This post has a very good basic butter cream frosting recipe and a few tricks of the trade that I've learned over the years. Don't be nervous, just jump in and "give it a go". Practice makes perfect and your friends and family will love eating those "practice cakes" (our kids grew up on them).
BUTTER CREAM FROSTING
1 cup white Crisco vegetable shortening
1 cup butter (room temperature)
8 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup heavy cream
With an electric mixer (stand mixer works best) beat the vegetable shortening and (room temperature) butter until it is well mixed together.
Add half of the powdered sugar, salt, extracts and half of the cream. Beat until very well mixed.
Add the last half of the powdered sugar and the last half of the cream. Beat on high for 2 or 3 minutes until very fluffy (makes a lot of frosting).
If you are dead-set against using vegetable shortening, you CAN use all butter, but the taste is very heavy; it is your choice.
NOTE: This frosting is great for the entire cake including borders and piping words, etc., but it IS a soft frosting and it WILL melt if you have it out in the sun or in a very hot room. I like to frost my cakes and then chill them until about an hour before serving.
If you don't have time to freeze the cake, just make sure it is completely cooled before frosting it (not even just a LITTLE bit warm).
Cupcakes are very popular right now and they are super easy to do. Using the above frosting recipe and a Wilton M1 decorating tip, you can have cupcakes that look like they came from a bakery in no time; that big M1 tip is the secret.
The following mini-lesson, is for a simple "every day" one layer 9x13 cake.
1. Brush all the crumbs off of the cake (you will thank me later)because it is easy to get the crumbs mixed in with your frosting and that isn't pretty.
2. I like to wrap or cover my HOT cake with saran wrap (right on the surface of the cake) and then let it cool down and put the wrapped cake in the freezer overnight. The day you want to serve the cake, take it out of the freezer and frost it while it's still frozen. A frozen cake is sturdy and the frosting stays right where you put it.
Don't put it back in the freezer!! The frozen/frosted cake will thaw out in about 60-90 minutes and be perfect for serving.
3. Put a thick layer of frosting all over your cake; don't worry about it looking smooth at this point, just try to cover it evenly.
If you don't have a spray bottle, you can almost get the same effect by dipping your spatula into very hot water (then shaking off all excess water) before smoothing your frosting. This next picture shows what just ONE SWIPE around the sides of this cake (using the warm wet knife method) will do; you can imagine if you went over it a couple more times.
If you are a perfectionist (which I am not) and want NO frosting lines, just keep smoothing.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Only use the spritz technique on white frosting. If you use it on colored frosting, it will run and make your frosting look uneven....especially blue or green.
5. You can go crazy and buy all sorts of decorating tips and doo-dads, but you certainly don't need them. Get just get a few of the basics and you will be amazed at what you can do.
You will need:
Disposable plastic frosting bags (a true MUST)
2-3 couplers (2 piece couplers let you change tips)
Decorating tips (a large star and a round writing tip)
Off-set spatula (not an absolute must, but very handy)
Food color paste (not the watery stuff) Check Walmart
Water bottle for misting
After you "flat frost" the whole cake, it is time to put on the borders/trim and any writing or drawing you want on the cake. Now is the time you will use the frosting bags and metal tips.
6. The disposable frosting bags are probably the handiest part of this process. You can use non-disposable ones, but once you try to wash one, you will quickly see the "beauty" in the disposable kind.
7. The couplers, are not absolutely necessary either. You can just slide the metal decorator tips down inside the frosting bag and snip off the end. However, if you want to use a variety of decorating tips, the coupler is the way to go. Each one has two pieces; the larger part slides down inside the frosting bag and then the metal tip fits onto it from the outside, then the coupler band is screwed on (does that make sense?)
Twist the top of the frosting filled bag closed and apply pressure with your fingers. As the frosting comes out the end, you will have to re-twist it tighter before continuing. When you are done using the frosting bag, just use scissors to cut the bag off just above the coupler, then throw the coupler and tip into the dishwasher!!
The base of your cake should have the larger frosting border than the top edge of your cake. Practice making a shell pattern on some wax paper before you try it on the cake.
NOTE: When you first start to decorate, you will be fairly slow. Keep in mind that the heat of your hands can soften the frosting in the frosting bag and that can be a problem. If you find it getting too soft to hold its shape, put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
NOTE: Don't use regular (watery) food coloring in this frosting recipe; not only will it effect the consistency of your frosting, but the colors will never get any stronger than a pastel color.
Get some food coloring paste (it is very concentrated and gives you very deep colors, so go easy with it at first); one drop of blue will color an entire bowl of frosting.
Walmart sells the food color paste in their cake decorating section.
NOTE: A fun thing to try is edible glitter. It is basically a transparent food starch that has been dried and flaked, but you can sprinkle it on ANY color frosting and it will look shiny and sparkly; it is GREAT for cupcakes or little girl princess cakes.
Another fun decorating tip is called a grass tip.
Using a grass tip is super easy, you just apply lots of pressure, then immediately release the pressure and lift up at the same time which will make "blades" of grass.
GIVE IT A TRY !! BUT MOST OF ALL ...
HAVE FUN !!!