I LOVE my Cricut Cake, I use it all the time. It does have a learning curve though. This is what I have found works for me. I only cut modeling chocolate and Fondarific, or other “fat-based” fondants (things that firm when you chill them). I find anything cuts better in the Cricut if it has been chilled. As far as the mats go, mine don’t have a smooth section on them anymore. It really doesn’t affect their ability to hold the material. Hope this helps.