Do you want to create an amazing birthday cake? Cake decorating is much easier than it may seem at first. Using a bit of buttercream, cake, and creativity, you can make some very beautiful creations. With fondant, you can make even more artistic, sculpted designs. Use this guide and the accompanying resources to wow your guests with a beautiful cake at your next party.
By far, the most popular icing used to decorate cakes is buttercream frosting, which is often composed of confectioners’ sugar, cream, and butter (or shortening). Buttercream is a smooth frosting, which hardens only a bit when it dries. To put icing on, you’ll want an angled spatula or frosting spatula. Getting one smooth surface with no crumbs takes time and quite a bit of practice. Sometimes, cake decorators will first put on a thin “crumb coat,” let it dry, and then put another layer on top to create a smooth finish.
Once your cake is covered, there are a variety of ways that it can be decorated. The simpler methods include just using a fork or spoon to create designs, or simply topping the cake with fruits, candies, sprinkles, or sugars. To step up your game, you’ll want to invest in pastry bags, cake tips, and couplers. Using these tools, along with yet more buttercream frosting, you can create borders, dots, flowers, or even learn to write on the cake.
If you want a stiffer, harder frosting that can be formed and molded to create cool shapes worthy of a show on the Food Network, you may want to consider learning how to use fondant icing. Fondant is often made up of some form of gelatin or marshmallows. It can also be bought off of the shelf, though this is a less healthy option since this version usually includes a great deal of hydrogenated oil. The fondant is formed into a ball and rolled out like a pie crust, and then carefully folded over an already-frosted cake. In order to roll it properly, a more experienced baker will require a roller, some confectioners’ sugar, and a plastic tool to eliminate air bubbles.
Fondant can be used to imitate fabric on a wedding cake or make a surface look smooth and uniform. Pieces of fondant can be cut out and used to create polka dots, borders, and extra decorations. Fondant molds can be pressed into the fondant to create even more pretty shapes. Gum paste is a harder version of fondant, and used for sculpting unique figures such as animal or superheroes.
There are several cons to using fondant, however. The taste is not as appealing as buttercream, cream cheese, or other frosting options. Fondant is also more difficult to work with and is usually recommended for more experienced cake decorators trying to create something new and fun.
More Cake Decorating Ideas:
- Step-by-Step Guide to Frosting and Decorating a Birthday Cake – Here, you can find Martha Stewart’s guide to creating a beautiful cake with icing, from creating a smooth frosting surface to drawing with chocolate.
- How to Decorate a Cake: Quick Tips – If you don’t want to get started with piping, this articles shows some pretty and neat-looking designs that you can make with just a spoon or fork.
- Duff Goldman’s Secrets to the Perfect Layer Cake – In this video, famed cake creator Duff Goldman gives his tips on creating the perfect layer cake.
- Cake Decorating Tools – Find a list of tools you’ll need to decorate your cake here.
- Buttercream Icing Recipe – Create buttercream icing when you want to cover a simpler cake and fill your piping bag.
- How to Decorate a Cake with Frosting – This is a helpful video with important tips for how to pipe icing.
- Piping Guide – This video gives in-depth instructions on how to pipe frosting.
- How to Write on a Cake – In this video, you can get helpful tips on how to carefully write “Happy Birthday” with frosting on a cake.
- Fun with Frostings: Make Frosting Flowers (PDF) – You can make easy borders, leaves, and flowers using these piping tips.
- Cake Decorating (PDF) – This is a comprehensive resource that includes the tools, recipe, and techniques you’ll need to ice your cake.
- The Facts about Fondant – A culinary arts student talks about the pros and cons of using fondant.
- Basic Fondant Recipe – Here, you can find a simple recipe for fondant.
- More Fondant Recipes – Create fondant when you want a firmer frosting and more complicated decorations.
- Tips for Decorating with Fondant – These are essential tips for how to roll out and apply sticky fondant.
- How to Decorate a Cake with Fondant – Watch this video and follow along to both cover a cake and create simple shapes.
- A Third Option: Royal Icing – Royal icing is a harder, stiffer icing that’s often used for cookies. It can be used in combination with other frosting. It’s great when you plan to create more details and decorations. These creations will often need to sit overnight.
- A Fourth Option: Meringue Frosting – Here, you can instructions on a more high-tech tactic: pulling and torching meringue frosting on a cake, which is a light, fluffy frosting option.
- A Fifth Option: Cream Cheese Frosting – Cream cheese is a much denser and delicious frosting that goes great with carrot cake or spice cakes.
- A Cute Cake Idea: Silly Modern Art Cake – Beginners can make a mess on purpose with this easy cake.
- A Cute Cake Idea: Fairy Garden Cake – More practiced cake decorators can use wafers to create a fairy path to the cute house on top of the cake.
- A Cute Cake Idea: Candy Cake – Experts can use fondant to create a cute candy cake.