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Cake Decorating For Beginners

If you’ve got a real chocolate lover in your life, then there’s no better birthday gift to give them than a perfectly decorated chocolate cake. At The Cake Decorating Company, we’ve rounded up the best chocolate birthday cake ideas and pulled them together into this helpful guide so that you can have chocolate-filled success with every bake! Using the simplest of techniques, we want to help even the most amateur of bakers create show-stopping chocolate cakes.

What’s the easiest way to make a chocolate cake?

There are a multitude of chocolate cake ideas that can turn even the simplest of cakes into magnificent birthday centrepieces, but the real key to a successful chocolate cake starts with a good chocolate sponge. In this first step, we’ll give you an easy chocolate cake recipe to master which will become the base of all of our chocolate cake decorating ideas. 

A simple chocolate cake recipe (serves 12-14 people)

Ingredients you'll need;

 

200g golden caster sugar

200g unsalted butter, softened (plus a little extra for greasing)

4 large eggs

200g self-raising flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp milk

 

Methods;

 

Preheat your oven to 190C/Gas 5/170C fan. 

 You’ll need two 20cm (8in) round baking tins for the cake. Butter the base and sides of each tin and line the bases with baking paper.

Beat together the golden caster sugar, softened butter, eggs, self-raising flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, vanilla extract and milk with a pinch of salt until the mixture goes pale and smooth.

Share the mixture between the two greased cake tins.

Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through (use a skewer to check this).

Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool through.

Once your cakes are thoroughly cooled, you’re now ready to decorate! For a larger cake or more tiers, simply double the recipe!

 

How can I decorate my birthday cake with chocolate?

Now you’ve achieved the perfect sponge, decorating your cake should be a breeze! Here are some of our favourite chocolate cake ideas with easy decorating instructions so you can make perfect show-stopping chocolate birthday cakes, time after time. All of our ideas will work perfectly with your sponge cake, but there’s nothing to stop you from decorating other cakes in this way too!

1. Chocolate Ganache cake 

Using chocolate ganache is a great way to make a cake look flawless, without needing to be a decorating expert.  We’ll keep all of our steps super simple here, but we’ve got lots of information about using ganache with ganache plates if you feel like you need more help. Let’s assume for this cake, that you’ve already made a basic buttercream mixture for the centre of your pre-baked chocolate sponges and that you’ve sandwiched them together, ready to start the decorating process.

Things you’ll need:

• Your chocolate sponge cake sandwiched together with buttercream and finished with a crumb coat (to seal in any crumbs).

• A cake turntable 

• Ganache plates and smoother (if you’ve decided to use them)

• A palette knife

• Chocolate ganache 

 Method for making ganache and applying to cake:

Although you can buy pre-made chocolate ganaches, making your own is super-easy too. Good quality chocolate gives the best results, but take not to overheat it, as this can cause the chocolate to seize. 

 Ingredients:

• 225g plain chocolate

• 100g butter

• 142ml double cream

 Method:

1. Break the chocolate up and place it in a bowl with your butter.

2. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate and butter has melted. Keep stirring throughout the process until smooth.

3. When everything is melted, remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the cream until the mixture is smooth, taking care not to let the cream curdle.

4. Allow to cool until the mix reaches the perfect consistency for covering your cake.

5. Take your cake on its turntable and start by applying ganache to the top (if you’re using ganache plates apply one to the bottom of the cake, then once the top has its ganache applied, one to the top), spreading the ganache evenly with a palette knife. Spread and smooth with your smoother.

6. Allow the ganache to run over to the sides of the cake, then spread over the sides too.

7. Once the ganache is spread evenly, using the ganache plates as a guide, take your smoother and run it around the cake to smooth out any untidy lumps

8. Remove the ganache plate from the top and decorate as desired.

 

To create a chocolate drip cake, check out our guide to “5 simple birthday cake ideas” for drip cake inspiration.

 

2. Using chocolate and sweets as decorations

 

Leading straight on from our chocolate ganache cake, it’s really easy to create a real wow-factor chocolate birthday cake by finishing off your design with some carefully placed chocolate biscuits and sweets. If you don’t have time to finish your cake with ganache, simply apply some buttercream or frosting to the outside of your cake.

 

Then, using chocolate fingers, Smarties or any other decorative sweets of your choice, stick the sweets to the buttercream for a bold and bright finish that’s really simple to create, but super-professional in effect!

3. Chocolate buttercream cake

Chocolate buttercream cake looks amazing but doesn’t require a super-polished finish. Using your basic buttercream recipe, or some premade chocolate frosting, it’s an easy chocolate birthday cake idea that packs a punch!

Things you’ll need:

• Chocolate buttercream

• A piping bag or palette knife 

• A cake smoother and ganache plates (for a smoother finish)

• Your pre-baked chocolate sponge and cake turntable

 

Method:

1. Take your buttercream and use a palette knife to spread it across the top of your cake.

2. If you’re wanting to achieve a smooth finish, follow the same steps for applying ganache to your cake (see “1. Chocolate Ganache Cake”) using a cake smoother and ganache plates. You may also want to apply a crumb coat before doing this.

3. For a thicker, more swirled finish, once you’ve applied a thin layer of buttercream to your cake using your palette knife, add some buttercream to your piping bag and pipe swirls of buttercream onto your cake, starting at the top and working down the sides. 

4. Finish by adding some chocolates, sweets or a topper to your cake, for a more polished look.

 

4. Chocolate Cupcakes

If you’re not confident enough to make a large birthday cake, why not use the same chocolate sponge recipe and try your hand at creating a batch of birthday cupcakes? Great for birthday parties, or taking into the office for a colleagues birthday, they may be small, but their impact will be just as mighty. 

Here’s what you’ll need;

• The same chocolate sponge cake recipe and ingredients 

 • Cupcake cases 

• Your basic buttercream recipe and piping bag (or premixed chocolate frosting)

• Sweets or sprinkles of your choice for decoration

 

Method:

1. Make your chocolate sponge mix (as before) and split it between your cupcake cases. Reduce your cooking time to 10 minutes and check cakes with a skewer to make sure they’re cooked through.

2. Once cooked, leave cupcakes to cool on a wire rack.

3. Once cool, either using a piping bag and buttercream, or your premade chocolate frosting to pipe a generous swirl onto each of your cupcakes.

4. Decorate with sprinkles of your choice for a wow-factor finish!

 
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