Decorating cakes can seem like a challenging business. But what if we told you it isn’t hard with the right cake decorating tips and tricks?
That’s right. You can fool everyone into thinking you’re a pro with a little practice and the right tools.
The truth is, most of us don’t get much practice because we only make cakes for birthdays or holidays. It’s so much easier to buy a cake from a local bakery. Then you don’t have to spend hours getting everything just right. You also don’t have to worry about missing ingredients, an ugly icing job, or running out of time.
Honestly, most people give up too soon because it can be hard to pull off the right effect at home. You can use things that are around the kitchen to decorate, but it usually doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. The whole thing ends up being a disappointing representation of what you were actually going for. However, if you have the right tools and the best cake decorating tips, you can pull off anything at home!
Without the right accessories, it can be like trying to paint a masterpiece with a hairbrush. In other words, it won’t be easy, and it probably won’t turn out the way you expect.
That isn’t to say it’s impossible to make a beautiful cake with the tools we already have around the kitchen. But it is going to be harder, especially when you don’t know piping techniques.
It all comes down to knowing your abilities and taking the time to practice. To pull off a gorgeous cake at home you need to know the basics and some handy cake decorating tips.
Before you know it, you’ll be able to make beautiful cakes for any party.
The Basics Are the Key to Success
Nailing down the basics will take you a long way. Cutting corners usually lead to the frustrating mistakes that can come with decorating a cake.
If you really want to make a gorgeous cake, you need to go the whole nine yards, from beginning to end. That means you need to make sure you’re working with a solid base before you even get the best cake decorating tips and tricks.
If you have a solid structure to work on, it’s going to be much easier to decorate. There are certain hurdles that you have to get used to, and the right cake decorating tips will help tremendously.
Once you nail down the basics, you’re going to be ready to tackle the cake decorating tips we have in store for you. And it might surprise you how easy it is when you have a gorgeous and delicious base to work with.
Tools you need to decorate a cake like a pro
As we mentioned before, there are specific cake decorating tools that are going to make your life so much easier. They will give you the ability to decorate with efficiency and precision.
Cake decorating essentials
Here are a few must-haves to decorate the cake of your dreams.
Icing piping kit
Textured cake scrapers
Poly-Dowels (for tiered cake support)
Tools from home
We could go on forever about why each of these tools is essential, but we wanted to kick things off with a simple list.
Extra mixing bowls
Serrated bread knife
If you keep reading, you will get to see where each of these tools comes in handy in the cake decorating process. However, there is quite a bit that you need to know before putting any of them to use. They might seem self-explanatory, but our cake decorating tips will show you how to use them to make a perfect cake.
Let that hottie cool down
If you’ve ever watched the show Nailed It, you might have noticed a simple mistake that novice bakers make all the time. They don’t let their cake cool down before applying the icing. It might not seem like a huge deal, especially if you’re in a rush. Nonetheless, if you don’t want the icing melting right off the cake, you might want to reconsider.
Whether you’re in a rush or not, you should pop your cake into the freezer. It doesn’t need to be frozen solid, especially if you intend to frost it and eat it soon after.
Letting it chill in the freezer for at least an hour is always a good idea, so make sure you have enough time.
It’s similar to a professional baker using a blast chiller to bring the temperature down quickly. Overall, it will speed up the process and cut down on the chance of a sloppy looking cake.
Level the playing field
Before you even think about putting the icing on your cake, you should trim away any bumps. When your cake is baking, it will rise, and that will usually lead to a rounded top.
If you’re going for a smooth cake with sharp edges, it’s essential to trim away the bump. Additionally, there’s always the chance that your oven won’t be level. If your cake ends up baking on an angle, a little trim will fix that right up.
Trimming the bottom layer of your cake is especially crucial. It will help keep your cake even and flat. If you don’t want your cake to start leaning, it’s a good idea to check and trim wherever you feel it’s necessary.
The Right Way to Start the Icing Process
Now that you have a solid base to work with, we can get to the cake decorating tips that you’re here for. Before you get to the decorating, you need to create a base for your icing as well.
I know, I know, it seems like a lot of steps before getting to the good part.
Nonetheless, if you want to make the perfect cake, you need to take your time and go through all the motions. After a few cakes, it’s going to seem like a breeze, and you’ll get the timing down.
Trust me, as a part-time baker and a full-time procrastinator, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past. All of those mistakes came from not giving myself enough time to get every detail right. Even if you aren’t going for perfection, your cake is going to look a lot nicer if you give yourself some extra time.
We’ve already covered the fact that you need to let your cake cool before applying the icing. That will prevent the icing from melting right off. If that’s all you have time for, that’s fine.
Still, if you give yourself enough time you might want to consider leaving your cake in the freezer for a few hours. Maybe even overnight.
Keep in mind. You only will want to do this if you have enough time to let it fully thaw before serving. Since you probably don’t have a blast chiller like a professional, this could turn into a two-day process.
Regardless, it’s going to be a huge help. I did the same thing when I was making my husbands birthday cake. I was using oreo mousse for the icing, so having a solid base to work with made the whole process much more manageable.
Freezing a cake gives you two benefits. For one thing, you won’t have to deal with as many crumbs. For another thing, you won’t have to worry about ripping holes in a soft, innocent cake. Sounds like a win-win if you ask me.
Nobody wants a crummy cake
Most recipes will tell you how to make the cake, filling, or frosting, but they don’t always give cake decorating tips. The crumb layer is one of the most important steps if you want a perfect cake.
A crumb layer is a thin coating of icing on the exterior of the cake. It’s more of a control layer that will keep the crumbs from getting mixed into the outside layer of the frosting. The crumb layer is one of the cake decorating tips that are simple and easy, but it will make all the difference. Applying a crumb layer will give you a much cleaner final product.
When applying a crumb layer, you should take a small amount of your icing and put it in a separate bowl. By doing so, you won’t have to worry about contaminating the rest of the batch. Use your spatula of choice to spread a thin layer of icing all over the exterior of the prepared cake.
It will be a nice sticky layer that will control the crumbs. It will also make applying a thick layer of icing possible without ripping up the cake.
Piping makes perfect
I’ve learned the hard way that slapping icing in the middle of your cake and slathering it around can do some damage. Of course, it all depends on your cake and how fragile it might be.
If you freeze your cake, even for a few hours, you won’t have to worry about this step as much. However, if you don’t have the time to freeze the cake, it might be time to bust out your piping or Ziploc bags.
Put some icing in the piping bag and use a large tip, or cut a hole in the corner of your Ziploc. Starting in the middle of your cake, squeeze the icing onto the cake slowly and gently. Work in a slow swirl until you reach the outer edge.
If you’re working on the middle layer, you won’t have to worry about spreading it out. But if you’re working on the top of your cake, this will make spreading the icing much easier. Plus, you won’t rip up the top of the cake or disturb the crumb layer.
You can do this the whole way around your cake. The frosting will already be applied evenly, so you will only need to use a spatula to smooth everything out. Plus, this is something that you can do even if you don’t have a piping set. A Ziploc bag will work just as well because you aren’t trying to make it perfect. It’s all about applying the icing evenly, without disturbing the cake or the crumb layer.
After you finished piping enough icing on your cake, use a turntable and a spatula to smooth everything out. You will be able to keep the cake moving in a steady circle as you run the spatula along the surface.
Cake Decorating Tips to Take Your Masterpiece over the Top
Now for the good stuff. At this point in the process, your cake will be baked, cooled, frosted, and beautiful. There are a few things you need to do at this point that will make a big difference as well.
For one thing, make sure that your cake is entirely ready for decoration. Putting your cake on a turntable is going to be a big help.
We’ve mentioned a cake turntable before, but we really want to stress it at this point. A turntable will give you the freedom you need to keep the cake moving while you concentrate on piping and decoration placement.
Another thing to stress is the fact that practice makes perfect. If you’re serious about making your cake look perfect, it isn’t a good idea to pipe directly onto the cake at first. You can use wax paper to practice your technique.
After you feel comfortable with the design you’re working on, you can get started on your cake. Make sure that the cake is cold before trying to apply your design. It will keep you from messing up the smooth layer.
YouTube tutorials are going to be your best friend
If you have a piping set and any other tools for your cake design, you will be prepared to accomplish any design.
If you’ve ever tried to make a flower out of icing, you might know, figuring out where to start can be challenging. Luckily, you don’t have to go in blindly. There are plenty of tutorials that will be a huge help.
First of all, you need to start with the basics, by practicing different techniques you can gain more control. The more practice you get, the more control you will have when you’re applying the icing onto your cake. Obviously, you will need to practice using the tips you will be using on the cake.
But if you ever have some free time, take a whack at using a bunch of different tips. It will give you practice and experience.
Only the best flowers need to make an appearance
Making flowers out of icing is much easier than you might think. Although, there’s a trick to getting the perfect flowers for your cake. To do that, practice making flowers on wax paper and put them in the fridge. Once they are cold, you can safely transfer the best flowers onto your cake without smushing them.
Watching tutorials is going to be a huge help when you’re new to the whole process. You will also want to have a few piping bags on hand. If you have a few bags, you can use different colors and tips for the leaves and petals.
In the end, it will give you cute and somewhat realistic flowers. Additionally, having a whole set of different piping tips will provide you with the ability to make different types of flowers. Your options are going to be endless and beautiful!
Ganache drip will hide those imperfections
Ganache isn’t just delicious. It’s also a great way to hide any flaws in your cake. Drip cakes are a favorite right now, and you can make them any color you want. Plus, they’re effortless to make.
All you have to do is combine equal parts of heavy cream and chocolate. For this step, you can use colored melting chocolate, semi-sweet chips, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate. By melting the cream and chocolate together, the chocolate will stay soft and drip smoothly. You can pour the mixture into a piping bag with a small tip or a Ziploc with a small hole cut into the corner.
Remember, you need to work quickly when you’re using ganache.
Work your way around the edge of the cake to create drips first. After you’ve carefully designed a beautifully dripped edge, you can cover the top of the cake with more ganache. Use a spatula to smooth out the top without disturbing the dripped side.
What did we tell you? Simple, easy, and best of all, it will cover up all the imperfections.
Consider a Semi-Naked Cake
If you’re interested in cake decorating tips that don’t involve a ton of time or skill a semi-naked cake is perfect. It’s also excellent if you aren’t a huge fan of icing. I’ve always been the type of person who scrapes the frosting off of my piece of cake, so I've always loved the idea of a semi-naked cake.
That’s why I prefer to make my own cakes. I have total control over how sweet my icing is and actually enjoy it.
Otherwise, I tend to skip out on cakes at parties because I don’t like the sugar-packed icing that most bakeries use on store-bought cakes.
Semi-naked cakes only use a thin layer of icing, similar to a crumb coat. There’s the same amount of frosting between the layers, but not as much on the outside of the cake. You could even add jam or jelly between the layers in addition to the frosting. It will help boost the flavor of the entire cake.
If you do a good job, you will be able to see the cake through the icing. Some people think it looks patchy, but if done well it looks rustic and delicious.
Once you apply the thin coat of icing, you can add berries or frosted flowers on top for decoration. The whole process won’t take long and doesn’t require as much time and skill as your typical cake.
Feel free to get a little creative, and you won’t even need much icing to make a piece of art.
Take the Easy Route — Consider an Ice Cream Cake
I love baking, but a lot of my friends are too intimidated by the whole process. It can be a lot of work and will take quite a bit of time if you’re baking from scratch as well as decorating. Making the cake, icing, and decoration can take a lot of time.
So we wanted to throw in an easy and delicious ice cream cake for someone who isn’t interested in baking. You can still put all your cake decorating tips to good use, but the whole process will be fun and easy.
Start by putting cookies in a food processor to create cookie crumbs. Then add a splash of milk to give it a doughy consistency for the bottom of the cake. Spread it evenly in the bottom of a springform pan.
Next cut ice cream sandwiches to edge the pan before spreading softened ice cream in the middle. You can top everything off with cool whip or homemade mousse, which could also go into a piping bag. Then you can use all the cake decorating tips for a professional looking edging on the top.
Ice cream cakes are easy to put together and don’t require a lick of baking. They’re also a great option if you’re making a cake with your kids and don’t want them around a hot oven. You can use any of the cake decorating tips without any of the hassles. Plus, it’s always a massive hit at a party, as long as you have some freezer space.
Feel free to put your favorite treats to good use to take your ice cream cake over the top. That may include candy, whip cream, sprinkles, hot fudge, caramel and more. The options are endless!
Cake Decorating Isn’t Only for Professional Bakers
If you want to learn how to decorate cakes, you don’t have to go to school or work in a bakery. You can get fantastic results at home with these cake decorating tips. All you have to do is come up with a plan and pick your favorite recipe.
If you start with the basics and follow through with each step, you’re going to end up with a gorgeous cake.
Remember the importance of having a solid base to work on. You need everything to be even and level. Plus, cooling off the cake will keep the icing from melting off, and a crumb layer will keep everything clean and professional.
In other words, by making sure you start with the basics, you can get your cake ready for decoration. By following all the little steps, you will be setting yourself up for success. It’s all about how much time you have to devote to the process. That way you can put the best cake decorating tips to good use.
If you don’t have enough time to make your cake from scratch, you can still apply all the cake decorating tips to a boxed cake. Or if it’s a hot summer day and you don’t want to use the oven, a simple ice cream cake would be amazing. You can still use all the cake decorating tips to make it look professional.
No matter what kind of cake you want to make and no matter what event it’s for, you can pull off a masterpiece. At least, with a little bit of patience and the right tools for the job.
If you have favorite recipes or cake decorating tips, we would love to hear about them in the comment section below!
Featured image via Flickr