You’re now thinking about decorating a cake. You might have done it before. You’re not an expert in either case. Are you feeling about right? Great! You have come to the right spot. This simple guide focuses on six tips for decorating a cake at home.
This is a beginner’s guide. We won’t discuss fondant icing as it is too complicated for a beginner cake decorator. Instead, we will focus on buttercream.
Note: These techniques work for and other whipped frostings.
You’ll need the following tools:
- Rotating cake turning table: Although not essential, it will simplify your job.
- Bread knife or serrated cake: To level and split layers.
- Offset palette knife: To apply frosting without having to drag your fingers.
- Pastry bag with Tips: Ziploc bags are also an option, but they don’t work nearly as well.
- Cake smoother/scraper: To smoothen frosting and make decorative markings or patterns.
1. Freeze Your Cakes
First, let’s be clear. Decorating a cake is a lot of work. It’s best to break it down into smaller tasks. You could bake the cake on Monday, freeze it and then decorate it Friday.
It’s easier to frost cakes by baking them ahead of time and freezing them. Frosted cakes freeze well and don’t crack as easily.
Frozen cakes make it easier to level your cakes. Frozen cakes can be kept in the freezer for up to seven days. You can make buttercream ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for up to one week.
2. Use a Cake Turntable
The cake turning table is a rotating platter you can use to turn the cake and level it. It is much more convenient to turn the cake than to have it rolled around.
Torting, also known as splitting cakes, is more of an intermediate task. This would be the case if you were filling in layers. Once you are ready to do that, your turntable will be used.
3. Level Your Cakes
It is crucial to level your cakes because they will be stacked unevenly. Your serrated knife is here to help. While serrated cake knives are great, any serrated bread knife can work. Make sure the knife blade is at least twice the length of the cake.
You want to remove any dome-like toppings from the cake and make it flat. The blade should be held at the edge. Rotate the cake on the turntable using a sawing motion, not pushing it through the cake. The bottoms are not important – they should be straight from the bottoms.
You can actually flip your cakes upside down. However, you should still level the cakes, so they don’t wobble. Don’t forget the trimmings!
4. Use a Crumb coat
Next, frost the cake. This involves applying a crumb coating. The crumb coat is an initial light layer of frosting that seals in and suspends any crumbs. This ensures that you don’t see any crumbs when you apply the final coat.
If you are making layer cakes, place the bottom layer on your turntable. Spread a layer of frosting on the bottom layer and then place the top layer (bottom side up) on top.
Apply the crumb coating to the entire cake and then let it cool for between 15-30 minutes. This will allow the crumb coating to set completely before you apply the frosting.
Lay the layers on the turntable. Spread a layer of frosting onto the top. Rotate the cake by using your palette knife. Next, work on the sides. You should work quickly to ensure that everything stays cool. This may not be possible if you are still learning. It might be a good idea to take a break while you do the top and sides. Then, put the cake back in the refrigerator.
A cake smoother, also known as a cake scraper or decorating knife, is a flat metal piece with one flat edge (and one serrated edge). A smoother cake will give you a more precise finish than a palette knife, although a palette knife can still do the job. You can smoothen the edges by running the edge across the sides of your cake and rotating it in the other direction.
6. Practice piping
It takes practice to make decorative flowers or other shapes with a pipet with different tips. The same applies to writing with royal frosting. Although there is no substitute for a real cake decorating experience, a sheet made of wax paper can be a great way of practicing.
Sometimes, small individual flowers can be transferred from wax paper onto the cake. However, this will not work for writing or edging. It’s still a great way to practice until your skills improve.