If you’re making a cake for a special occasion, you want it to look perfect. The good news is that you don’t have to rush through the process because many steps can be done well in advance. Here are several simple steps to help you create a perfectly frosted cake:

Prep, bake and cool
Decide ahead of time what kind of cake you want and the type of icing that will complement it. Bake your cake, take it out of the oven and then leave the cake in the pan for about 10 minutes. Flip it onto a wire cooling rack. Make sure you let it cool completely, but don’t refrigerate the cake unless the recipe specifically calls for that. Rushing the frosting process will lead to sloppy icing and a messy kitchen. Once the cake cools, brush away any loose crumbs.

Prepare the frosting
You can make your icing while the cake bakes, or you can make it up to two days before you prepare your cake — as long as you store it in the refrigerator. Allow the cake to reach room temperature before you start frosting. Set up your work station and make sure you keep your kitchen neat and organized.

Stabilize the first layer
Put a dollop of frosting in the center of your cake stand or dish before you move the bottom layer to it. This will prevent the cake from moving around while you frost. If the layer does not provide you with a flat surface to work on, run your knife across the top to smooth it out.

Use wax paper
Now, slip strips of wax paper under and around the edges of the bottom layer of the cake. This will keep your serving platter clean and improve the overall cake presentation.

Ice the top and add the second layer
Spread frosting evenly on the top of the first layer. Stop just past the edges. Place the next layer on top of the frosting. The icing should be visible between the two layers, and your cake should resemble a sandwich.

Create a crumb coat
The next step is crafting a thin first layer, which is called a crumb layer or coat because it holds the crumbs in place. Put a blob of icing in the center of the top layer and spread the icing around.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will allow the thin layer to harden.

Add more icing and decorate
Take the cake out of the refrigerator and apply another coat of frosting. Now is the time to make the fancy swirls or designs. Once the frosting is on the cake, you can smooth it out or decorate it however you want.

Serve right away or store in a cool place. Make sure you admire your handiwork before enjoying your tasty treat.