It’s no surprise that sales of cakes and cupcakes are expected to reach $754.8 million by 2021. Everyone loves cake, and the fancy boutique ones can be very impressive.
You don’t have to buy a decorated cake, though. You can let your creativity shine and have a lot of fun by making your own cake!
If you’ve been inspired by baking shows but aren’t sure how to do it, this guide tells you everything you need to know about decorating a cake as a beginner.
Have a Vision for Your Cake
Before getting into the details of how to decorate a cake, think about what you want your cake to look like.
Consider these questions:
- What’s the occasion?
- Who’s it for?
- Does the event have a specific theme or color?
- How ambitious do you want to be?
Sketch out a few ideas ahead of time until you have something that you like and feel comfortable making.
Get the Right Tools
Knowing how to decorate cakes means using the right tools, and you should get them before you start, so you have them ready when needed.
You could consider a decorating kit so you don’t need to worry about forgetting something. If you want to buy individual tools, here are some basics to consider.
A turntable is a rotating plate you can use when frosting your cake. It’s much easier than walking around the cake or trying to turn a plate on a counter. This also lets you apply your frosting evenly to all sides.
A cake decorating spatula is different than your regular one. Also called a palette knife, this spatula has a long, straight or angled blade with a rounded tip. You’ll use this to spread the frosting in a smooth, consistent layer over your cake.
You might consider this a more advanced tool, but even beginners can benefit from a cake leveler. Using this, you can get the top of your cake completely even, which keeps your cake from leaning or wobbling.
Decorating Bags and Tips
Decorating or piping bags are what you use to create additional decorations on top of your cake after it’s been frosted. The tips at the end of the bags give you different effects, so having a variety of choices on-hand will give you a chance to explore your artistic talents.
Once you’ve got all your tools, it’s time to bake the cake! You won’t decorate your layers right away, though. If you try, you’re likely to get melted frosting and sliding decorations.
The best approach is to wrap your layers in plastic wrap and freeze them to give the cake a firmer surface. You can keep them in the freezer for a couple of hours, or even up to a couple of months.
This is also a great way to split up the time involved in making your cake. You can make the layers on one day and then give your full attention to the decorating a few days or weeks later.
Level Your Cake
When you’re ready to decorate your cake, you may notice that the top isn’t completely flat. This is where the cake leveler comes in. If you don’t have one, you can use a long, thin knife.
With a leveler, you can adjust the height on the tool without needing to measure the cake. These tools also help reduce the number of crumbs by using a stainless-steel blade or long wire.
If you’re leveling by hand, measure both sides of the cake with a ruler and mark the height. Then cut across in a smooth motion from one marker to the next.
You might have seen in some baking shows that bakers put dowels in their cakes to add support. If you have multiple tiers for your cake, this is a good approach to prevent shifting or sinking.
To do this, put your supports in the lower tier of the cake, closer to the inside where the next level will go. Then trim the tops of the support to match the height of the cake before putting on the next layer. Straws are a good option for this since you can easily cut them.
Add a Crumb Coat
The next key step in how to decorate a cake for beginners is adding a crumb coat. This is an initial, thin layer of frosting meant to seal in any crumbs, so you won’t see them in the final coat.
Start with the bottom layer and put it on the plate or turntable if you have one. Apply the crumb coat to that layer, then add the next layer.
Once you have all the tiers done, add one last crumb coat to the whole cake and put it back in the freezer for a few minutes to set the frosting.
Now comes the cake dressing! As a beginner, you should start with regular frosting and save the fondant for when you have a little more experience.
Start by getting the right color for your icing. Gel food coloring works best since it won’t change the consistency of your frosting.
You may want to have a smooth coat and then add decorations. If you want to start with a textured approach, though, here are a few ideas. You can:
- Add swirls with the back of a spoon
- Create zigzags by putting the tines of a fork through the frosting in a wavy pattern
- Make stripes by pulling a knife through the frosting in vertical stripes
After you’ve got your initial frosting done, you can add more decorations or lettering with piping. You can make flowers, leaves, stars, ruffles, and more. It’s also best to experiment with a few trials on a plate or piece of parchment paper before getting to your cake.
Pick the decorating tip you want to use and insert it in the small end of your piping bag. Add your frosting to the bag a spoonful at a time, but don’t fill it all the way. Leave it about a quarter empty so you can twist the top closed.
If you’ll be writing on the cake, practice ahead of time. You can also lightly trace the words into the frosting with a toothpick to give you something to follow.
Displaying Your Cake
Once your decorated cake is done, it’s time to display it!
If you plan on going into business, you’ll want to look at cake fridges, so you have a professional display case. These will provide good lighting and keep your cakes at the right temperature.
If you’re sticking with home baking, you should still keep your cake refrigerated until it’s ready to serve. When it’s time, present it on a nice table to give everyone a chance to appreciate your artwork before it’s time to eat.
Decorating a Cake Can Is Fun and Creative
You don’t have to be intimidated by the idea of decorating a cake. With the right tools and a few tips, you can indulge your sweet tooth, your sense of fun, and your artistic side. You might not match Mary Berry, but you’ll have an impressive beginner cake.
Decorating cakes makes a lot of people happy, but it doesn’t stop there. Check out our Happiness posts for some more inspiration on adding joy to your life.