Cake Decorating

cake-decorating-101We have all been to those parties where the hostess whips out a perfectly sculpted hibiscus flower in brilliant pink made entirely of sponge and sugar as if she just whisked it up 20 minutes before the guests arrived.

It looks too good to eat…

Actually, is it even a cake or is it possibly actually a giant hibiscus flower pretending to be a cake? You leave the party smarting with envy and toting a handmade favors box that perfectly matches and compliments the slice of flawless and (completely edible) cake held within.

Cake decorating is for the really talented, right? All of that sugar sculpting and slaving is reserved only for the seriously practiced and endlessly creative?


Anyone can become a cake decorating extraordinaire – it really is THAT easy. All you need are a few tools, a bit of know-how, some tricks of the trade and a mixing bowl full of confidence!

The Cake Decorating Tools of the Pros

Don’t kid yourself for a second that those Stepford Wife cake decorators mold those little sugar plum fairies with their bare hands. No way – those ladies call in the heavy duty cake decorating artillery. Here’s a list for you so that you can stock up on your own:

  • Frosting spatula – nope your old plastic variety for whacking some butter cream on the tea cake will not do here. Treat yourself to the real McCoy. They are used for mixing sugar icing colors in the most part.
  • Toothpicks – perfect for applying itsy-bitsy bits of coloring (and chewing on while you’re concentrating – like The Godfather)
  • Icing bags, and ties and even an icing bag holder will do nicely – yes there really IS a such thing.
  • Icing tips – buy a whole kit, look out for varying sizes of – round tips, star tips, shell tips, leaf tips, v-shaped tips, rose tips, basket weave tips, drop flower tips and any other specialty tip you can find!

Design The Cake Decoration

Cake decorators are not necessarily bakers – don’t be fooled!
If you’re partial to baking you can put together a nice fruit cake or mud cake, but don’t bother making a “light as air” sponge for your trials.
To start with use durable and tough-shelled cakes that can withstand a little prodding and poking.
If you don’t want to slave over the oven, buy your cakes ready-made and wonderful from the store.

Dream the Theme

Before you begin to attack your cake with decorating gusto, decide upon a theme.
What are you trying to create?
A summer rose?
A simple cake with a color theme and some pretty decorations atop?

Design your Decorations First

A true cake decorator has a plan.
A theme is chosen
The requirements are plotted.
The decorations are always made first.

The sugar flowers or shapes will be the focal point of your cake masterpiece, and will take up the most time.

Here are some steps to creating your perfect cake decorations from sugar icing!

Step 1

Mix up your sugar icing according to the recipe in a strict manner – close enough is not good enough here. You may need gum paste or other pliable substances – you can even buy sugar icing mixture pre-made in the store. A great idea!

Step 2

Choose the icing bag tip in the shape you need. Use each tip depending on what you’re trying to create:

  • Round for writing
  • Star for zigzags, shells, rosettes and stars of course
  • Petal for flowers and bows
  • Basket weave for gorgeous outlines

Step 3

On greaseproof paper, or foil, shape the decorations using your pre-prepared icing mixture and the correct icing bag tip to suit your shape requirements. Patience is a virtue here. The tips really do make your job easy – choose the tip that corresponds to the shape you’re trying to create. With a bit of practice you cannot go wrong!

Step 4

Once the sugar icing decorations dry, paint or dot any extra details you need on with small brushes or toothpicks – this may be simply some toothpick- sized black dots inside flower petals to depict seeds.

Tackle the Cake

While your delicate decorations (all edible and made of sugar!) are drying, apply your overall icing spread to the cake. You may choose to use any number of coverings including:

  • Butter Cream Icing – easily made at home or bought at the store in a tin. Easily wiped onto the cooled cake with a regular spatula.
  • Fondant – also available for purchase in a pre-made form – this is often also referred to as rolled icing or fondant icing. Fondant is malleable and made of gelatin and glycerine. Fondant can be bought or colored to suit your cake decorating theme. The fondant needs to be rolled out and covered onto the cake like a pie-crust. Trim the excess fondant from the edges so that the cake looks neatly covered with no lumps or bumps.

The Moment of Truth

Arrange your lovingly designed decorations onto your icing or fondant covered cake.

If the icing is made of butter cream the decorations should stick nicely. If the cake is covered in fondant you will need to slightly wet the patch of fondant with cold water wherever you want to apply a decoration. Stick the decoration firmly in place and leave to dry – the ingredients in the fondant can be re-wet and decorations can be re-stuck if need be.


With a little bit of practice and lots of fun, you, your family and your taste buds will enjoy the cake decorating learning process. Be that enviable party host at your next gathering and go all out with some cake decorating genius!

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