The Paper Towel Trick For Ultra Smooth, Clean Cake Frosting

One of the easiest ways to tell a homemade and a professional cake apart is the appearance of the frosting. Simply put, it's tough to get frosting on a cake to look absolutely perfect. Sure, perhaps you've avoided one of the biggest icing mistakes by mastering the crumb coat, ensuring your icing isn't marred by tiny specks of cake crumbs sprinkled throughout. And, if you're going for a particular look with a lot of embellishments, you may be lucky enough to hide any imperfections in your frosting's base coat by covering them up with an artfully-placed ruffle or rosette of icing.

However, if you've opted to frost your cake in a sleek, smooth coating of icing, there's really no room to hide any errors or imperfections. Every single wrong move with your offset spatula will be blatantly visible. Even if you manage to get your hands on a rotating turntable to help you with the process, it's certainly not easy — and if you're a bit too aggressive with your attempts to even out the frosting, you just might accidentally disrupt that crumb coat and turn everything into a big mess.

Don't despair quite yet, though — you could still have flawlessly frosted cakes in your future. All you need is one inexpensive household item that you likely hadn't thought of using for this purpose before.

Your secret weapon — paper towels

For this particular hack, once you've done and chilled your crumb coat, slather on a layer of your chosen frosting. You want to make an effort to smooth the frosting out, but you don't need to worry about getting it absolutely perfect, as that's what the next step is for.

It's worth noting that this particular hack won't work if you're using a very moist frosting that doesn't crust, such as something with a whipped cream base. For best results, you'll want a frosting that develops a bit of a crust after a short period of drying, like most standard buttercreams.

Once you've confirmed your frosting has lost some of its moisture and developed a hint of a crust, place a sheet of paper towel over any surface of the cake you're looking to smooth out, from the sides to the top. Then, either using your preferred tool like a bowl scraper or offset spatula or simply your fingertips, smooth the frosting. The paper towel acts as a bit of a buffer, ensuring you don't dip too deep into the frosting and that you really are just addressing those surface imperfections. Obviously, since the frosting will still be soft enough to manipulate, any patterns on the paper towel will be imprinted into the frosting, so you want to use a flat paper towel with no designs, embossed branding, or anything like that.