your first rosette, then push the bag down briefly and sharply up to finish. To build your confidence, try a few test rosettes before you start. 

Top tip: if the top of a rosette is a little too sticky-outy, wet your finger with water and press the peak down gently. 

How to pipe writing icing or lines

For writing icing, you need to make sure your buttercream is as smooth as can be and not too stiff. It’s also easier to pipe writing or lines with your cake a little lower down, so if you can, remove it from your cake stand or turntable and keep it on your work surface or table. 

Test your writing icing on a piece of baking parchment before you write on your cake. This will help you get used to the flow. It also helps to have what you’re planning to pipe written down in front of you, to avoid any embarrassing typos.

You’ll need a small, round nozzle to add to your piping bag. When you start piping, keep the bag at a 45 degree angle, slightly apart from the cake surface. Squeeze the top of your bag with a constant pressure to avoid lumps or gaps. 

Now try this at home

So now you’re ready to try to make your very own buttercream icing. To get you started we’ve picked out some of our favourite cake recipes for you to try. Which one will you attempt first? (Don’t forget to tag us in your baking pics, we love to see them).

Indulgent Chocolate Cake

This cake by Lisa Faulkner is decadent but really easy. It’s a great celebration cake for a birthday or other special occasion.

Get the recipe >

Victoria sponge with limoncello cream

Spiked with lemon liqueur and custardy lemon curd, this classic gets a welcome citrus lift.

Get the recipe >

Beetroot Chocolate Cake

This chocolate sponge is luxurious and extra fudgy because of the red root vegetable. This is complemented by the raspberry jam and chocolate ganache.

Get the recipe >

Carrot Cake Loaf

Subtly spiced with ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and topped with a vanilla frosting, this bake is a novel twist on the tea time classic.

Get the recipe >


Looking for more baking inspiration? Check out our brilliant baking recipes.

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