Baking with Your Kids: Tips for Frosting Cakes & Cupcakes

Tips for Frosting Cakes & Cupcakes | @SweetPhenomena

Welcome to Day Two of my 10 Days of Baking with Your Kids series, part of the iHN Homeschool Hopscotch!

Today we’re going to talk about something that so many of you really want to know how to do: frost pretty cupcakes and cakes.

Before I became a homeschooling mom, I had a custom cake business in WA, and I taught cake decorating.  I’ve had several years to get it wrong and learn what worked for me and the majority of my students.

Want to see my cakes? Journey on over to this page!

I do have to put a disclaimer in here, though: I don’t believe there is a right way and a wrong way to do just about anything.  There is your way.

Another disclaimer:  even though it’s fun to make your cakes look like they do on TV, it’s also super-fun to let your kids go to town with a piping bag.  They can get pretty creative.

People often want to know how to make their frosting job look like those in magazines, though, so I’m going to share some tips below.

Know the Difference

The first, very most important thing you must know is the difference between buttercream frosting and fondant.

Many times the images you see on TV and in magazines are cakes that have been covered in fondant.  That’s what gives a flawlessly smooth appearance.

That’s not to say that you can’t get frosting smooth, but it just won’t look quite as perfect as fondant.

Fondant Cake

This is a fondant-covered cake.

This is a buttercream-iced cake.

You can really see a difference if you pay attention to the edges and corners.

The Right Frosting

Believe it or not, the type of frosting you use makes a huge difference in how smooth you can get it.

  • Don’t use canned frosting.  I know, I’m a fan of the canned stuff too.  In certain applications.  If you want your cupcakes to look like the ones in the first picture, canned frosting is not your friend.  It’s too thin and can’t hold shape.
  • Make sure your homemade frosting is the right consistency.  Frosting that is too thick will crack as it is piped onto a cupcake and it will tear crumbs up when you’re frosting a cake.  Not to mention it’s a mother to spread…
  • Use a crusting frosting.  Yes, that does sound gross.  No, it doesn’t taste gross.  This simply means that the frosting develops a slight “wall” on the outside.  This isn’t so important when frosting a cupcake, but it’s super imperative for the way I get my icing smooth on cakes.

The Right Tools

You can’t properly frost a cake or cupcake without using the right tools for the job.

The Right Process

Frosting cupcakes is pretty simple:

  • Prepare your piping bag and fill with frosting.  It’s best to use a large piping bag if you’re frosting a dozen or more cupcakes.  Getting that big, fluffy pillow takes quite a bit of frosting.
  • Starting at the outer edge of where you want your frosting, apply steady, firm pressure while simultaneously moving your entire arm clockwise.  Continue moving clockwise, making smaller and smaller circular movements until you’ve created a peak at the top.  Think of it as filling an ice cream cone from a soft-serve machine.

Frosting cakes and getting them smooth takes a bit more practice and there are multiple ways to do it, so I’m going to share the easiest way.  The reason people get crumbs in their icing is because they use too little icing.

  • Prepare your piping bag same as above, but use tip 789.  Now, squeeze frosting out in big, fat, horizontal lines all over the sides and top of your cake.
  • Using an angled spatula, spread the frosting so that all of the cake is covered.  Don’t worry about getting it smooth right now.
  • Let the icing sit for a few minutes {because you’re using a crusting icing remember?}.
  • Using a Viva paper towel {yes, must be Viva}, smooth out your icing.  How?  Just lay the paper towel on the surface, either the side of the cake or the top, and gently use your hand to smooth the surface out.  Don’t spend too long in one spot or the heat of your hand will make the paper towel stick to the icing.  Otherwise, you just do small sections at a time until everything is smoothed out.

My Icing Recipe

I rarely share this with anyone, but I want you to get started right, so I’m sharing my icing recipe with you guys today!

Whip up a batch and enjoy frosting a few cupcakes with your kids!

Just remember to practice and eventually you’ll have your own system down.  This is something that is so fun to practice with kids; they think it’s the most amazing thing ever!

Our Trip to the Pumpkin Patch


One of the things we really miss about WA is the totally awesome pumpkin patches they have there.

Since we’ve been in AL, we’ve visited a couple of different pumpkin patches, and they really suck.  They’re heavily commercial and tacky and not enough about embracing Fall and the great, cozy family fun that can happen at the pumpkin patch.

In our quest to find a decent patch here, we stumbled upon the site for Bennett Farms.  It had promise.  It had a documentary explaining how this cattle ranch turned into a pumpkin patch.

It seemed awesome.

So, we went.  And, while it still can’t compare to WA, it was such a fun and awesome and clean {a farm, super clean, I was blown away} place.

Here are some pictures from our great trip! It was so nice to step away from the computer and enjoy some downtime.

Chef Boyardee Little Chefs Project: Teachable Moments Cook-Along


A couple of months ago I announced that I’d be participating in the Chef Boyardee Little Chefs Project with other great bloggers!

You know how much I love talking about cooking and baking with your kids here on Sweet Phenomena, so this was an unbelievable opportunity that I am so thankful for.

The eBook came out last week {eek!}, and a series of Cook-Alongs started as well.  This Thursday, October 18th, is the second Cook-Along in the series, and it happens to correspond with my chapter: Teachable Moments.  This will be a 30 minute long live chat starting at 2 PM EST.

Come join the fun and get great tips and tricks for incorporating learning and fun in your kitchen!

The Cook-Along is sponsored by Chef Boyardee and is hosted by The Motherhood.  I’ve got a video that will be played during the Cook-Along, so be sure to stop by!

These are the fabulous bloggers participating in this week’s chat:

Amee, Madame Deals
Caroline, Smarty Pants Mama
Janene and Christine, More Than Mommies
Maureen, Wisconsin Mommy
Mel, MamaBuzz
Monica, Mommy Maestra
Tiffany, Sweet Phenomena

Hope you have a chance to stop by!

True Confessions: I am being compensated for my contribution to this project.  It has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, though, so I’m so happy to share all of this with you guys!

Baking with Your Kids: Tips for Preparing Your Workspace

Baking with Your Kids

Baking with Your Kids

I’m so excited to be part of iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch!  This week and next, I will be joining other homeschool bloggers to bring you more than 300 great posts on subjects ranging from home management to family-friendly Fall activities to the art of strewing and more!

On Sweet Phenomena, you’ll find 1o posts devoted to ideas for baking with your kids!  In addition to great tips, Babydoll and I wanted to share some of our favorite recipes with you, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!

Want to share with your friends? Click below to tweet about it!

The Right Mindset

I think it’s so important for parents to begin cooking and baking with their kids as soon as possible.  Not only is it a great teaching tool, but it really bring the family closer.

But fear not, friends, I’m not delusional.  I know that baking with kids doesn’t necessarily create the environment present in Tollhouse commericals.

It can be messy.  It can be seemingly fruitless.  It can be stressful.

For instance, this one time Vince was helping Babydoll decorate a cake for the fair and they decided the best way to get sprinkles on the cake was to throw them at the cake.


This is why it’s crucial to enter into this venture with the right mindset.  Messes will happen.  Recipes will take four times as long to prepare.

But you know what? Your kids won’t remember that.  They’ll remember the awesome time Mom helped them bake cupcakes or bread or cookies.

And really, isn’t that worth more in the long run?

Your Workspace

Just because things won’t be completed in a clean and orderly manner doesn’t mean you just give up on any sort of order.

One key thing to teach your children is to properly prepare for baking:

  • Read through your recipe first.  This lets you know what tools and ingredients you’ll need, how long you can expect to be working on the recipe, and more.
  • Gather all of your tools and ingredients.  In my opinion, this just makes things work better.  I hate having to stop and go to the pantry every three minutes.
  • Teach them the concept of mise in place.  Now, I don’t do this all the time, but teaching them to have everything in place {mise in place} really is a great thing to do.  This involves more than laying everything out: wash, chop, measure, do it all.  Then you get to just dig right in and create!

Clean Up

Just as important as set-up, cleaning up after yourself is another great concept for your kids to learn.

Sure, it’s fun spilling flour everywhere, but it’s equally as fun to not have ants in your kitchen…

Assign each child a specific job {dishes, wiping the counters, drying the dishes}.  Make a game out of it.  Just don’t let them get away with not doing it.

Now the Fun Begins

Now that the “boring” stuff is out of the way, it’s time to get down to business!  Tomorrow we’ll start throwing down with some super killer recipes and tips like how to frost cakes and cupcakes!

October 14, 2012

October 14

October 14, 2012 – Warming up before the game.  She stole that ball right after this photo was taken.  :)