The icing on the cake

April 14, 1993|By Cathy Barber

* Home economists for Baker's recommend baking the cake a day ahead of time before decorating; it will toughen slightly and be easier to work with. If time is tight, cool the cake and put it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes before decorating.

* Slice the rounded top off the cake to make it flat. If the cake already is relatively flat, flip it and frost the bottom.

* To cut shapes, gently saw the cake with a long serrated knife.

* Brush off cake crumbs with a soft pastry brush or with your hand, gently, before you begin to frost. Apply frosting with a long, flexible metal spatula. Seal in crumbs by first frosting the cake, tops and sides, with a thin layer of frosting. Let dry for a few minutes. Clean crumbs off your spatula and frost the entire cake with a heavier layer of frosting.

* Keep your serving tray clean by tucking strips of wax paper under the edges of the assembled cake pieces before frosting. When you are finished, gently slide the wax paper out.

* Tint frosting by adding liquid food coloring one drop at a time to white frosting, mixing well after each drop. A little bit goes a long way.

* To color coconut, put coconut in a jar with one or two drops of food coloring; shake to distribute color. Add more food coloring if it's too light, more coconut if it's too dark.

Decorating supplies

* Pillsbury Bake-Tops: A crumbly streusel with chocolate chips that's spread on cake or brownie batter before baking and a glaze that's drizzled on after. Three flavors: triple chocolate, chocolate caramel and chocolate chip.

* Betty Crocker icings: The company makes a line of decorator icing colors in a tube. A set of five screw-on decorating tips is sold separately. There's also transparent decorating gel in a smaller tube in the same colors: yellow, red, white, pink, blue, green, brown and orange.

* Betty Crocker Decor sprinkles: These come in bottles or tubs. The line includes colored sugars, stars, nonpareils, silver dragees, chocolate and rainbow sprinkles and even a red-white-and-blue sprinkle mix.

* Betty Crocker Decor Selects: The box contains six colors of either nonpareils or sugar crystals for sprinkling.

* Icing colors: Start slowly with this concentrated coloring paste, adding it to a bowl of white icing with a toothpick. Wilton's range of colors is available at craft stores. A set of four basic colors, from Betty Crocker, is available at the supermarket.

* Betty Crocker You Sweetalker decorations: Includes sugar flowers and chocolate leaves and hearts.

* Schwartau Cake and Pastry Glaze: A squeeze-on product that comes in lemon, chocolate and vanilla.

* Canned icing: Some now come with colored sprinkles -- confetti, teddy bears, dinosaurs, etc.

* Betty Crocker Decor Snow: This is vanilla-flavored confectioners' sugar treated to hold its color.

Also useful

* Fruit snacks: Neon sheets of "real fruit snacks" can be cut into any shape and placed on top of the cake. They also come in thicker cartoon shapes. Fruit by the Foot comes in a roll -- it's good for making borders or wrapping the edge of a cake.

* Assorted candy: What shape do you need? Check out licorice -- red and black, in bites, laces and twists. Candy buttons. Gum balls. Cinnamon candies. Jelly beans. Fruit-shaped Runts. Candy corn.

* Miscellaneous: Raisins, plain or chocolate-dipped. Nuts. Animal crackers. Marshmallows.

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