Upside Down Icing Technique for Perfectly Smooth Icing

Want a perfectly smooth and flat cake? Then flip it upside down, learn how.

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This technique works best with an icing containing at least one-third butter, but can be done with an all shortening icing with slight modifications in the chilling steps.

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1. To begin with, there are some tools I consider “must have” items:
A Turntable
A Spackling Knife [from a hardware store]

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2. Trace the outline of the pan [top side down] onto a sturdy surface, such as a piece of foamcore, cardboard, or for a more permanent use, masonite.

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3. Cover the outline with a piece of parchment paper about 1 to 2 inches larger than the pan’s outline and tape securely so that there are not wrinkles. Some people have had success using acetate instead of parchment.

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4. Using a very smooth icing, “ice” the area of the circle, extending the icing about 1/4″ past the outline; any extra icing will be removed later. Apply the icing about 1/4″ thick.
Place the “iced” board in the refrigerator and allow to chill until firm, about 10 to 15 minutes. If using an all shortening icing, you may need to place the board in the freezer instead.

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5. Once chilled, remove the board from the refrigerator and place the “top” cake layer top down on the iced circle, centering is in place. Fill and add aditional layers. Here I have used only 2 layers, but normally I would have torted the layers into four.

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6. Lightly crumb ice the sides of the cake and chill a few minutes if desired before applying the final coat of frosting. Apply the final coat of frosting to the desired thickness using a spatula or large icing tube.

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7. Place the cake on the turntable. Dip the spackling knife in hot water and dry with a paper towel. Hold the blade against the side of the cake at about a 45 degree angle and reach the other hand around the back until it is near the hand holding the knife.

BE SURE THE SPAKLING KNIFE IS TOUCHING THE PARCHEMENT or else there will be a line of icing pushed out beneath it.

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8. SLOWLY turn the turntable one full rotation WITHOUT STOPPING. Inspect the side so the cake. If it is not smooth to your satisfaction, repeat step #7 again. If a small amount of icing has pushed under the blade, simply scrape it away before step #7.

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Smooth any icing build up over onto the “bottom” of the cake with a small angled spatula. When the side are smooth to your satisfaction, carefully cut the parchment paper loose from the board ALL THE WAY AROUND THE CAKE using an Exacto Knife. Carefully return the cake to the fridge for about 10 to 15 minutes to firm the icing [all shortening icing may need to be put in the freezer].

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9. Prepare the final cake board by smearing a few strokes of icing on it. Remove the cake from the fridge, center the board and quickly “FLIP” the cake over. REMOVE the cardboard, but leave the parchment in place and return to the fridge for about 10 minutes.

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\10. Carefully remove the parchment…..you should have a beautifully iced cake with perfect edges and a very level top.

By: Jeff Arnett

Comments (83)

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NormaJ: replace your butter with white Crisco in your recipe for true white buttercream. If using butter, your buttercream will never be pure white, because of the yellow color in the butter.

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I have been working on this since i started and can't get the nice edge. Thanks for sharing. I'm definitely trying this on my next cake.

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Woohoo!! I've been saving your tutorial in my favorites for eons - but because I'm a scardy cat and set in my ways, I took way too long to try it. But... be still my beating heart... I've just iced a 4-tiered 12/10/8/6 wedding cake using this method in UNDER an hour!! I'm slow and pokey at icing cakes, I can easily spend more than an hour icing a small layer alone. THANK YOU!!

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Your technique is fab. I will try it will buttercream made from butter - I hope it works. Transfats are really bad for you, and the only brand of shortening available in the UK is transfat free due to the serious health risks associated with it. Shortening is not really used over here anyway, we just like butter I suppose. But thanks for sharing your recipe. i would have loved to make white buttercream.

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This is FABULOUS! I was just checking out one of my absolute favorite cake artists Chocolate Moose on Flickr. Her edges are perfect and I was wondering how she does it! This is a great tip. I have a bride wanting very sharp square corners for a marine themed wedding cake! I am so glad I came across this! THANKS A MILLION!

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I can't help but say this, the top edge on the last picture looks photoshopped to me.Kind of zigzagged. I hope its not because it seems like a great method.

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doramoreno62 - I agree that pic does look photoshopped. I use photoshop daily. Zig zag is there. Maybe it pixelated or something. But if you look at the pic where he is pulling the top paper off - it is noticeably smooth. I am getting ready to try it after a cake tasting. So I will let you know :)

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I also have to agree with doramoreno62 - the final photo clearly looks like it was edited using Microsoft Paint. The outside line on the top isn't a straight line at all. Kind of discredits the entire post and explains why many of those who've tried this haven't had success.

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I've been wondering FOREVER how people get such a nice sharp corner. I've used the papertowel method for years and it's smooth but the corners are rounded. Can't wait to give this a try!

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I also agree that it looks photoshopped. I use graphic design programs regularly and I'm not sure if you were trying to remove the objects from the background but the top of the cake does not appear natural. The pixelation on the back edge of the cake is very obvious.

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This methods sounds okay, they all do actually but Im 100% sure that the final picture is photoshoped to perfection. Im a wiz on photoshop, i know what a touch up looks like. Work hard at what ever technique you feel comfortable with and you will achieve YOUR best results.

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Good work takes time! There is no quick method doing it. I use a somewhat similar method but absolutely no flipping is involved. This is something I have created for my cakes and it does take time but my cakes are perfectly smooth and have the sharp edges. Also I only use ganache in my cakes which is the perfect medium to work with and also delicious. I can see a flipping method working with smaller cakes but with larger ones it calls for trouble. Also some people mentioned the top ripping of when the paper is removed. In the first step where she says to put the cake circle with the smeared frosting on it in the fridge to cool, I would not do that. There is than nothing to stick your cake layer to but a hard surface like a table top. Need to leave the cream room temp and attack the layer to it. Then when done with the whole cake, frosting, smoothing whatever... put the whole thing in the fridge, let it harden it then flip and pull the paper off. This should work.

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It does look pixilated, Maybe just from making a mask in Photodhop to darken the background. I have done this to make cake pictures look better. It is just the outline. I vote the cake is smooth. The true test is try it yourself and see how skilled you are. I will try it. The "old fashioned" way works fine. Why not try something new.

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I tried this yesterday. I have never had crisp edges on my cakes, and last night ... I did.. It was amazing. Thanks! I made a 10" round. I had a helper, but it worked out in the end. Thanks for the tip! :-)

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I have tried this method twice, both times the parchment sticks to the frosting. I use butter and shortening, 50/50. Any ideas of what I could be doing wrong?

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Hi, This is a very good technique!! Thanks. I live in Holland, so how much grams is one stick of butter? Thanks in advance for your answer!

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Maybe he cut out someone or something in the background ?

Seems very plausible. I'm going to try it. thanks for posting !

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@jedi knight, any tool. Regardless where it was bought it's food safe if it's throroughly cleaned and used only in the kitchen for food products

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UPDATE TO THE METHOD - it has been several years since I first posted this method.  It's been copied, adapted....I've even seen a video or two on You Tube that never even bothered to credit me.

ANY WAY....one change.  Rather than using parchment paper, instead use PLASTIC COATED FREEZER PAPER (I use Reynold's brand) or plastic coated butcher's paper...the plastic coating will released much more cleanly than parchment.

 

Another change...some people were having issues with air bubbles on the top when they peeled away the paper.  To ensure a perfectly smooth surface, first spread on skim coat of icing...thin enough to see through...chill two-three minutes, then apply a heavier coat over it and proceed!

 Good Luck!

Jeff

 

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Nice alternative to the acrylic method but the acrylic plates work better for squares.  The acrylic plates also help level the top as well. 

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BarbDennis....to each their own.  Everyone has to find what works best for them.  My system works fine for square cakes for me!  As far as leveling the cake....if you start with level layers it's not that hard to build a level cake regardless of your icing method.

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@lollscakes

You are wrong.  Food-safe tools are made from food-safe materials. Not everything is food-safe just because it's been washed in the dishwasher.

Where does all this food safety misinformation come from?  This isn't the first time I've encountered this. Do people say this to justify their own unsafe practices, or is there some Internet "authority" (and I do use that term very loosely....) that says it's okay?



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@lollscakes

You are wrong.  Food-safe tools are made from food-safe materials. Not everything is food-safe just because it's been washed in the dishwasher.

Where does all this food safety misinformation come from?  This isn't the first time I've encountered this. Do people say this to justify their own unsafe practices, or is there some Internet "authority" (and I do use that term very loosely....) that says it's okay?



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You are right. I didn't mention I was referring to stainless steel material. Previously disinfected and use only in the kitchen even being some kind of tool. Thank you 

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Just out of curiosity, while using fondant could you do the same with the top of the cake when fondanting it, ie fontant cake, smooth, add parchment paper and turn over on to a board to level etc? I decorate cakes all the time but never seem to get the top level or flat like this is. They always seem to have the slightest dome  [ ) ] 

so frustrating!!

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Elenapurton1 I am not sure I understand exactly what you are saying.  Do you mean to cover the cake top, then flip over and smooth the sides so that the top edge is sharp rather than slightly rounded over?  I could see that working....one way to find out!  Let us know if you try it! 

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I tried your method this weekend and it worked great! I had a little trouble with the parchment paper moving around because the tape didn't want to stick to it very well, but it was definitely successful enough that I'll continue working at it and plan on continuing to use this method in the future! Thanks so much for sharing!

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Did you read my comment above about how I've switched the parchment out and now use plastic coated freezer paper in stead?  Work much better and releases very cleanly!

 

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This fascinates me, and most of all the 'flipping it over'.  Doesn't anyone have a concern about that.  I have been wanting to try it, but can see it coming apart when flipping it right side up.  I have not done a cake in a long time, but would like to try this method.  

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Yes, works fine with ganache too!

That was posted several years ago.  Since then I've made some changes.....


1.  Instead of parchment, cover your board with plastic-coated freezer paper (I use Reynold brand).  It will not wrinkle the way parchement does and it releases much more cleanly when peeled off.


2.  To avoid air bubbles on top, first coat your paper with a smear coat of icing...so thin it is nearly transparent.  Chill about 3-4 minutes, then apply a heavier coat of icing over the smear coat and proceed.  Try not to work the icing back and forth too much also helps prevent working air into it.




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Italian and Swiss Meringue buttercreams....works great.  Store bought or WIlton premade...I have never tried...if they will get very firm upon chilling it should work.



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