Fair Warning: Please keep in mind that I admit first and foremost that I am not a decorator. I have ok ideas and absolutely no way to capitalize on them.
When I began planning all the wonderful things I'd be trying and making for the holiday season, I began imagining a spectacular cake for the joint family gathering. I wanted a 3-tier cake to decorate like a Christmas tree complete with a krispy treat star and snowman and brownie presents.
First things first. I learned how to ice a cake so that it looked (fairly) smooth.
1.) Cool the cake completely. 2-5 hours in the fridge!
2.) I tested homemade icing vs. the store bought and decided that Pillsbury did better than I could, so I bought 4 cans of white, vanilla icing,
3.) Add water to thin the icing slightly so it spreads without pulling the cake.
4.) Apply a layer of "I don't care what it looks like" icing. This is a tip I learned from Cake Boss. This icing creates a nearly friction-free surface to add your fancy icing to.
5.) Let first layer of icing cool and set up. I allowed my icing to cool one hour in the fridge, but it honestly could have used more time.
6.) Apply fancy icing. To make smoothing easier, dip your spreading device in hot water between swipes.
Taste is the most important thing. Devil's Food cake and white icing is a pretty sure bet, and the cake went over pretty well. My son's birthday celebration was done at the same gathering and he LOVED it, so was all worth it. I think with more practice I could really get good at it too.