While you can spend an hour or more tediously piping vertical stripes on a cake, a comb-like decorating tool creates vertical ridges in only minutes. The impact is similar -- both methods make a cake appear taller and add some texture variation. Icing combs work best if you want perfectly spaced ridges in the cake, but you can also use an offset spatula to add texture with imperfect vertical ridges.
Things You'll Need
- Buttercream frosting
- Icing spatula
- Offset spatula
- Icing comb
- Cup (optional)
Apply a crumb coat of buttercream frosting to the cake with an icing spatula to seal in any crumbs and create a smooth texture for applying the final layer of frosting. Apply the frosting lightly, using just enough to trap the crumbs. Let the cake rest for about one-half hour to harden the crumb coat.
Apply a second, generous layer of frosting over the crumb coat, using an offset icing spatula to smooth the top and sides as much as possible.
Attach pieces to an icing sculptor comb to achieve the desired pattern for the ridges or select an icing comb that has a gap pattern you like. Icing sculptors allow you to fit individual pieces so you can vary the gaps between ridges, or combine curved and straight-edged pieces to vary the ridge pattern on the cake. Icing combs are not customizable, but you can choose from combs with scalloped edges, wavy edges and straight edges that look similar to a set of teeth.
Hold the icing comb against the bottom of the cake; it should lie parallel with the cake plate and counter. Drag the comb straight up from bottom to the top of the cake while applying light pressure to scrape away some frosting and leave vertical ridges in the frosting.
Scrape off the removed frosting into your frosting bowl to reuse later, if needed. If the frosting doesn't come off easily, especially in the grooves of the comb, you might need to rinse it with warm water to melt away the sugary icing. Dry the comb well before continuing.
Reposition the icing comb directly beside the first series of ridges. Align a tooth at one side of the comb in a previously combed ridge to ensure even spacing between the ridges. Drag the comb upward to create ridges in the frosting. Clean the comb and reposition it on the cake. Continue this pattern as you make your way around the cake. This is easiest in cakes with square edges. Round cakes require more passes with the comb because the flat edge of the comb doesn't line up flush with the sides of the cake.
Pull the frosting gathered at the top edge of the cake toward the center and spread it smooth with an offset spatula. As you comb the frosting upward, you'll inevitably drag some frosting to the top edge that looks a mess without smoothing. If the frosting on the top has hardened in the process of combing the sides, dip the spatula in a cup of hot water to heat the blade. The hot blade melts the sugar and fat in the frosting slightly so it's easier to spread.
Apply a crumb coat of frosting and allow it to harden. Apply the second, top coat of frosting directly over the crumb coat.
Hold an offset spatula against the side of the cake with the blade facing down and touching the cake.
Pull up on the spatula handle, dragging the spatula through the frosting to create an impression in the cake. Press slightly to ensure a good imprint. Wipe off the extra frosting or rinse the spatula in a cup of warm water.
Reposition the spatula beside the first impression. The distance between the first and second impression is up to you, with a greater distance making a wider ridge. Drag the spatula up to the top of the cake. Repeat this process around all sides of the cake. The spacing doesn't have to be perfect in each ridge, nor must they be perfectly vertical.
Spread the frosting at the top edge smooth across the top of the cake.
Tips & Warnings
- Instead of purchasing a cake-decorating icing comb set, you can make your own version. A piece of fairly rigid plastic, such as the cover of a flexible, plastic binder, can be cut with scissors to achieve the desired pattern. This allows you to customize the style and spacing between the ridges.
- You don't even need an offset spatula to make ridges. A narrow rubber spatula, the back side of a spoon or even a butter knife can be used to achieve a similar effect.
- Photo Credit Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images