First off, steps involved-
1) Choose the type of icing. Broadly speaking, there are 2 types of icing. One is buttercream and the other is chocolate ganache. You can produce hundreds of varieties in each one of them or even mixing the two. I am not much of a cream fan, so I prefer chocolate ganache, but I do sometimes use buttercream for crumb coat (Step 2).
Other than these two, there are several other yummy icings like cream cheese variations, fruit compote (different berries or in combination).
2) Crumb coat - Not all decorators do this but I swear by it. Crumb coat, also called dirty coat helps in giving a smooth finish to your decoration. It is a thin layer of coat on cake just after it has cooled down completely. After coating, refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes to set the coating. What it does is, it forms a layer between cake and your final icing, so the end result doesn't look uneven and it also keeps the cake crumbs in check.
Q: How to do a crumb coat?
A: Buttercream frosting is most commonly used icing for crumb coating. However, I prefer using chocolate ganache if my final coat is going to be ganache.
Please follow this link for making ganache.
Things/tools required for decorating the cake -
1) Offset Spatula - Spreads the icing evenly. You may not need it if you are using a 1:1 ganache (refer to the above link for ganache recipe).
2) Bread knife - You will need this if you plan to slice your cake horizontally for filling in between. This is the trickiest part.. I saw lots of youtube videos and ruined couple of cakes before finally getting it right. Of all the videos I saw, found this pretty useful - http://www.jamieoliver.com/videos/how-to-cut-a-cake-into-three-jamie-s-comfort-food-kerryann-dunlop/ I am a huge Jamie Oliver fan, which explains why this video :D
Only thing I did differently was using a longer bread knife (12") as I find it more convenient.
Common mistake people make first time is cutting cake with uneven height, so you start in the middle but somewhere you go tangential (either up or down) instead of going straight. Toothpick technique in the video gives you precision as you come across markers on the way.
Start with small cakes, say 4" and go up.
3) Cake turn table (Optional) - Convenient way to look at all sides of cakes while decorating as the table rotates. For basic icing using ganache it is not required.
4) Plastic cake box - for safe storage in refrigerator. If you are serious about cake decorations, invest in good plastic cake boxes to keep your cakes safe when kept in refrigerator, specially after icing. Plain cake can be stored in the same baking tin it was baked in. Just cover it using cling film.
Lets get started with decorating our cake!!
The cake in pictures was for someone who loves Indian sweets so the middle layer has homemade mawa peda. You can use ganache, buttercream, cream cheese, your favourite jam like apricot or berries, a fruit compote or anything you like.
Turn the cake upside down (flat side up) and slice the cake in 2 halves horizontally.
For making mawa peda you need -
200 gms khoya or mawa ( For a generous layer in 9" cake )
Sugar as per taste
Bring mawa to room temperature and crumble it with hands. Add it to a hot pan on low heat. Keep stirring continuously. Once it melts, add sugar and continue stirring till sugar dissolves completely.
Turn off the heat.
Home made mawa peda is ready!
Spread a layer of homemade mawa peda on bottom slice and put the other half on top. Refrigerate the cake for an hour.
Time for crumb coating..
I used 2 parts chocolate with 1 part cream ganache for the crumb coating. In my experience, thick ganache covers the cake crumbs effectively. Check out the picture of cake after crumb coating. After the crumb coat, refrigerate the cake for an hour for the ganache to set.
I have sprinkled caramelised almond flakes on top.
Recipe for making caramelised almonds -
100 gms almonds
50 gms sugar (Half the amount of almonds)
2 tbsp butter
Add everything in a hot pan and stir until almonds get coated with thick caramel. Pour onto a baking sheet and let it rest until it becomes hard and crispy.
Roughly chop the almonds in a food processor or use a mortar pestle. Sprinkle on the cake and press gently.
Hope you liked the post! Looking forward to your feedback.
Happy cake decorating :-)