There’s something captivating about well decorated cakes that captures our attention in a bakery or a café. We’ve all seen those beautiful cakes and wish we could make ours like that. Who says you can’t? Learn how to decorate a cake easily today!
When it comes down to special moments, what could possibly make one happier than a delicious and gorgeously decorated cake? While there are plenty of us who enjoy relaxing with an elegant slice of cake in our favorite places, it isn’t like we cannot create the same stunning results right in our home (even if you are a beginner).
That’s what this article is all about. To share you tips and tricks on how you can start making your cakes to look prettier. Whether you are eager to start your own cake business or just looking for a past-time in decorating cakes, or even wanting to gift an exquisite-looking cake for someone special… Or maybe you would want to impress yourself or someone, no matter the reason, here are some basic tips for you on how to decorate a cake even better. Yes, it’s time to get your cakes to look more professional. Other than some tools that you will need (which we are assuming you already have in your kitchen), you will also need some patience to get things right.
Get your cake baked.
You can’t decorate a cake without a cake. Once you’ve baked up your go-to layer cake, we will get started. You will need a few key tools.
Tools you will need:
Not an absolute necessity but it does make your job of coating or frosting your cake significantly easier.
This will come in handy when you level and split your cake in layers.
This will be ideal for you to apply frosting on your cake when you need a little distance from the surface to prevent batter or icing from getting on your knuckles.
The good news is you don’t need to be a professional to use this simple tool. A basic pastry bag with tips will be of use (whether single- or multi-use, made from materials such as nylon and silicone) to create decorative cake toppings.
You will need these to smooth the frosting on your cake and even make decorative markings and patterns on it.
Now we will see what we shall do with your cake to make the process of decorating easier.
1. Freezing your cake
A lot of work comes into baking a cake let alone decorating it for later. So, it is not too bad to have a head-start and prep early. If you are not pressed for time, you can split the tasks into stages—that is baking a cake first and freezing it. Then take it out on another day to decorate it. What baking your cakes in advance and then freezing them does is that it makes it simpler for you to frost them. A cake that is frozen will not crumble as much when you are frosting it hence making your task of applying the crumb coat (we will get to that later) so much easier.
Similarly, it is also a lot convenient to level your cakes when they are frozen too. As cakes can stay fresh in a freezer for up to a week, you could always make your whipped topping in advance, keep in an airtight container, and store it in the fridge.
2. Using a cake turntable.
Oh yes, the cake turntable is one of the best cake-decorating tools ever. It is so helpful when icing cakes because you can rotate your cake whilst decorating it. Because who wants to walk all around a cake as they decorate it when they can just turn the cake with a cake turntable? So, owning a cake turntable makes the complete process of decorating much easier.
3. Levelling your cakes evenly.
Nobody wants their cake to fall over be sure that your cake layers are nice and even. It is important to level your cakes because if the tops of the cake layers are not completely flat, they can lean or wobble unsteadily when you are stacking the layers. This where the action of using a serrated cake knife comes in. To use a serrated cake knife (or serrated bread knife), just be sure that the blade of the knife is always longer than the cake’s diameter.
The idea is to cut off any dome-like top (we like to call them ‘cake bumps’) so it becomes flat and even. Always place your serrated knife at the edge of the cake and keep it even (slow and steady does the trick) as you rotate the cake on the turntable. Rather than aggressively pushing the blade through the cake, use a sawing motion instead. If you need more help with this, we have an article on how you can level and layer your cake easily.
4. Applying crumb coat on the cake.
So, we have finally reached the step to frost your cake. This starts off with you applying a crumb coat on the cake. A crumb coat is the first (and light) coat of frosting that you apply around the cake, so it covers the cake and prevents anymore crumbs from falling off. This means you will and should not be seeing any cake crumbs in the frosting when you are applying the final cake coat.
And if you are wondering why this step is necessary, the whole point of applying a coat crumb is to prevent a mess. You don’t want things to get messy as you rotate and coat your cake. Therefore, this thin layer of frosting applied to the exterior of a cake is to contain crumbs that the cake may shed. Making a layer cake? Easy. Just position the bottom layer of it on your turntable and spread a layer of your whipped frosting to it, then place the top layer on top (bottom side up). Once that is done, proceed to apply the crumb coat to your whole cake. Afterwards, let the cake chill for 15 to 30 minutes so the crumb coat can fully set.
5. Applying the frosting on the cake.
Now we move on to the fun part, that is frosting the cake! Place your assembled cake layers on the turntable and apply a good amount of frosting to the top center of the cake. Spread that frosting around with your palette knife as you rotate the cake. Then move on to the sides of the cake. While it is ideal to work fast in this stage so your cake remains cool, this may not be possible when you are still learning how to frost a cake. What you can do is take a break between the top and the sides, place the cake in the fridge in the meantime.
Also, in this stage, you can use your cake smoother or cake scraper too. It produces a sharper finish than using a palette knife (but if you aren’t too particular, the palette knife works just fine). To use your cake smoother, run its edge along the sides of the cake while rotating it in the opposite direction. The result should be a nice, tidy, and clean-looking cake.
On another note, we have a full article on The Different Types of Frosting you can have on a cake.
6. Piping decorations on the cake.
It goes without saying that practice makes perfect. You can make plenty of decorative flowers and shapes of all short using a piping bag with various tips (check out the gorgeous flowers on these Russian flower cupcakes), but you will still need to practice. While you cannot be an expert in a brief time for an actual cake-decorating experience, a good method to practice is on a sheet of wax paper instead of the cake itself. You can always do that in your own time to get better.
Sometimes, small individual flowers can be transferred from the wax paper onto the cake. However, it does not work with edging or writing. But we still think it’s a nice way for you to keep working on your decorations, so you feel more comfortable with them.
Some cake decorating ideas
And it is finally time to decorate! Here are some of my go-to cake decorating ideas that you can consider for your cake:
1. Easy swirls.
Who would have thought that you could just use a spoon for an exquisite cake. Using the back of a spoon, you can swirl it on the cake’s frosting creating gorgeous swirly textures on it. It is super easy and all you need is layer a generous amount of frosting on the outsides and top of your cake. Then, grab a spoon and use its back to start making all sorts of swirls. The best part is, since there is no definite structure, you get to decide how your swirls will look on the cake. And until you see the whole cake covered with a fun texture, you can have loads of fun with this method. Plus, we think it gives cakes a nice rustic look.
It is a no-brainer that people can get creative with a piping bag and some frosting tips. The possibilities are limitless with the plethora of piping tips available in stores. From tips that lets you create flowers, leaves, stars, basketweave patterns and other designs, let your imagination take you to places you have never been to before. And remember, beauty is subjective. Some people may prefer the minimalist approach with a few intricate designs on their cakes while others would prefer to go all out with lots of textured flowers and leaves, etc.
Speaking of intricate cake designs, our Rich’s Gold Label, which been specially developed for bakers to unleash their imagination with ease lets you pipe elegant and exquisite patterns on your cake. Not only are these intricate designs done effortlessly with Rich’s Gold Label, but they also last longer due to its notably excellent stability. Read on why Rich’s Gold Label is the best non-dairy topping cream you need in your creative endeavors.
3. Drip cakes.
Drip cakes are super cool to look at and even more fun to make. Since its emergence in 2016, the trend has been at the forefront of social media and there seems to be no end in sight. Something about its drippy look makes it unique, and it is surprisingly simple to work with this decorating technique.
For starters, frost your cake and give it a smooth finish. Then make a ganache with chocolate (make sure you use good quality chocolate; you can read about the difference between couverture and compound chocolate to learn more). Once the ganache is slightly cooled in about 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature, spoon it over the top of your cake. Then, using the back of your spoon, push the ganache to the edges of the cake and watch it slowly drip down the sides to form tempting chocolaty drips.
Another way to do this too is the use of squeeze bottles (or plastic squirt bottles). You can get those bottles in a grocery store. Pour the ganache into a plastic squirt bottle. Try to start your drip with the sides instead of pouring your ganache into the middle and trying to control it all at once. By working your way around the edge first, you will have more control and can ensure that your drips are exactly how you envisioned them to be.
4. Sprinkles and other little things.
The one topping that makes your cake to put a smile on everyone’s face are sprinkles, the most common one being the rainbow sprinkles. These tiny shreds of color will instantly make your cakes look better and you can’t go wrong with sprinkles for celebratory cakes. Top your cake with a dash of sprinkles and other small edible decorations. Aside from the sprinkles, don’t leave out on the textures and creative looks you can get from some toasted nuts, gummies, cookie crumbs, and shredded coconut. Using them wisely can add create all sorts of outcome for your cake. As such, do remember to consider how they’d affect the taste of your cake and whether they are suitable to be used.
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