Hello Sugar Friend–
We all strive for smooth and airless icing, but sometimes it can be a source of great angst. I know in my early caking days I was so frustrated because I couldn’t get it to look the way I wanted.
There were many days I wanted to throw my mixer, bowl, spatula, all out the window — and take up knitting.
But after lots of trial and error, I finally developed a recipe and a process that yields amazing results, like this:
I’m sharing my experience in these last few posts with the hope that it’ll make things a little easier and prevent you from chucking stuff out the window 🙂
Half of the battle is in the making of the buttercream: to get it as airless and smooth as possible before icing the cake.
The fact is that if the head of your mixer is not adjusted correctly you’ll never get that airless batch of buttercream.
These photos below show what it can look like if the alignment is off.
These are taken at the time in the buttercream making process when just about all of the PS is added, still at low speed, but before I crank it up to high. If during the adding sugar process, you see the effect on the left (icing sticking to sides of bowl and creating a center ring of air), then something is wrong. Most likely the height of the paddle in your bowl is too high.
You’ll get air being pulled into the icing, and it won’t come out super smooth like in the video in this post.
See the photo in the middle? This is what the icing should look like at the same point in the process. NO air tunnels.
That photo was taken after I adjusted the paddle height to get it correct.
See that screw under the head of the mixer in photo 3? That’s how you adjust the height of the paddle. You use a screwdriver to adjust it right or left to raise or lower the head, which adjusts how close the beater comes to the bottom of the bowl.
There is a sweet spot for the beater, and this is how you can test it:
If a penny stays on the center hump as in this video below it’s juuust right. If the penny gets knocked around the bowl, then the paddle height is off.
This REALLY makes a difference in the quality of your icing.
My mixer is the KA Artisan, but the screw should be in a similar place for other models and brands.
** You’ll note that the 2nd video shows another way to test the penny (or dime in this case.) The beater is at the correct height if the dime is moved only 1/2 inch at each pass of the beater. If it stays in the same place or is moved all over the bowl, the adjustment is wrong. It’s the same principle as my “penny on the hump” test, just another way of testing the same thing.
If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, check with the customer service of your brand, and they should be able to tell you how to adjust the beater height.
This little tweak can really have a HUGE impact on the smoothness of your icing.
And starting with smooth icing is one step closer to having a super smooth cake — which is what we all want, right?
So grab your pennies and go check yours now. I’m glad I did back in the day or I’d be knitting right now 🙂
PS. If you want to learn more about making and using buttercream, I have a detailed video course in my online school. It covers different types, the making of, applying and smoothing to cakes and much more.
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