Whether sealed with buttercream or finished with chocolate ganache, an exquisitely decorated birthday cake can provide the perfect centrepiece for any special occasion. But what if you’re the one that has to do the decorating? At The Cake Decorating Company, we understand that producing a flawlessly decorated cake can be a daunting task for any amateur baker. That’s why we’ve pulled together our handy cake decorating guide for beginners, to offer the best cake decorating tips and to answer all of those difficult decorating questions, hopefully guaranteeing a flawless finish every time, for even the most amateur of bakers!
Shall I put my cake in the fridge before icing it?
Our first and most important cake decorating tip for beginners is to NEVER ice a warm cake! Before icing, frosting or adding buttercream to any freshly baked cake, it’s important to let it cool otherwise the cake could crumble or fall apart. Removing your cake from the cake tin can help to speed up the cooling process, but it’s important to take great care when doing this, as forcing your cake may cause it to break. Always grease your cake tin before baking, adding greaseproof paper to the tin, for best results. Allow your cake to cool on a wire rack, then put it in the fridge to help speed up the process. Once your cake is fully cooled, use buttercream or frosting at room temperature, as it will be creamier and spread more easily.
How easy is it to decorate a cake at home?
It’s really easy to decorate a cake at home if you have the correct tools in your kitchen to perform the task. As these are easy cake ideas, let’s assume that you’ve baked a round cake and that you’re using buttercream or frosting for the decoration. Here are our favourite tools to guarantee easy cake decorating;
• A rotating cake turntable makes it easier to spread the icing on the cake and to smoothen out the edges with a leveller. Although it’s not essential, it will make any cake decorating task much easier.
• A serrated cake or bread knife is a great addition for splitting cake layers with ease, particularly if you want to fill the middle of your cake with a delicious filling.
• A palette knife makes it easier to spread the icing across your cake without dragging (see the image above)
• A cake smoother or scraper can be used to smooth out your buttercream or make decorative patterns and designs in the buttercream or frosting. Ganache plates are also a handy tool at this stage.
Now you have your tools and your buttercream or frosting at the ready, it’s time to decorate your cake!
Here are our top tips for cake decorating for beginners, from baking to icing!
Baking and decorating all in one go can be quite an arduous task. Bake your cakes ahead of time and freeze them, removing them from the freezer on the day you’re ready to do the icing. Cakes will stay fresh in the freezer for up to a week and will also be much easier to manage, as they are more resistant to crumbling.
A cake turntable is a really handy tool when used for levelling out or decorating your cake. By turning the turntable, you can spread the icing with ease, for a much smoother finish. If you’re splitting your cake into layers, you can also use your turntable when spreading the filling between each of the layers.
The flatter your cake layers, the more sturdy your cake. Prevent any leaning, wobbling or collapse by using your serrated knife to saw off any dome-like bumps from the top of your cake layers. For best results, use a serrated knife with a blade that is longer than the diameter of your cake. Start with the blade at the edge of your cake trying your best to keep it level, then rotate the cake on the turntable and use a sawing motion to remove any lumps and bumps.
Think of a crumb coat as underlay or sealant. Used to seal in any loose crumbs, it’s a light layer of frosting or buttercream that prevents any stray crumbs from ending up in the final coat for a much smoother finish. Apply the crumb boat to the whole cake, spreading a fine layer of frosting throughout and levelling with your palette knife whilst turning the cake turntable. Chill the cake in the fridge for 30 mins to set the crumb boat before you move on to the final layer.
Take your chilled cake and put it on the cake turntable. Apply a mound of frosting to the top layer of your cake whilst spreading it around with your palette knife as you rotate the turntable. Then, move on to the sides, working quickly whilst everything is still cool. Use a cake smoother on its own or with a ganache plate to complete the frosting, and create a really beautiful and smooth finish! Pipe some details in frosting, experiment with marzipan or fondant in cake moulds or use some sprinkles or a cake topper to finish off your cake, for a final, professional touch.
There are lots of cake kits on the market now that offer easy cake ideas that are perfect for cake decorating for beginners. If baking isn't your strength, you could always order a premade cake to take care of the baking part, so all that’s left for you to do is the decoration. With many different pre-made frostings, cake figurines and cake toppers, it’s never been easier to try your hand at cake decorating, for professional, table-centrepiece worthy results.