With so many beautifully designed cakes, it is tempting to create your own, but the question remains, how to make cake decorating designs at home?
It is certainly confusing with so many tools and design options for the cakes. You never know where to start and create a beautiful cake design that would impress your guests.
Fortunately, making cake decorating designs doesn’t have to be as complicated as they look. Find the right decorating tools, make a solid cake base, and have some basic design ideas to get started, like decorating with icing, fondant, fresh fruits, candies, chocolates, and caramel.
You don’t need any professional training to create beautiful cake designs. The right tools and instructions could change a simple cake into an appealing treat for both the eyes and taste buds! The best thing is that some design ideas are so simple that you can make them in just a few minutes.
We researched some of the most popular cake decorating design ideas from leading cake bakers' blogs and websites to help you create impressive cake designs. We even tested some on our own to see how easy it is to make cake decorating designs.
Essential Cake Decorating Tools
First things first, you need to get the basic cake decorating tools to experiment with the design properly. Here are some of the tools you should have:
- Professional Cake Pan: If you have already baked cakes, you know how important the right cake pan is to make delicious cakes. The pan size also matters: Get two 8” pans for two-layered cakes and three 6” pans for three-layered cakes.
- Turntable: A turntable is an absolute must to make your cake decoration look professional. It makes it super easy to apply the frosting smoothly and add embellishments.
- Cake Scraper: This tool helps smooth out the cake sides, creating a clean canvas for the decorations.
- Icing Spatula: A straight and offset spatula can be super helpful when applying icing or frosting on your cake. It evenly smooths out the layers of icing to make it easy to decorate.
- Serrated Knife: A simple serrated knife allows you to cleanly cut the top off the cake to make it flat and even. It also comes in handy if you want to cut the cake in between to apply your frosting.
- Cake Cardboard: This is a crucial tool, also known as a cake card, on which you can create your cake on. It makes it easy to pick the cake up and place it on the turntable and remove it as needed. While you can also build your cake on a plate but it will make it difficult to decorate on the sides, which is why cake cardboard is the best choice.
- Piping Bags and Piping Tips: Piping bags are a great way to decorate your cakes. They generally come with tips with multiple designs, giving you plenty of easy ways to decorate your cake.
- Gel Food Coloring: If you love colors on your cake, then this is a must-have. These gel food colors can be mixed with buttercream to create stunning colorful cakes. You can either use a single color or use two to three different colors to create colorful layers in the cake.
Setting the Base For Decoration Designs
Before you start decorating the cake, it is essential to create a strong base for the designs to ensure your efforts don’t go in vain. Having a smooth foundation will keep the decoration intact.
Crumb Coat the Cake
One of the most important steps when it comes to decorating cakes is crumb coating the cake. In this step, you apply a thin layer of frosting on the cake to trap all the cake crumbs. It ensures the final coating of buttercream doesn’t have any crumbly effect.
It also allows you to fill in any uneven cake surface to create a smooth canvas for decorating. All you have to do is put buttercream on your cake and use the offset spatula to evenly spread it on the cake.
It doesn’t have to be super tidy as this is merely a thin coat to lock in the crumbs and even out the surface.
Make sure you place the cake in the fridge for a few minutes to let the frosting set in. Once the frosting is firm to the touch, you can move on to adding the final coat.
Apply a Smooth Frosting
The final coat of buttercream is also an important one as it sets the stage for the decoration.
1. Use a large offset spatula to apply the buttercream to the cake and gradually smooth it down to create a nice, even surface.
2. Next, apply a thick coating to the sides of the cake and even it out.
3. Once done, use the cake scraper to remove any excess frosting. Make sure to hold the scraper straight as you turn the cake to properly smooth out the frosting.
4. Check to see if there are any places where the frosting seems low. Add more frosting, and repeat the process.
5. When you are satisfied with the amount of frosting, use the offset spatula to tidy up the edges by gradually dragging the frosting to the center of the cake in a smooth motion.
You now have a smooth canvas ready to decorate!
Easy Cake Decorating Design Ideas
Here are some fun cake decorating ideas you are bound to enjoy:
Decorating with Cake Toppers
The quickest way to make a cake decoration design is to use cake toppers. This proves particularly useful if you are short on time. There is a range of fun and unique cake toppers available that you can use. All you have to do is gently press the topper at the top of the cake, and you are done.
Decorating with Colorful Icing
Use the first basic steps of first crumb coating the cake before applying the icing to create a foundation for your decoration. You will have to divide your frosting into multiple cups for colorful icing, depending on how many colors you want.
Remember, colors deepen in a few hours when you add them to buttercream but fade when you add them to royal icing or if the icing gets bright light exposure.
- Use the gel food coloring on each frosting cup but be sure to add a few drops. Stir them gently to mix the color.
- Another way to add colorful icing is to apply buttercream or icing on the cake and then use gel food colors to paint on the frosting using a paintbrush.
Colored icing might appear spotted once you use the scraper, which is why it is ideal to use less amount of icing so that there is not much to scrape off. Make sure that you let it dry first, and then use a clean paper towel to gently rub for a few seconds. This will create a pleasing texture.
Adding the Icing Decoration
Once you are done with the colorful icing on the cake, you can either leave it at that (but what’s the fun in that?) or add in some simple decorations. Use the piping bag and metal tips to include different designs on the cake.
You can start using the piping bag by following these steps:
- Attach the metal tip you want to use on the bag
- Use a spoon to scoop icing in the bag and push it down
- Close the top of the bag by twisting it
- Use your hand to separate the frosting in the bag into two lumps, with a fist-sized amount at the bottom of the bag.
- Place one hand at the top of the bag to squeeze the icing through the tip and the other hand near the tip to guide the shape coming out of the tip.
- Be sure to keep the piping bag at a 90° angle to the cake surface, and the tip must be around 1/2 inch above it.
- Make sure to evenly squeeze the bag so that the decoration has an even width.
- Stop squeezing the bag once you are done with one design and life the piping bag upward. This will eliminate the chances of smearing.
Here are some simple cake decorating design ideas:
- The round metal tip can be used to write on the cake or add dots around the edge of the cake.
- The star metal tip can be used to create rosettes by just making shorter squeezes. Whereas the closed star metal tip can create swirls with prominent ridges.
- The petal metal tip can be used to create flowers, scallops, ribbons, or ruffles.
Decorating with Icing Flowers
Now that you know how to work with icing, you can create icing flowers on any cake. While these flowers are slightly more tricky to create than any other icing designs, all you need is some practice to get the hang of it.
- Add the colored frosting you want the flowers to be in a piping bag and fix the petal tip on the bag.
- Keep the piping bag at a 45° angle, and the petal tip should be pointed upward.
- Briefly squeeze the bag while moving the petal tip in a small circle to create a cylinder.
- Squeeze the bag again and quickly move the tip in a ‘U’ shape or a tear-drop, be sure to start and end against the cylinder’s edge.
- Move the petal tip up again when reaching the end of the U shape and then down as you return to the cylinder. Your petal is now complete.
- Repeat the movements to include additional petals to complete the flower.
Decorating with Sprinkles
Who doesn’t love sprinkles? The easiest way of creating an eye-popping cake decorating design is to add sprinkles. Make sure you have applied the frosting to the cake first. Take out the sprinkles in a bowl and scoop them up in your hand and gently press them to the sides of the cake.
The frosting acts as the ‘glue’ to stick the sprinkles. You can either cover the sides of the cake with sprinkles or the top of the cake. You can even go crazy with it and completely cover the entire cake with sprinkles!
Decorating with Candies and Chocolates
Candies and chocolates are a great way to decorate the cake in an interesting way. The best thing is that you can use these in many ways:
- Cut them into small pieces and sprinkle them on top of the cake
- Make chocolate shavings and sprinkle on top with a few chocolate pieces decorated on the sides
- Add chocolate bars to the side of the cake and hold them together with a ribbon. Next, fill the top with chopped candies or simply write a message with icing.
- You can also add chopped candies to the sides of the cake, like sprinkles.
The possibilities are endless!
Decorating with Fondant
Fondant can be daunting to work with, but it is actually a fun way to decorate your cake. It is a smooth and easily moldable cover that can be placed on the entire cake or used to make cake toppers. You can either create your own fondant or buy it from the shop.
Fondant can dry quickly, which is why it is important only to use the amount you need and keep the rest tightly wrapped up in its original container or plastic.
Here is how you can decorate the cake with fondant:
- Begin by first crumb coating the cake as usual and then adding a thick buttercream layer. It is essential to double-check that the layer is smooth as it will otherwise tear or wrinkle the fondant when you place it over the cake.
- You can use ganache in place of the buttercream, it might be slightly difficult to smooth out compared to buttercream completely, but it provides a more stable base for the fondant.
- Start kneading the fondant by first sprinkling some cornstarch on a clean surface to avoid the fondant from sticking. Knead it for a few minutes by using your heel and palm of the hand. This will prevent air bubbles from forming. This step can be skipped if you are using store-bought, rolled fondant.
- With a rolling pin, roll the fondant to around 1/4th thickness. Be sure to rotate it occasionally by placing your hand under it to ensure it doesn’t stick to the surface. Use more cornstarch if needed.
- If you want to cover your cake completely, the fondant circle should be wider than the diameter of the cake and twice as much in height.
- Roll the fondant around a rolling pin and then carefully unroll it over the cake and drape it. Use your hands or a flat tool to smooth out the surface and ensure there are no air bubbles.
- Once the top is even, start to even out the sides of the cake to firmly attach the fondant. Check the cake to make sure it is completely covered, and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the remaining fondant.
Making Fondant Decorations
You can create fondant decorations using scissors or a utility knife to cut shapes. You can create animals, faces, or any shapes in multiple colors. You can also slice it into strips and create spiral flowers or ribbons.
Best of all, you can even make three-dimensional shapes with fondant the same way you use clay. However, fondant is ideal for small shapes and cake toppers since it quickly dries.
Since fondant can easily bulge, crack or tear, it is essential to know how to quickly repair it to keep your beautifully decorated cake intact. Here are some tips:
In a small bowl, add new fondant and keep mixing it with 1/4 tsp of water until a toothpaste-like consistency is created.
Spread this mixture over the tears, dents, or cracks using a flat spatula to smooth them out. Let it dry.
In case the fondant starts cracking even before you begin the decoration, you can knead in some glycerin or shortening.
You can disguise hairline cracks with a shortening brushing or smooth them out using your fingertips.
If there is a bulge, it probably is an air bubble. You can prick it gently using a pin and smooth it out.
Decorating with Fresh Fruits
There is something about a cake decorated with fresh fruits that makes it look so elegant. Blackberries, strawberries, and kiwi looks and taste amazing on cakes. No matter which fruit you are using, wash them thoroughly first and pat dry with a paper towel.
Cut the fruits into thin slices and gently place them on a paper towel to remove any excess juices. This step is important, or else your cake will end up mushy and too soft. Next, arrange the sliced fruits in a circular pattern or any design you desire.
Decorating with Ganache
The ganache on cakes looks absolutely irresistible! While it looks fancy, it is not difficult to create this decorating effect on your cake. Here is an easy recipe to make chocolate ganache:
- Add finely-chopped chocolate or chocolate chips in a metal bowl or heat-proof glass.
- Next, heat the heavy cream on the stove until it starts simmering.
- Pour the warm cream over the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips and let it sit for a few minutes until the chocolate starts melting.
- Stir the mixture until smooth.
- Now that you have the ganache ready and slightly cooled smooth out the cake with a layer of frosting. Pour the ganache on top of the cake and use a spoon to push it toward the edge of the cake.
You can cover the entire cake with the ganache, cover only the top of the cake, or add a dripping effect to the cake.
Decorating with Swirls
If you don’t trust yourself with a piping bag to make beautiful flowers or swirls, you can still make your cake look beautiful using a spoon. Layer the icing, and then with the back of the spoon, make a quick swirl motion to create a beautiful texture. You can either just do it on top of the cake or all over it.
Decorating with Caramel
Caramel-coated cakes are certainly eye-catching, not to mention they taste divine! You can decorate your cake with caramel by first smoothly applying the frosting and then pouring caramel sauce on top of the cake.
You can either leave it to have a sauce-dripping effect on the sides or smooth out the caramel sauce using the offset knife to ensure the caramel stays on the top. Be sure to refrigerate the cake so the caramel sets.
Decorating with Biscuits
Oreo and Lotus biscuits are a popular choice for cake decorations. You can either crush the biscuits and spread them on top of the cake frosting or line up them in any pattern you want.
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