I have these neat fire-proof things I soak and then wrap around my cake pans. I have no idea what they're called, but they work great to keep my cakes from rising unevenly!
Once the cakes are cool, it's time to layer! I like to put the bottom layer upside down and the top layer right side up, so that the two bottoms are together. It helps the cakes not rock unevenly. I usually use store-bought frosting for the filling.
Now to cover the entire thing in white! I make my own frosting for the decorating part, using my mom's recipe, of course, because you can't really shape store-bought frosting. The kind I make will stiffen up when left out, which I personally like. If you don't like the outside to get a little hard, you can try to cover it quickly, but I think it will still get a bit of a shell.
Finally for some color! This cake is only one box of store-bought mix, so it's not very big. You can also see that I'm not great with measuring out how much space I need for my letters! Ideally, I'd have used several colors and added some flowers and leaves and such. I only had room for some scallops on top and bottom, though. The great thing about the few decorations there are, though, is that I can cover up some of my more minor mistakes! Next time, maybe I'll just write the name so there's more room.
Do any of you decorate your own cakes? How did you learn (by watching someone or taking a class)? What's your favorite frosting to use to decorate?