Cake decorating is a wonderful skill to pursue. If you are into learning the skill, you might wonder – is cake decorating easy?
Even before the frosting touches your dish, there's a lot that goes into the design of a cake. All the complexities can make it challenging to decorate a cake, thus requiring a fair bit of skill.
Decorating cakes is not easy at all. From achieving sharp edges on buttercream to ensuring that each layer is flat and there are no air bubbles in the final product, all the complexities associated with cake decorating make it quite a difficult skill to master.
With that being said, you can still master the art of cake decoration by practicing and using tried and tested techniques.
As experienced bakers and people who have decorated numerous cakes, we'll go over several cake-decorating tips and tactics that you may use to make your job easier. This collection comprises of strategies and methods that are simple, easy, and cost-effective. We’ll also discuss some common mistakes that beginners make when decorating cakes and how you can avoid them.
Is Cake Decorating Easy?
In the baking industry, taste and appearance are inextricably linked. A cake must be both delicious and appealing to the eye. Decorating a cake requires high precision and a keen aesthetic sense. If you do not pay attention to the details of the cake, it can end up looking unattractive, and no one will like it (or want to buy it).
That being said, decorating a cake can be confusing and time-consuming. However, the correct tools and appropriate usage of some techniques can make even the most mediocre cakes appear attractive because of their decorations.
How You Can Make Decoration Easier
Cake decorating can be difficult, especially when you are getting started. You can follow some tips and tricks to make the process easier and more feasible.
Don't Hesitate to Spend Some Cash
Many bakers believe that spending too much money on decorative equipment is not a good idea. However, investing some cash and purchasing the following essentials is a good way to make the cake decoration process easier:
- A pastry bag
- A simple set of decorating tips
- A spatula pair
- Food coloring
- Cake stand with a turntable
- Cutters in a variety of forms and patterns
Make Your Own Icing
At home, you may easily make your own unique frosting. There are numerous recipes for this on the internet. Prepare it properly and use it to the best of your ability to decorate your cake. Icing can be made of buttercream, fruits, or powdered sugar. It helps to preserve the cake and maintain its freshness as well.
Turn Your Cake
It is important to crumb cover your cake before finishing it. This is because you don’t want the crumbs to peek through in the finished result. This can be done using a good cake leveler. Purchasing this equipment will be totally worth it as it is one of the most effective ways to make your cake flat and level.
Another option is to use a bread knife, but if you do so, make sure the knife and your hand are both in the same place. In any case, you'll be left with crumbs after the cake is leveled. The crumbs, however, will not show if you flip the cake facing down. Most seasoned bakers employ this technique.
Use Parchment Paper and Piping Gel
Piping gel basically assists you in transferring a desired image onto the cake. If you want an image on the cake, cover it with parchment paper and use your icing tip and the size 3 or 4 tip to surround the paper with the piping gel.
Turn it over and place it on the cake with a brush. As long as you use transparent piping gel, you will now have the framework of your image on your cake, which you can easily embellish later.
Smoothen the Icing
Smoothing out your icing with a paper towel is a unique technique. The first stage is to level it out as much as possible with a small offset spatula, then lay it aside for a time. When your cake is sticky to the touch, it's time to spread the icing out completely.
Simply apply the non-patterned face of the paper towel towards the cake and flatten the icing with your icing smoothener. You'll have a wonderful, silky cake before you know it with this technique.
Use Impression Mats
After you've found out how to make a flawless buttercream finish, you can add an impression mat for a quick and easy craft. There are impression mats for any design, whether you desire a swirl pattern or polka dots.
Simply place the impression mat on the flat buttercream and press down where you wish the pattern to appear. If you end up being more interested and keen on cakes, you may also use this technique with gum paste and fondant as well.
Learn to Write on the Cake Properly
Most people are confused as to whether they should write something on their cakes. They feel that if the cake gets ruined, their efforts will go to waste. However, if you follow the proper technique, your cake writing can never go wrong. Sloppy or inadequately aligned fonts can easily destroy a beautiful cake or pastries.
You must imitate the lessons you learned as a child when learning how to write your alphabet to be a professional cake writer. Using a filled piping bag to trace letters over and over on paper placed over various alphabet primers is a terrific technique to employ. This will help you determine the proper flow, tension, and angle for precisely formed letters.
Making a plaque from, pastillage, gum paste, or fondant and writing on it instead of straight on the cake is a great way to put words on cakes without compromising your flawlessly decorated surface. You can scrape or wipe off the letters if you make mistakes and begin again. When the lettering is appropriate, lay the plaque on the cakes and finish the remainder of the pattern around it.
Problems with Cake Decorating and How to Prevent Them
Now that we have learned some tips and tricks to make cake decoration easier, it is also important to be aware of some of the mishaps and problems that can occur during this process. Mitigating these issues will help you ensure that you make as few mistakes as possible and end up with a beautiful product.
Cake Cracks and Crumbles During Icing
Chocolate cakes crumble the most, possibly because they're moister than other cakes. There are a few ways to deal with this issue.
The first is allowing your cake to cool for a few minutes. Refrigerate it for around 15 to 20 minutes. You don't want to cool it all the way through because air pockets will form. It's simply necessary for the outer surface to tighten up a little. This technique works most of the time.
Another technique is to apply a crumb coating with your icing diluted. Take a bit of your buttercream and dilute it somewhat with milk before slathering it all over your cake in a fine coating. Place it in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes at most.
It's important to remember that you don’t want it to become too cool as this will cause problems later on. You only need to wait for the crumb coating to set up before applying the buttercream exterior coat.
Buttercream Isn't Smooth
This problem occurs when you try to rush the decoration process. Therefore, make sure you have enough time on your hands to prepare a cake. To make a super smooth buttercream, begin with soft butter. Break the chilled butter into 1cm pieces and set it aside to soften on a platter or in a small bowl at ambient temperature, but don't heat it.
Before adding the powdered sugar, beat the butter for three minutes in a mixer or with an electric whisk. This will help in aeration and the creation of a light, silky finish. Sift the powdered sugar into the butter and beat until thoroughly. Use immediately or chill for a harder texture.
Struggling with Piping Buttercream Icing
Not everyone is good at piping the frosting. To avoid this issue, there are a few things to consider. The first is the buttercream's warmth. It might flow too fast if it's too hot, and it can be flaky and hard to pipe if it's too cold. It should be cold but flexible enough to pipe easily.
To remove any air bubbles, load the bag to about 3/4 capacity and roll down from the top. Grip the piping bag firmly from the top. The easiest design is to make several individual peaks. Use an open star nozzle and place it directly over the cake. Push the nozzle softly yet firmly to create a peak.
Repeat this process all over the cake's top. Move the nozzle in a steady circular motion from the outside to the center to create a rose. Start by experimenting with a piece of baking parchment to gain confidence. You can sweep up and reuse the icing till you get the hang of it.
It's crucial to level your cakes since the top of the layers must be entirely flat, or else, they'll lean or sway when stacked. A serrated knife can help in this case. Simply make sure your knife's blade is lengthier than the radius of your cake.
The primary objective is to cut off any dome-like tops on the cake and make it completely flat. Instead of trying to drive the blade into the cake, begin at the border and keep it level while spinning the cake on the turntable with a sawing motion.
Don't bother about the bottoms; they should be flat already with the cake pans' underside. You can even turn your cake over so that the bottom is facing up. However, make sure it is level so that the bottom does not shake. Also, don't forget to consume the leftovers.
Icing ridges can appear around the center of the cake as the filling squishes out after the cake has set or reached room temperature. This can happen due to a variety of reasons. It's simple to overfill the spaces among the cake layers. Your icing may also be a tad thin. However, there are a few things you may do to help.
Some people like to use a technique known as an icing dam. Simply take some icing, stiffen it with confectioners’ sugar, and pipe a border around the cake layer to ensure that it works. After that, simply fill in the gaps with ordinary buttercream before stacking your cake layers on top. This procedure is time-consuming, but it is worth it.
Moisture causes air pockets to form in the buttercream. Of course, you need your cake to be moist, so you do not want to make a dry cake to avoid any blowouts. The problem is when moisture becomes caught between the cake and the buttercream. When you totally refrigerate your cake before icing it, condensation forms between the cake and the buttercream.
In the first problem, we talked about the cake crumbles. We recommended chilling it. However, you should only chill the cake for the minimum amount of time. Now, if you are using perishable buttercream or icing, you won’t have much choice as you will have to keep it chilled completely.
The issue arises when the cake is chilled, then brought out to serve, and it stays out for a while on the table. This is when the air pockets form. Therefore, to avoid the problem, you should not keep the cake out in the open for too long. When the guests have taken their pieces, it should be put back in the fridge.
While cake decorating can be complicated, you can follow the tips we have mentioned above to make the process easier. Also, make sure to avoid common cake decorating mistakes because this can ruin your experience and create problems for you in becoming a professional cake decorator.
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