how does everyone get such smooth icing on the cake? I allways have trouble.
There are more methods than you can count. If you are able to swing the Sharon Zambito DVD on "Perfecting the Art of Buttercream" it is well worth the cost. Look on the forum for the "Melvira Method" or maybe it's under tutorials, sorry, I can't remember which. Mostly it's finding the buttercream recipe that works best for you and lots of practice.
I find that a heated spatula works for me. After icing your cake and you start smoothing - just when you think it's as good as it's going to get - take your metal spatula and run it under hot tap water to heat the metal (I keep a dish towel over my shoulder for this procedure) after running it under the hot water for about 10 seconds - I then wipe all excess water off the spatula and head for the cake to do some final smoothing. The heat from the metal warms the icing and smooths it like glass. You'll notice when the metal starts to cool down (which takes about another 10 seconds) and then I "warm up" the spatula again and keep on smoothing. I do my smoothing with my cake near my sink (but don't splash water on the cake or you'll be in trouble ). Now - I use a butter/shortening BC recipe so this method works really well for my icing. I hope this helps you and others. Give it a try
Gotta start with a smooth, grit free icing first and foremost. Most of the icing receipes out there that don't call for some sort of heating at some point in the process aren't gonna give you smooth as glass results. Almost, and maybe good enough, but not really. So like meringue based icings, which contain cooked sugar, and hi ratio shortening recipes which call for very hot liquid to sort of melt down the sugar, are good bets.
And I'll endorse SMBC (my fave meringue icing) and Sugarshack's DVD's and her icing recipe anyday!