As promised, here are some tips on making your cake as near to perfect as I've been able to get it from dear old me:
1. Line your pan with wax paper or parchment paper. Grease both below and above the paper. This will make it so your cake comes out nice and clean and never sticks. And you just peel off the paper, it's so easy. This is especially important for softer or fluffier cakes.
2. Let the layers cool completely. By this I mean you should probably put them in the freezer, but only if it's a soft cake! If you have a really hard cake (why would you?) don't do this. But generally I like to freeze my cake for about twenty minutes prior to frosting. It just makes it alot easier to work with. You can leave it in the pan or not.
3. Level the layer(s) before frosting. It makes your cake a lot easier to frost because you don't have gaps where the flat part of the top layer meets the dome of the bottom layer. Plus your top layer won't crack because it's uneven. Get a long, serrated knife and level off the top of the bottom layer so that it's flat enough. It doesn't have to be perfectly flat.
4. Shape the cake. Obviously you only do this if you're making a special shape (heart, star, monkey, whatever) or if you're like me and you burn the outer edges of the layers. Use a long, thinnish knife for best maneuverability, especially if you're making a circle.
5. Before frosting, line the outer edge of your plate/platter/whatever with strips of wax paper or parchment paper. Try to layer them so that they overlap a little on the edge. When you're done frosting the whole cake, pull them out at an angle so that frosting goes with it. Now your plate is spotless! (This took some practice for me, and I still mess up sometimes.)
6. Don't use a butter knife to frost. I've found that the best thing to frost with is a rubber spatula, preferably one of the smaller kinds. If you don't have one of those, then any other wide, flattish tool will do just fine. It's a lot easier to frost large areas, and I find that fewer crumbs end up in the frosting. Plus the finish is a lot smoother. Perfect!
7. If your cake is really soft, do a crumb layer of frosting first. I find that this isn't always necessary, but it does help if your cake is crumbly, or if you just want to be a perfectionist, or whatever. Put a thinnish layer of frosting on your cake (it should have crumbs in it, if not, you don't need to do this) and let it refrigerate for a few minutes. Then take it back out and finish frosting, and no more crumbs will get mixed in. Ta da!
P.S. I have no idea why my pictures have been so grainy/pixelated lately. It's quite bizarre.