This post is all about getting smooth buttercream. That means no more tiny air bubbles in your buttercream when all you want is a smooth finish on your cake.
I’ve gathered my best tips and tricks here to help you get the cake decorating results you want.
It seems like a lot of people are having issues getting their buttercream smooth. I hear you…sometimes buttercream just doesn’t want to cooperate.
In this post, I hope to help with those issues, so giving you all my tips and what has helped me in the past and hopefully will be the turning point for you too.
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Don’t forget to check out the video close to the bottom of this post as well.
These tips are in no particular order. You can try all of these out or just a couple. The thing about caking is that different methods work for different people.
When I first started out, I’d watch tons of tutorials with people showing what worked for them. I’d get aggravated because the same thing didn’t necessarily work for me. What I’m trying to say is to use these tips as a starting point.
You may even want to try combining some of these tips along with some things you’re already doing to make a custom solution. Make sense?
- Favorite buttercream recipes:
- Tip 1 – Use the right mixer attachment:
- Tip 2 – Don’t beat on high:
- Tip 3 – Try using cream:
- Tip 4 – If using vegetable shortening, get it very smooth before adding the other ingredients:
- Tip 5 – Smash out the bubbles in a shallow container:
- Tip 6 – Make sure it’s not too thick of consistency:
- Tip 7 – Make the filling a thicker consistency
- Tip 8 – Use a good buttercream smoother:
- Tip 9 – Use boiling water:
- Tip 10 – Slow down when smoothing:
- Tip 11 – Try the paper towel method:
- Tip 12 – Keep your buttercream container covered:
- Tip 13 – Use a turntable:
- The Cake Blueprint:
Before we start, make sure to go here and grab my favorite buttercream recipes:
Favorite buttercream recipes:
Ok, so let’s get started with the tips:
Tip 1 – Use the right mixer attachment:
Use the paddle attachment on your mixer. Okay, I call it the paddle attachment, but others may call it the beater attachment. It’s the flat mixer attachment and NOT the whisk. (Tip: I also use this attachment when making cake batter.) Here are some examples with links.
These mixer attachments are great because they don’t beat in extra air like the whisk attachment. The buttercream just seems to come out smoother.
Now, if you don’t have a stand mixer…it’s really okay. Don’t panic. We’ll talk about other things you can do to get smooth buttercream even if you’re using a hand mixer.
Tip 2 – Don’t beat on high:
Don’t beat your buttercream on high. This one is pretty self-explanatory. You just don’t want to beat in more air than you have to. I try to keep my mixer on medium.
And once your buttercream is all mixed up, you can even turn the mixer on low and let it run.
Tip 3 – Try using cream:
Try using half & half cream. Most of the time, I use milk when I make buttercream, but there are times when I go for the half & half and it seems to make the buttercream a bit more creamy and smooth. Try replacing your milk with the half & half and see how you like it.
Tip 4 – If using vegetable shortening, get it very smooth before adding the other ingredients:
When you’re making heat stable buttercream or pipeable buttercream, you’ll want to sub out either half of the butter or all of the butter for vegetable shortening. This will make it more heat stable and a better piping consistency.
Now, just so we’re clear, I mean vegetable shortening…which is NOT the same thing as lard. And I generally only use this when I have to make piped flowers or need the icing to withstand a hotter temperature.
So, when you use vegetable shortening, try to mix the shortening as smoothly as possible first, before adding any other ingredients. You don’t want that clumping up on you.
Some brands of vegetable shortening work better than others. Weirdly enough, I find that Walmart’s store brand works better than the name brand.
Tip 5 – Smash out the bubbles in a shallow container:
Alright, this tip may sound a little weird and if you’ve read my 7 Tips to Make Your Cakes Look Professional printable, then you’ve seen this one.
Transfer your buttercream into a shallow container (like a large plastic food storage container) kind of like this one:
Now use a flat rubber (silicone) spatula and sort of smash the icing down with it.
Stir it around with the spatula as well. You don’t need to whip it up, just stir it by hand and sort of smash down the icing and it helps to get a lot of the bubbles out. I know it sounds weird, but it works for me and it gets the buttercream super smooth.
You can check out my Youtube short on this and see what I mean.
Tip 6 – Make sure it’s not too thick of consistency:
Make sure that your buttercream isn’t too thick. This isn’t scientific, but I’ve found if the buttercream is a little too thick, when you try to smooth it, you’ll get some bubbles.
You can see it here on the manicorn cake I made a while back. I got the icing consistency a little too thick consistency and it would have been better had I added a tad bit more milk or half & half and worked at mixing it with my rubber spatula.
Tip 7 – Make the filling a thicker consistency
Make the filling between the layers a little thicker consistency than the icing around the cake. This, in addition to letting the cake settle before icing the outside, will keep you from getting those dreaded icing ridges around your cake once you’ve iced it completely.
That will help you get a smooth finish to your cake.
Tip 8 – Use a good buttercream smoother:
You definitely want to use a good smoother. Now, a good smoother might be different for you than it is for me. Everyone has their preference, but here are my two favorites.
(By the way, I have tried one of those acetate smoothers and while they seem to work great for others, they’re not my favorite.)
I like the plastic one because it’s tall and if I’m doing a taller cake tier, I don’t have issues.
This metal one isn’t as tall, so if you’ve got a taller cake tier, it might not work for you and you’ll need to get a taller one.
You can get taller smoothers along with smoothers that have different shapes to texture your buttercream.
The good thing about a metal smoother is that you can heat it up with hot water to help smooth the buttercream. This leads to the next tip.
Tip 9 – Use boiling water:
You can use boiling water to heat your smoother, wipe it off and then smooth it around your cake to get a smooth surface. Obviously you’ll have to use the metal smoother for this tip though as the plastic or acetate ones, just won’t get hot.
This also helps if you have bubbles in your buttercream. One quick note though. I generally only like to use this method if the buttercream is white. It sometimes discolors dark buttercream.
Tip 10 – Slow down when smoothing:
Don’t try to smooth around your cake super fast. Sometimes that causes more bubbles. Try going around a little slower and see how that works for you.
Tip 11 – Try the paper towel method:
Once your icing is set (and you’ve let it dry if you used the hot water technique) you can try the Viva paper towel method.
Now, I will tell you that I do NOT like this method for the sides of cakes. The smoothers work better for me on the sides, but I will use the paper towel method on the top of the cake to smooth it.
You’ll want to use a paper towel that doesn’t have a pattern on it and that’s why most people like Viva paper towels for this technique. Just make sure your icing has crusted over a bit before you use this method.
Lay your paper towel on the top of the cake and then use a fondant smoother, your buttercream smoother or your hand and just barely smooth over the paper towel.
Tip 12 – Keep your buttercream container covered:
Don’t leave your container of icing uncovered. I know this probably goes without saying, but if you leave it open to air before you spread it on your cake (especially if it’s made with shortening), it’s going to crust, and then when you go to stir it or ice your cake, it won’t be smooth…it just gets grainy.
Tip 13 – Use a turntable:
This is the most important tool I use. I could not live without my turntable. I actually have two.
If you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend much, the Wilton turntable below is a good option. Sometimes you can even get a coupon for your local craft store and purchase it there. You can also find it at the link below.
I also have this Winco turntable. It’s more heavy duty and spins really smoothly. Mine is similar to this one.
Ateco brand also has some good turntables as well that I’ve heard great things about.
Okay that was a lot and you got through it! Whew! My very last tip for you is to not get discouraged.
The very first cake I made in which I tried to get the buttercream smooth, I got so aggravated that I just stabbed the buttercream spatula right into the top of the cake. I know, I know, not cool. But I know how frustrating it is, but it gets better!
The Cake Blueprint:
If you found this post useful, I’ve got an entire guide plus video for my ‘cheater method’ for getting smooth buttercream on your cakes, without buttercream blowouts and icing ridges in my Cake Blueprint.
Now, what if your cakes don’t come out perfect? Don’t you worry about it, because do you know what? NO cake is ever going to be absolutely perfect and that cake is gonna taste delicious either way! 🙂
Other posts you might like:
Don’t Forget to Pin it for Later!
Thank you for the wonderful tips and tricks. Just what I was looking for!
You’re so welcome! 🙂
Thanks for the most amazing tips.Great job ma’am.???
You’re so welcome and thanks for the lovely comment. ?
I use a paint roller to smooth the top. Small 4 inch roller.
Oh yes, I’ve heard of this, but never actually tried it. I’m glad to know it works!
Good day, thank you for your really helpful tips. I want to know what I can do to ensure my cake still rises if it’s not baked immediately its mixed. I have a small oven so only one pan can go in at once. Thank you.
Hi Sharon, some recipes don’t last long after they’re mixed up. If the cake batter calls for baking soda, you may have trouble with your cake rising properly if you don’t bake it right away. It might be okay if you have to pop the batter into the fridge for a short amount of time, but not for too long. Cake mix cakes don’t seem to be as bad though and cakes using mostly baking powder (not baking soda) seem to be able to tolerate not being baked as soon as you mix them up.
I will use a piece of parchment paper just like you use the paper towel method, works just the same. But be sure to let your buttercream set up a bit first before you use this method or else the parchment paper will likely stick to your buttercream. Patience is a virtue, hang in there! ?
Great tips! It’s really good to know parchment paper works just as good!
How to get rid of buttercream condensation or moisture? After the first coat I put the cake inside the refrigerator, so that for next coat it’s set. But when I try to scrape the buttercream for smoothness the colour of buttercream changes and leaves different shades of colours.
Hey Anika, yes I’ve always had the same problem when I chill cakes, which is why I really don’t chill them anymore. The only reason I chill cakes is if I’ve got a perishable filling, or if it’s super hot in the room for some reason. I do have a post that goes into detail about that if you want to check it out. It may help. Here’s the link: https://iscreamforbuttercream.com/should-i-refrigerate-my-cake-before-decorating/
Fantastic tips! I have no clue why anyone would be so negative about how you choose to prepare your buttercream! Baking is positive and fun and negativity not allowed. Sheesh! To each his own and I believe your tips will help me greatly since I live in a state with strict cottage laws. I can’t use dairy in my home bakery, so butter is OUT! Thanks for this!!
Hi Gena, thanks so much for that! I really appreciate your positivity and I totally agree!
Hi I see you use Walmart brand of shortening? I been using the Sweetex brand, I mean isn’t there a difference?
I use Walmart brand because I feel like it works better than Crisco. With that said, I think Sweetex is even better quality. I just don’t need to buy shortening in bulk so I go with the walmart brand because it’s easier for me to grab when I need it. Sweetex works and a lot of people love it, so if it’s working for you, keep using it. I think it’s actually a higher ratio shortening, which is beneficial to getting smooth buttercream. They banned trans-fats here so the shortening just isn’t the same and where I live, I just don’t have access to higher ratio shortening without ordering it online and I just don’t use enough to do that. I hope that helps.