How to Decorate a Cake — Ideas for Beginners

Don’t know where to start when it comes to cake decorating? Let us help you out! Today, we are going to explore some beginner tips and tricks to introduce you to the world of cake decorating. The world is far and vast, with endless possibilities. But, of course, like anything, we have to start somewhere. We previously outlined what tools you are going to need to get started, and if you missed that blog, you can check it out here. Needless to say, starting with the right tools is the most important part of how to decorate a cake. When you see intricate cakes done by both professional and home bakers, it generally is because they have spared no expense when it comes to cake decorating and measuring tools

Being a beginner does not mean you have to invest hundreds of dollars into decorating, but you will need to start with a few essentials. Today, we are going to focus on what you can actually do with those cake decorating tools

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Now for both cookie and cake decorators alike, the lazy Susan or cake turntable is key. We previously highlighted that this is of utmost importance because it allows you to get smooth transitions across your cake. It allows you to move seamlessly and finish your cake with a fine hand. It makes things move faster and more efficiently. Second to this is the spatula, which is going to be used to smooth your buttercream across your cakes. Now a lot of cake decorators use fondant, but we are still using icing to “glue” the fondant to your cake. It is important that this is smooth so your fondant does not become bumpy. 

If you so chose to work with fondant, it is a great idea to have an awl, or air release tool, at hand. The reason that bakers have this is to have a fine point to release entrapped air bubbles under the fondant, without damaging the cake. The fondant or gum paste tends to self-heal. But a cake full of bubbles will not look professional or be aesthetically appealing. Excel Blades has an extremely fine point tweezer, with a .030” point, to achieve maximum effectiveness. It is also retractable to ensure safety, which is always important. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but this awl can also be used in the flooding technique for decorating cookies and other elements. Flooding is a technique that you use to create a smooth finish on a cookie or design elements. This is used with royal icing, which is thin and malleable. 

Another great way to make your cake stand out is by different embellishment elements. Now, there are so many things you can do with a simple pipe bag and tip, but it’s really those added elements that stand out. You can create other pieces of decoration with fondant and gum paste. It is always handy to have a knife and tweezers for this part. 

cutting fondant around cake

If you are interested in adding some sparkle, candy pearls, rhinestones or edible flowers, a pair of stainless steel tweezers is necessary. Excel Blades offers a number of different tweezers that can be used for cake decorating. Additionally, a craft knife is a must-have. This is going to help you cut up design elements. A kitchen knife will not work in these situations because, especially for the design elements, you have to be able to be precise, whereas a kitchen knife provides a “rough” cut. There are endless amounts of elements you can make including shapes, characters, logos, letters and more. Because these details take a long time to create, you are going to want a comfortable handle, like the Fit Grip Knife. Not only does this knife come with a rubberized handle, but it also has an ergonomic handle which allows you to have better grip for longer. Remember, you always want to use stainless steel when working with food because it is less susceptible to rusting and is easier to clean. Excel Blades offers the #11 blade in stainless steel

Another important tip for starting cake decorating is making sure your icing is stiff enough. In order to get those 3-D elements that you see in the stores, you really have to add a lot of powdered sugar into your mix. This offers up those gorgeous pop-out elements. We especially love making different color icing to make an array of elements like flowers, initials or silly characters. A special tip from the professionals when adding design patterns is to use an embossing tool and mark off where the design will lay and how it will look before squeezing that bag. You will be tempted to squeeze your icing right onto the cake, but trust us, it only comes out well with practice! 

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tracing wheel embossing tools

Spending a lot of money on your new cake decorating hobby is not necessary. With just a few essential tools, you're in for a ton of fun! Practice makes perfect with any hobby, although cake decorating comes with a bonus reward — all those sweet treats at the end of a practice project. Now that you know how to decorate a cake, it’s time to get started!