Cake Decorating Basics

Cake decorating can take many forms, from simple piping roses to creating borders and filling in shapes. This style of decoration adds a layer of artistry and visual appeal to the delicious cakes that are baked.

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Anyone can learn these techniques with a little practice. These beginner-friendly cakes will have you wowing any audience.

Tools

The right tools make all the difference in cake decorating. Even a novice can create professional-looking results with the right basic tools.

A basic pastry bag is an important tool for applying frosting and creating decorations. You want one that is reusable and made from a non-stick, impermeable material like silicone or nylon. It should also come with metal piping tips of different sizes to suit your needs.

Icing combs are another essential tool for creating a variety of decorative designs. These long, cylinder-shaped tools have teeth designs for making patterns in the frosting on a cake. They are usually made from aluminum but sometimes made out of plastic and can be purchased individually or in sets.

A pastry brush is an important cake decorating tool because it allows you to apply frosting and paint on fondant and gum paste. These brushes come in a wide range of shapes, thicknesses and bristle types to allow for more precise work.

To help with achieving an even thickness on your sugarpaste, consider getting rolling pin guide rings. These handy little tools attach to your rolling pin and are designed to fit a variety of sized rollers so you can easily get the same thickness across the whole surface of your paste.

Finally, a set of cake boards is helpful for displaying your finished cakes. These sturdy materials include corrugated cardboard, melamine-coated wood and foam.

Basics

Cakes can be decorated to mark special occasions, such as birthdays and weddings. They can also be made to celebrate national or religious holidays, or to promote commercial enterprises.

Cake decorating can be complex and time consuming, so it is important to prepare before starting work. This includes ensuring that all ingredients are available and that the work surface is clean and free of dust. It is also useful to make a list of tools and supplies needed for the job.

A cake decorator’s tools include piping and pastry bags for applying frosting in elaborate designs, food coloring and edible ink for lettering, and fondant and marzipan to mold into flowers or holiday characters. Other important tools are spatulas and uniquely shaped baking pans.

Once the cake layers have been baked and cooled, it’s best to apply a crumb coat before beginning the decorations. This will help to prevent loose crumbs from sticking to the finished frosting. A rubber or offset spatula is the ideal tool to use for this. A cake turntable is helpful to keep the frosting flat while spreading, but it’s not essential.

Many professional cake decorators use a doctored box mix to create their cakes. They may add ingredients such as sour cream or vanilla to the original recipe in order to achieve a more moist and flavorful cake. This is a good technique to try on your own at home.

Decorations

Decorators use a wide variety of decorations to make their cakes and other pastries more appealing. They may choose to keep it simple with a sprinkle-coated cake or go all out with a fondant flower cascade. Other popular designs include a sugar-blown sphere, edible glitter and edible confetti. Colored decorating sugars, such as sparkly sanding or pearl dusts, can also be used to add sparkle to any cake.

Edible cake toppers are a fun way to celebrate any occasion or holiday. Choose from a range of molded figurines like dinosaurs or unicorns, or try a fun mix of flat shapes including snowflakes and romantic hearts. Edible confetti is another easy and fun decoration option that comes in many different colors to suit any theme or season.

A piping bag is an essential cake decorating tool for creating different frosting patterns. This bag is a cone or triangular-shaped bag made of cloth, paper or plastic and has a narrow opening at one end that you squeeze to create various icing designs. A piping bag is also a great tool for creating fondant flowers and stacked ruffles.

A turntable is also an important tool for cake decorating. It allows you to turn a cake easily and get a smooth buttercream finish. It is also an ideal tool for creating a marbled look in your icing.

Tips

To make beautiful swirls, leaves, flowers and other icing decorations on cakes, use piping bags with different sized tips. Start with a small tip and practice on a sheet of waxed paper, then move on to the actual cake when you feel ready. To write messages on the tops of cakes, you can also use a large round tip; just hold the bag at an angle and apply steady pressure while you shape the writing with your thumb.

To give a smooth, creamy surface to your cakes, always spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake before you decorate it. This layer, called a crumb coat, helps prevent crumbs from getting into the final frosting and gives the cake a polished look.

Use textured tools like combs and a textured rolling pin to add interesting patterns and textures to your cake. Toss in a few fresh flowers or crushed candy for extra oomph. You can even create a surprise inside your cake by hiding candy, fruit or cream fillings in the center of the layers.

To get the best results with piping, always keep the bag filled a little bit full of frosting and squeeze gently. Applying too much pressure can cause your designs to smear or drip, and too little may result in a bare, flat cake. Also, try to pipe slightly away from the edge of the cake so that your piping will look better and not just fall off the side.