I've been researching tips for cake decorating like mad, because I just bought an amazing cake decorating kit. I love baking pastries, from cupcakes and cakes to pies, custards, and crèmes brûlées … but I suck at decorating. It's not that I don't have great ideas, I just get in trouble with the execution, hence the mad dash for cake decorating tips. These aren't techniques, but keep an eye out for those – I plan to share them as I learn them! However, before you ever start learning how to pipe realistic flowers or roll and shape fondant, you have to know how to get there. So, if you want to get into decorating cakes but you need a little help, just keep reading – and please add your own tips, too!
1. Measure Precisely
Like say, baking is extremely precise. Flour, butter, sugar – you have to add exact amounts, and woe to your pastries if you add too much. The best tips for cake decorating echo this hard, fast rule. When you're making your own butter cream or fondant, you absolutely have to measure carefully. Too much powdered sugar, for instance, and your frosting won't be pliant enough; too little, it's not stiff enough for decorating. Too much butter, the taste is off; too little, it doesn't set properly. You also have to be careful when you're adding extras, but I'll get to that part in a minute!
2. Better Butter
It's always best to use fresh ingredients, especially when you're baking. However, since that's frequently something we do on the fly, it can definitely be hard to make sure everything's fresh. I mean, I confess to using really old flour in some recipes, because it's there and I want to finish it. Just try to have fresh butter whenever possible, whatever kind you use. It doesn't hurt to have fresh eggs either, but since they go bad fairly quickly, the eggs you have in your fridge are bound to be pretty fresh!
3. Stiff Sugar
When you want decorating frosting, stiffer is better. Trust me, this is a tip for cake decorating that makes all the difference. The frosting you use on the body of the cake, between the layers, and/or under the fondant can be softer, but to pipe, make rosettes, and other decorations, your icing needs to be stiff. Actually, it needs to strike a balance, but stiffer is still better because it holds it shape and won't melt or sag.
4. Beating Your Buttercream
Actually, a lot of the best tips for cake decorating involves the creation of your frosting. Honestly, when you're baking, beating anything requires care. Too much air in anything that delicate ruins the entire recipe. When you're making buttercream, keep your mixer on its lower settings, and add your ingredients a little at a time – especially when you're adding more sugar. Don't go too fast, you might get too much!
5. The Right Tools
This is one of my favorite cake decorating tips because I love the tools you use when making cakes. I love every one of them. You don't necessarily have to go my route and buy an entire tackle box full of decorating accoutrements, but you should have a wide array. Remember, this includes items like a good mixer, a paddle and a whisker, good mixing bowls, spatulas, and things of that nature.
6. Even Cakes
I've yet to ever bake a cake that comes out with a nice, even top (and if anyone can tell me how, I'm a very willing student!). Also, I'm getting to that stage where I want to experiment with carving and creating shapes. A simple cake cutter – essentially a wire, with helpful handles at either end – makes a world of difference. You can also use knives to slice the top and carve out shapes, but I recommend lots of practice!
7. You Spin Me Right round
Have trouble frosting evenly? Getting that first layer on as clean as possible and making the second layer smooth and even are difficult takes. One of the most essential tips for cake decorating is having a cake stand – but not just any cake stand. Get one that spins so you won't be icing in awkward positions. It's much easier to make mistakes when you're trying to front from one direction or not using something that turns smoothly.
8. Adorable Additions
Finally, never be afraid to experiment! Add things – chocolate chips or carrot shavings or espresso grinds. Play with your cake mix and your frosting! Add coloring to your icing, try playing with new stencils, put together different flavors. Have fun! When you're into what you're doing, you'll automatically get better at cake decorating.
Fundamental tips for cake decorating like these seem simple and self explanatory sometimes, but that's the point. You have to know where to begin, precisely. Baking is all about precision, after all, and that's especially true with decorating. Whether you're doing it with frosting or fondant, your methods have to be completely correct and you have to use the right equipment. What tips help you when you're decorating cakes? Help out your fellow foodies!