Are you new to making and decorating cakes? If yes, you may be very interested in knowing how to do cake decorating.
Decorating cakes requires certain skills. While beginners can make basic cakes that taste and look really nice, it requires a lot of practice to make professional and eye-catching cakes. If you feel like all your cakes end up looking pretty much the same, it’s probably the right time to learn new cake decorating techniques and bring the level of your game up!
The answer to the question ‘how to do cake decorating’ is simple; get the right tools, prep your cake for decorating, flatten the cake’s surface, and start decorating using any innumerable cake decorating ideas.
When we talk about decorating cakes, it’s all about practice. Some cake decorating techniques are pretty simple, but others take time to master. As the saying goes, ‘practice makes a man perfect; it’s absolutely true when it comes to decorating cakes. The more you practice various cake decorating techniques, the more confident you’ll feel trying and experimenting with new cake decoration ideas. If you’ve got the right tools and basic knowledge about making and decorating a cake, you’re already halfway through.
We know the science behind cake making, and we can tell you that you can make breathtakingly beautiful cakes if you stay consistent with your trials and experiments. With just a bit of finger-holding, you’ll be good to go, and that’s exactly what we’re here for.
Important Components of Cake Decorations
There’s so much more to decorating a cake than just the frosting. Most beginners think that once they’ve prepared the base, they can start decorating the cake, but that’s not how simple cake decorations are.
There are four basic components that you’ve got to consider when decorating your cake. These are:
You’ve got to perfect each step before you can finally start decorating your cake, so you see, it’s not that simple after all.
Cake or Sponge
The cake will be the base of your decorations, and if you don’t get this right, decorations don’t really matter. Your cake should be moist and bursting with flavors. You can make your cake in any flavor you like based on your preferences.
Your cake must be soft but firm enough to stand upright. This is particularly important when you’re making a layered cake. If you don’t get the layering right, the cake may not be able to hold it all together.
The next critical component of a cake is frosting. Frosting doesn’t just add flavor to your cakes, but it also keeps the sponge fresh. It covers the cake entirely and serves as a barrier to air, thereby ensuring your cake stays fresher for longer.
You may get confused between icing and frosting, but don’t worry. They’re both the same things. Some of our favorite frostings are glazes, buttercreams, and whipped cream. You can customize the flavor of the frosting as you like!
For beginners, the best option is to fill the layers of the cake with the frosting, but professional cake makers ensure that their cakes offer a burst of flavors with every bite. The options are endless. A cake that offers different flavors and textures surely scores better than the basic cakes that have got frosting between the layers.
Now that’s what will make up the aesthetics of your cake, and that’s probably what you’re most interested in. When it comes to cake decorating ideas, there’s really no limit to the possibilities. You can experiment with various toppings and decorate your cakes with rosettes and swirls, and whatnot!
Cake Decorating Techniques
Now that you know the various components of a cake, we can now move on to the many cake decorating techniques.
If you don’t learn new techniques, you can’t up your cake decorating game. We’ve listed some of the most popular (and game-changing) cake decorating techniques to help you turn your game around!
Learn to Play with Royal Icing
Royal icing looks like everything as its name suggests. It makes the cakes look absolutely gorgeous, but it’s not easy to master. Handling royal icing is the real challenge, and that’s what people fear the most. Your hands need to be perfectly steady to master the art of royal icing. It takes a lot of patience, time, and the basic knowledge of the technique to be able to become a pro at it.
The intricate lace of cakes is one of the most beautiful ways of decorating a cake. It looks gorgeous, elegant, and absolutely breathtaking.
Work on Learning Different Piping Techniques
A piping bag isn’t just a piping bag that helps you make cream swirls and rosettes. You can use it to make so much more than just that! If you really want to change your cake decorating game, you must work on learning different piping techniques so that you can utilize your piping bag to the best of its potential.
Royal icing is one of them. Once you’ve mastered the art of royal icing, you can learn other techniques like the Lambeth Method. This technique gives a dramatic impact to your cakes. Though it takes time to get a hold of this technique, once you do, making aesthetically grabbing cakes will not be a problem anymore!
Learn to Work with Fondant
Fondant art is another technique you should learn. You can use fondant to make figures like animals and dolls and can even use it to make ruffles and drapes. The wedding cakes you see with a drape of the bride’s veil are fondant cakes. Once you learn how to work with fondant, the world of possibilities is open to you.
Learn To Make Sugar Flowers
Flowers on a cake look beautiful. They make even the simplest cakes stand out. But making flawless flowers out of sugar is something you’ll have to learn. If you manage to become a pro at making sugar flowers, you can make even a plain vanilla cake look impressive!
Although making realistic sugar flowers isn’t easy, it’s extremely rewarding. As a cake decorator, this is one thing that you must know. These flowers are made from gum paste. They help you make 3D designs on your cake. These handcrafted sugar flowers burst forth from the cake’s surface and make the cake look extremely pretty!
Practice the Cake Sculpting Techniques
Today, cake sculptures are the new trend. Making the cake into a sculpture according to the theme is what you must learn to become a part of the popular trend. The suitcase cake for a traveling enthusiast, a sculpture of a graduation hat for someone who just graduated, a makeup box cake for a makeup lover, and the list can go on forever. The trend of themed parties is on the rise, and a themed party can’t be complete without a themed cake.
Learn How To Hand Paint Cakes
If you ask us which is the toughest yet the most rewarding cake decorating technique, we would say it’s hand painting the cakes! It’s one of the most difficult techniques, but once you learn it, the result is all worth it!
Your hand needs to be extremely steady. It’s not something a beginner can do. You should move on to this technique only after mastering some other techniques. Hand painting on cakes requires the cake decorator to be experienced. You won’t get it right the first few times, but consistent practice will help you get there!
How to Do Cake Decorating?
Keep All Essential Tools Handy
To start decorating your cake, you first need to make sure that you’ve got all the right tools. Without all the essential tools, you may not be able to achieve the desired results. The tools you’ll need to decorate your cake like a pro are:
- Cake base or board
- Cake leveler
- Piping bags and tips
- Paper towels
- Extra bowls
Let the Cake Cool Completely
Not many beginners know that they’ve got to let the cake cool down before they can start decorating it. This is one of the many reasons why the decorations on their cakes end up being a disaster.
Although you may want to get down to decorating the cake right after you take it out of the oven, you shouldn’t. The texture of the cake is still developing, and it won’t be fully set as long as it has cooled down fully.
Another critical reason why letting the cake cool down before you start decorating is so important is the fact that the frosting is a mixture of sugar and butter, and both these ingredients will melt if exposed to heat. Imagine making beautiful cream rosettes only to have them deformed before you get a chance to serve the cake.
This is one of the most important things to remember when decorating your cake.
Flatten The Cake’s Surface
When you take the cake out of the oven, it’s somewhat fluffed up on the top. The curved surface doesn’t form a good base for cake decorations for obvious reasons. The toppings may slip. Moreover, building the design on a flat surface is so much easier than on a mound. It isn’t hard to understand that it’s much more difficult to maintain the balance of toppings on a curved surface than it is on a flat one. Not only is a flat cake surface easier to decorate, but it also looks neater.
Use a cake leveler to saw the rounded surface of the cake to make it flat. Go slow and steady to ensure the cut is even throughout the surface. Brush off the crumbs gently, and the cake is ready to be decorated.
In case you’re planning to make a layered cake, you’ll have to cut each layer like this and then arrange each layer over the other after applying the filling in between them.
Set the Turntable
A turntable is one of the most important tools in cake decoration. You can’t pick up the cake to turn it around once you’re done decorating one side. Walking around the table constantly doesn’t sound too comfortable either. Well, that’s what a turntable is for. It turns your cake around to provide easy access to all sides of the cake without the need of you having to get up from your chair.
Make sure your turntable is revolving smoothly. If it’s getting stuck, you need to fix it beforehand. If you spin the table forcefully while your cake is on it, the jerk may damage the decorations that haven’t been set properly yet.
Placing a paper towel on the top of the turntable before setting the cake board ensures that it doesn’t slip when you spin the turntable.
Arrange the Cake Layers
Place the flattened cake layer on the center of the cake board placed on top of the turntable. One tip that not many people will tell you to keep the cake round from slipping off the cake board is to apply a small quantity of frosting between the cake round and the cake board. It’ll act as cement and keep your cake anchored to the center of the cake board.
Apply the Filling
Once you’ve positioned the cake round properly, add a large dollop of filling or frosting on the top of the cake round and use a spatula to spread it evenly. The filling must be added generously, enough to go a little past the cake’s edges.
Place the Second Layer
Once you’ve evenly applied the filling, place the second layer that you’ve already cut before. Make sure the second layer is aligned with the first layer. Press the second layer onto the first gently to make sure it’s sticking to the layer underneath. Follow the same step if you’re planning to add more layers to your cake.
Apply the Crumb Coating
Crumb coating is a coat of frosting all over the cake before the top layer of frosting is added. It’s just very thin. It’s named crumb coating because it seals the crumbs of the sponge layers. If these crumbs aren’t sealed, they can make the surface appear uneven, and with that, the final decoration won’t appear as fine as it should.
The crumb coating is applied all over the cake, even on the sides, to give the cake a complete and neat appearance. Use a turntable to spin the cake and cover all sides with a thin coat of frosting. Allow the crumb coating to harden in a refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Apply a Thick Layer of Frosting
The crumb coating doesn’t cover the cake sponge entirely. You can still see the base as the coat is very thin. Once the crumb coating has hardened, apply a thick dollop of frosting on the top of the cake and use the same technique as crumb coating to apply a thick, even coat of frosting.
Apply frosting on the sides of the cake too. The coating on the sides won’t be as thick as the top, though. Keep spinning the turntable throughout the application to ensure an even coat of frosting all over the cake.
Smoothen the Edges
The edges of the cake will have uneven frosting. Uneven and excess frosting will be visible at the edges where the top meets the sides. You’ve got to even these edges out to make your cake look neat, aesthetically appealing, and presentable.
Run an offset spatula that has been dipped in hot water and dried with a towel around the top and sides of the cake. The frosting melts quickly, and that’s what you want to achieve. The heat from the spatula will melt the frosting on the edges and give your cake a smoother finish. Use a damp towel to wipe away the excess frosting that’s present on the cake board.
Start With Borders
Always start decorating your cake with borders, ideally the ones at the bottom. Work your way from the bottom upwards. Use a piping bag to make borders. Spin the turntable to make the border around the cake. Once you’re done with the bottom borders, move to make top borders, if you wish.
Now that the basic preparation and decoration are complete, you can move on to decorating the top of the cake. The options for decorating the top of the cake are endless. We aren’t even kidding. Some of the most popular cake decorations that you can try at home include:
- Colorful sprinkles
- Icing sugar
- Fruits, especially pineapple and berries
- Caramel sauce
- Chocolate ganache and chocolate shavings
- Edible flowers
- Whipped cream
- Cake toppers
- Sugar flowers
- Cream swirls and rosettes
Once you become an expert in basic cake decorations, you can then try out new techniques from the ones we mentioned earlier. You can make cakes with hand-painted designs, royal icing, fondant figures, and so much more. Just be patient and consistent with your efforts!
Cake Decorating Tips for Beginners
If you’re a beginner who’s just learning to make and decorate their first cake, the following tips will help you:
- Freeze your cakes before decorating. Fresh cakes crumble more and make decorations difficult. Not to mention the mess the cake crumbs make. Since you don’t have much experience in handling cakes, you should start with freezing your cakes so that they’re firm when you start decorating them.
- Always use a turntable. It’s one of the most important cake decorating essentials. Going around the table to decorate the cake will only tire you out, and rotating the cake base every few minutes might produce unnecessary jerks that may damage the decorations and toppings on the cake. A turntable spins the cake smoothly and ensures you’ve got free access to all sides of the cake. The best thing is that there aren’t any jerks, so you don’t have to worry about the toppings slipping.
- Always level the surface. If the surface of any layer isn’t flat, the cake might topple over, especially if you’re adding multiple layers. Also, it’s easier to decorate a flat surface than a mound.
- Practice making a design using a piping bag before working on an actual cake. It’ll help you stabilize your hand and get a good grip on the piping bag.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore