By no means am I an expert or think that I am any where close; however, I am going to put my two sense in
The Wilton method says to smooth the top first then the sides which allows for the sharp edges. So.......... so far I have found that if I smooth the top with a long cake spreader that has had hot water running on it so it is heated up across the top of the cake and sort of "extend" the edges out over the sides, that when I come along the sides with this tool I only may one swipe and whala smooth sides with sharp edges.
Now things I have noticed so far:
1. May sure when you put the scraper, paint guard what ever it is called up against the cake that the top part and the bottom part are both touching the cake. Sounds crazy to watch this but I noticed if I did not pay attention that either the top or the bottom would come away from the cake.
2. Cake should be on a turn table. SO MUCH easier this way. I cannot imagine doing it without it. I do not move the paint guard - only the turn table.
3. I run the plastic paint guard under the hot water too and I do not know if I am imagine it or not but I feel that it makes a difference.
4. Also do not be afraid to use lots of icing ~ I think it makes it easier to do the "take off" method of scraping the sides in lieu of just smoothing the sides.
5. I use the large icing tip with the 16" bag to put the icing on. Top first, then go around the edges letting the icing overlap on the sides, then sides starting from bottom going up. (wilton's method)
5. Wait til icing crust then Viva Paper Towel it. I; however, am not a huge fan of the Viva Paper Towel because it is so humid here in Louisiana (like 100% right now) that my icing never fully crust so I just take the fondant spreader and lay it against the side pressing first on the bottom of the cake and apply pressure going up the cake. Make sense? Vertical not Horizontal.
These are some ideas....... I am still learning and but when I apply the things above it seems they are getting better and better! Thank goodness!