Watch pastry chef Rosie Daykin demonstrate a few easy methods for finishing a cake

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Simple frosting techniques can completely transform the look of a cake. Vancouver-based pastry chef Rosie Daykin from Butter Baked Goods breaks down five different styles that can work with just about any frosting, including buttercream, cream cheese, and whipped cream frosting. (Daykin prefers a well-whipped, fluffy buttercream.) With the right tools and a little practice you can make a homemade cake look like you just picked it up from the bakery.

Start with a thin crumb coat and a short 15-minute chill in the refrigerator before starting to frost, in order to help keep your finish smooth and prevent your layer cake from shifting while you work. For a basic finish, smooth the sides and top with an offset spatula or a pastry scraper. You can then add ribbing around the sides of the cake with a notched cake scraper or encrust it with sprinkles or chocolate shavings. Encrusting a cake is a great way to hide imperfections and dress up a simple flavor. Daykin also uses an offset spatula and a rotating cake stand to create a relaxed, rustic look, which also works great if your cake isn’t as smooth or as flat as you had hoped.

Don’t really like frosting or want the flavor of the cake to stand out more? Go for a naked look. Skip the refrigeration after the crumb coat and instead scrape off as much frosting as you can. The bare sides and smoothed top give the cake casual elegance and present the perfect canvas for fresh flowers or a hearty drizzle of ganache. A dash of food coloring before you get started can also completely change the look of any cake. Or simply add a little jam or homemade preserves to color and flavor your frosting.

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