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Cake Decorating Ideas and Tips for Home Bakers

Our very best cake decorating ideas and tips, all compiled into a handy and easy-to-read guide. Read on for easy cake decorating tips.

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Make cake decorating easy with our simple to use icing syringe set.

Cake decorating can be a simple way to transform your baked goods, elevating the texture, taste and appearance of your cakes. A simple frosting can add extra sweetness while also providing a delicate and beautiful pattern that is sure to impress your guests, while learning how to pipe flowers from frosting can add extra pizzazz to your cake and is a sure-fire way to crown you star baker amongst your friends and family.

However, cake decorating requires the correct cake decorating tools and a lot of patience. If you are new to baking, you may not achieve the perfect consistency for frosting and your piping work may be wobbly in places. That being said, practising is sure to see you improving after each cake - and soon enough you'll be icing cakes with no issue.

Read on for easy cake decorating tips and ideas that are sure to help you bake deliciously frosted cakes in no time. What's more, if you are completely new to baking, check out our Bakeware Buying Guide , which explains all available bakeware and how to choose the bakeware that???s right for you.

What Cake Decorating Tools Do I Need?

The cake decorating tools you need entirely depends on the type of frosting and design you wish to follow. However, for buttercream or whipped cream frosting, the following cake decorating supplies are ideal when applying the frosting to the cake.

Serrated Bread Knife (or Cake Knife)

Serrated knives are best when cutting through foods that may have a crusty exterior and a soft centre as the little serrated notches allow you to easily slice through without you having to apply too much pressure that may squish or tear your bread, cakes, or pastries like croissants.

Because of a bread knife's gentler approach, you can easily use bread knives to shape and trim the edges of your cake, so you can achieve your desired shape without the risk of a mishap happening. We have a variety of bread knives, all of which are perfect for slicing through cakes, bread, and baked goods.

Palette Knife

Also known as a frosting spatula, the palette knife is considered a baking essential when it comes to cake decorating. Palette knives are ideal for spreading icing onto the flat surfaces of your cakes (top and sides), while also applying a consistent layer of frosting. You can also use a palette knife to trim frosting on the sides of cakes, so you can achieve a neat, finished product.

TIP: While palette knives are primarily used for spreading frosting onto cakes, you can also use your palette knife to lift and move baked goods. If you've baked cookies, biscuits or pastries and they're too hot or delicate to move by hand, slide your palette knife underneath the base of your baked goods and carefully move them.

Piping Bag and Nozzles (or Icing Syringe)

Piping bags can seem complicated to use at first, but once you've practised a few times, your piping bag will soon become your best friend when baking. When it comes to cake decoration, piping bags and piping nozzles are a quick and effective way to pipe frosting onto your cake - use the piping bag to pipe the entire cake before using a palette knife to spread for a smoother finish, or you can use specific nozzles to pipe decorations such as flowers.

We also offer an icing syringe set, which is similar to a piping bag. Featuring the standard nozzles that help you pipe traditional designs, our icing syringe set is perfect for seasoned bakers and beginners.

You might need these:

ProCook Fondant Number Cutters 9 PieceTypical Price £7Only £4.99Shop Now
ProCook Piping Bag Set 8 NozzlesTypical Price £5Only £3.50Shop Now
ProCook Palette Knife NylonTypical Price £12Only £7Shop Now
ProCook Cookie Stamp Set 3 PieceTypical Price £9Only £6Shop Now

The frosting depends on the type of cake you're baking. After all, your frosting needs to complement your sponge. A simple vanilla sponge can be paired with several frosting flavours - from chocolate to strawberry, to buttercream - whereas a chocolate cake will have more limited flavour pairings.

Knowing how to create a simple buttercream recipe can be handy, as you can easily adapt the base recipe by adding cocoa powder and melted chocolate for a chocolate buttercream icing or orange zest and orange juice for an orange flavoured buttercream icing.

Simple Buttercream Recipe

Ingredients

  • 140g of softened butter
  • 280g of icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp of milk 
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

TIP: For a vegan buttercream icing, swap out butter made from dairy with any vegan spread. Replace the milk with a milk alternative such as soy, oat, or nut milk. For a hint of coconut, you could also use coconut milk.

Method

  • Add the softened butter into a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar and stir until the mixture becomes smooth once again. 
  • Add the rest of the icing sugar as well as the milk and vanilla extract. Beat the mixture until creamy or smooth. If the mixture becomes too thick, add more milk, or if it's too runny, add a small amount of icing sugar until your desired consistency is achieved.

TIP: If your icing sugar is lumpy, sieve the icing sugar to remove any clumps. Lumps will not dissolve in buttercream icing, so be sure to remove these ahead of time for a smoother texture and greater mouthfeel.

Which Cream is Best for Cake Decorating?

Each icing type has its own unique qualities. Buttercream icing is softer and more spreadable than most icing, making it ideal for filling the inside of cakes as well as coating them for decoration. Buttercream is also easy to adapt for different flavours. Royal icing, on the other hand, hardens and is quite firm.

Buttercream icing is best used when decorating cakes due to its flavourful and malleable nature, whereas royal icing suits biscuits better.

1. Learn How to Make Icing for Cake Decorating

Shop Mixing Bowls Shop Kitchen Scales Shop Baking Utensils

2. Allow Your Cakes Time to Cool Before Icing

If your cake is too warm, your icing will melt and slide off the edges. Always allow time for your cake to cool before icing, as this will make decorating easier and much neater.

Can I Freeze My Cakes?

If you bake your cakes in advance, you can freeze them for up to a week. Not only does this split the baking and cake decorating stages in two, making it much more manageable, but freezing them can also make frosting much easier. Frozen cakes do not crumble as much when frosting them, plus it becomes much easier to apply a crumb coating.

TIP: Always wrap your cakes before placing them in the freezer.

3. Shape and Level Your Cakes

Not only does shaping and levelling your cakes make them much more appealing by providing you with a smoother base to work with when applying icing, but it can also reduce wobbling cake stacks. Use your serrated bread knife to cut off the top of your cake if it has a dome-like structure. Use a sawing motion when cutting, and avoid pushing the blade through the cake as this could squish or disfigure the cake.

4. Apply a Crumb Coating

Once your cakes are levelled and shaped, it's time to start the frosting process. Before you apply the frosting, it's important to add a crumb coat, which is simply a light coat of frosting that acts as a seal - it stops crumbs from breaking away and appearing in the main frosting that is being used as cake decoration.

Once you've applied the crumb coat, place the cake in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for 15 or so minutes. Chilling helps the crumb coat set and makes applying the final coat of frosting much easier.

5. How to Frost a Cake

Once the cake is shaped, stacked, and the crumb coat is applied, it's time to frost your cake. Place a large amount of buttercream on the top of the cake and use a spatula or palette knife to smooth out the frosting by pushing it outwards and towards the edge of the cake.

Once the top of the cake has been frosted, it's time to work on the sides. Apply small amounts of buttercream to the sides of the cake so it is more manageable to work with - rather than trying to achieve a smooth texture, aim at applying an even coat of buttercream and then work at smoothing it out. Add more buttercream when needed, although avoid overloading the cake as this can become more difficult to work with and achieve a smooth appearance.

Overworking buttercream can cause friction, and if you're baking on a hot and humid day, you may need to take breaks so you can chill your cake for a few minutes. Warmth from your hands while piping can also cause the buttercream to melt, so keep your hands as cool as possible, or have two piping bags which you can swap between - one piping bag should be chilled in the refrigerator while the other is being worked with.

TIP: For an even smoother finish, take your metal palette knife or spatula and run it under hot water, dry it off, and use the heat to gently warm the buttercream and smooth it for a cleaner finish.

6. Practice Piping

There are many ways to decorate your cake. You could leave your cake with a simple buttercream layer, or you could pipe flowers and borders around the edges and sides of your cake. Before you pick up your piping kit and nozzle set, you should take the time to learn which nozzles achieve which shapes. For instance, a plain round nozzle tip is perfect for lettering and simple blobs, whereas a leaf tip is great for adding leafy decoration.

TIP: Even the most experienced bakers may want to warm up by practising their piping designs beforehand. Practice on a sheet of wax paper instead of the cake, and once you are happy, try and mimic the design on the cake. You may also be able to transfer any designs you've piped onto the wax paper to your cake, although you shouldn't rely on this method.

7. Experiment with Cake Decoration Ideas

Once you've got your base of buttercream, feel free to experiment with cake decorating ideas. Add extra pizzazz by drizzling a chocolate glaze that pleasingly runs down the cake???s sides or piling fresh fruit on the top. The more you practice, the more fluid your piping and decoration skills will become.

The decoration will depend on the type of cake you're baking. For instance, a Victoria sponge  commonly involves a naked sponge with jam and piped buttercream sandwiched between two layers of cake. You can apply the jam by spoon or palette knife, smoothening it out while using a piping bag to beautifully pipe the icing. Place fresh strawberries and dust icing sugar on the top for a delicious and traditional Victoria sponge.

Interested in baking a Victoria sponge by scratch? Not only do we offer a preserving pan and preserving jars that are superb for making homemade jam, but we also have a guide to help you make strawberry jam within the comfort of your own home.

How to Make Jam and Chutney

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