Insider Training: Part 3

Time for another round of tips and tricks for bakers and foodies alike!

First off:  My prayers and thoughts go out to those affected by the tornadoes and severe storms that have ripped through the last couple of weeks.  Texas and Oklahoma tragedies two weeks in a row…wow.  Tornadoes are my biggest fear, and seeing the destruction from these storms has only strengthened that.  May God bless and be with all of those that have been affected.


Now, on to today’s post:  the next installment of “Insider Training”

More tips and tricks that I’ve learned throughout the years. Also be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Ready? Set….GO!


1.   Booze it up to smooth buttercream out.

My favorite tip to get smoothed out buttercream is to make the buttercream thick…like this recipe… and smooth it with an unquilted paper towel (shout-out to Viva brand!). BUT if your buttercream is a little thinner or you are using a canned frosting, which are too thin to smooth with a paper towel (they’ll stick to the towel) use vodka to smooth out your frosting!  Yes, you read correctly.  Place undiluted vodka into a spray bottle and lightly spray part of the cake.  Smooth out frosting in that area.  Repeat all the way around the cake.  But be careful not to spray too much.  You don’t want the frosting wet, just damp.  Otherwise, it will be a sloppy mess. And no worries, the alcohol evaporates, doesn’t change the flavor, and the frosting is left smooth and pretty.

Buttercream Frosting

2.   Get a grip.

When you’re using a piping bag (aka pastry bag, icing bag…whatever), it’s tempting to fill the thing to the top.  But if you fill it completely, twist at the top to close, and then squeeze from the end, you will not have very good control over the bag.  That and you will not have good leverage, so squeezing out the frosting will be more difficult.

Don’t do this!

Instead, fill the bag about 1/2-3/4 full, and twist about 1/3 of the way up.  Just enough to where you have frosting to work with, but still have a good control.  Like this:

This gives you better control. You’ll need to use your dominate hand to control the bag, and the other hand to hold the top of the bag so it won’t flop around.

When you use that little bit of frosting, squish more frosting toward the end of the bag, “burp” the bag (squeeze until the air bubble poofs out) and twist in the middle again like you’ve done before.  Sounds confusing until you actually do it…sorry.


3.   Make substitutions.

If you’re like me, you’re always missing a couple of ingredients.  Click here for a list of substitutions.
Also, make substitutions to make your recipe healthier!!!  Usually, you can decrease the sugar by at least a few Tbsp without any difference, use applesauce or other fruit puree in place of some fat in the recipe, etc.  Use nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, 2 egg whites for every full egg (this will NOT work in custards)…both of which work to decrease fat in recipes. What other substitutions have you made before?  Feel free to share!!


4.   Do I refrigerate??

A cake without filling and with just plain buttercream can typically last on the counter for a couple of days.  Do not refrigerate any fondant decorations that defy gravity (like bows).  BUT you DO need to refrigerate cream cheese frosting, cakes that need to last longer than about a day or so, and anything with a lot of perishable ingredients…like cream fillings for example.  Use your best judgement and be safe!


5.   Don’t let heat kill your extracts.

Extracts are mostly alcohols, so they will evaporate if subjected to high heat.  With them, goes their flavor.  So if you’re adding extracts to heated mixtures (like things that you make on the stove), add extract after you remove the mixture from the heat source.  This is why many recipes say “remove from heat and add extract.”  If in cakes and things like that, the extract won’t evaporate the same worries.


6.   Be patient before frosting.

This one’s easy.  Hot cake will cause frosting to melt.  Which makes a mess.  A big, big mess.  Best rule of thumb is to wait at least 3-4 hours for a cake to cool at room temp prior to frosting.  Cupcakes can cool for about an hour or 1 1/2 hours and they’re good to go.  You may also stick a halfway cooled cake in the fridge to cool a little more quickly…though it’s not the best option.


Do you have any tips/tricks to share?  Comment and spread the knowledge!!


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