Buttercream has basically been proven to be the godsend when it comes to cake decorating: It's smooth and easy to handle. Find a solid recipe you can refer back to again and again so you can finally be done with that store-bought stuff.
A good tip for two reasons: First, freezing your fully-cooled cake for at least an hour will firm it up and make it way easier to frost. Second, if you freeze a frosted cake for a few minutes, it'll make fixing any icing writing mistakes a snap.
Start with a thin coat of frosting before you really get going. The point is to cover up any crumbs that will threaten to flake off when you're putting on your final layers of frosting. All you have to do is scrape off your spatula between dips to avoid any crumby remnants on this first layer. (To take it once step further, flip the cake upside down once this coat is finished to really have a blank canvas.)
All you need here is a spoon and your Ziplock/piping bag: Squeeze off dollops of icing in a vertical line from the base to top of the cake. Take your spoon, press it into the middle of the glob and swipe horizontally away. Continue down your row and repeat; you'll end up with some easy-as-pie dimension to your frosting.
You know it's still all the rage. Divide your frosting into (three or four) individual bowls, adding a little more food coloring to each one. Frost the cake by piping a line of the darkest icing on the bottom, bench scraping as you go, and work your way up. If you're real fancy, use a piping tip and cover your cake in ombré-d flowers.
If you don't trust yourself with piping dots all over the cake or getting the hang of fondant dots, use chocolate chips! Just turn the pointy end into the cake and stick them in like thumb tacks. You even get a choice of color if you opt for white chocolate.
It exists, and it goes a long way.
Create big, uniform numbers, letters or shapes by placing a stencil on top of your frosted cake and sifting powdered sugar over the top. Lift the stencil off carefully, do some touch-ups and you're good to go.
Whether you need to clean up any frosting spills or just want to create a more polished presentation, use a sifter to dust your cake board with powdered sugar or cocoa. It'll look more professional than you'd think.