Here’s how to decorate a cake like a Pro

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Once you learn how to decorate a cake, you’ll be whipping up beautiful, celebration-worthy cakes in no time. We’ll show you tips for filling a piping bag, choosing the right frosting, making trendy nude cakes and more.

For special occasions, there is no better dessert than a delicious and perfectly decorated cake. While many of us like to visit our favorite bakery for an elegant treatment, it is absolutely possible to achieve amazing results at home. Everything you need to learn how to decorate a cake it’s just a few basic tools (we bet you already have most of them in your kitchen) and a little patience.

Now, make it your go-to layer cakeand let’s go to the frosting.

Cake decorating ideas

Easy turbines

Sauerkraut cake

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Think you need to get out your piping bag for an impressive cake? Think again! With just the back of a spoon, you can give your cake a gorgeous swirl texture.

To do this, alone layer on your frosting on the outside and top of your cake. Then, with the back of a spoon, make small swirls until the whole cake is covered with a fun texture.

Piping

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Want to be really creative? Grab a piping bag and some frosting tips. Each piping tip gives you a different effect so you can create all kinds of decorative techniques.

Use different tips to create flowers, leaves, stars, basket patterns and other designs. You can decorate a whole cake in this way or use piping motifs as an accent.

Drip Cakes

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Courtesy Trina Harris

There is something about imperfect perfect endings that we just long for. Maybe that’s why we love drip cakes so much! This decorating technique is surprisingly simple.

To start, frost your cake and give it a smooth finish with a bench scraper (it’s a cake decorator’s secret weapon). So what make a ganache with chocolate or chips. U confetti cake above uses potato chips, heavy cream and a touch of food coloring.

When the ganache has cooled a little, spoon it over the top of your cake. Using the back of your spoon, push the ganache to the edges of the cake and watch it slowly drip down the sides to form attempted chocolate drops.

Naked cakes

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If you want to take the fashionable route when decorating a cake, try making one naked cake. Bare meals are always used frosting, but it is applied thinly to let the layers of the cake look. These cakes give you a little preview of what’s inside.

To make a bare cake, layer your cake as you normally would with layers of frosting in between. When it comes to the outer coating of frosting, apply thinly and then use a bench scraper to remove any extra frosting. Essentially, you are just crumbs covering the sides of the cake. It really is that simple!

While this type of cake decoration is quite minimal, don’t forget to give your cake a little extra finish on top, so it looks complete. Fruit, crushed candies or sprinkles can give the final touch. Use this recipe for chocolate malt cake as an inspiration.

Piped Writing and Drawings

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Part of the appeal of bakery-bought pastries is the perfect penmanship that those pastry decorators have. But it’s not really hard to replicate at home. All you need is a piping bag, a fine piping tip, a toothpick and some patience.

To begin, write or print the message or reason you want to be presented on the top of your cake. If you are very new to piping, do a test run on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper to get used to the way the frosting flows from the piping bag.

After a little practice, trace the design onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper and place it on your cake. With a toothpick or a sharp skewer, poke the design until you have a dot to dot of your message. Carefully remove the paper and connect the dots with your piped frosting. That’s all it takes write on a cake! And once you have a few cakes under your belt, you can do this freehand.

Sprinkles and more

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For celebration meals, you can’t go wrong sprinkles and other colorful toppings. You can decorate your favorite bread with some sprinkles and edible decorations or combine it with other decorating techniques. Beyond sprinkles, do not forget the tempting qualities of toasted walnuts, shredded coconut, shredded candy and cookie crumbles. Use any or all of them to add a little extra sparkle to your cakes.

Cake decorating tools

How

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To create beautiful cakes, there are a few decorating tools you’ll want to have in your kitchen. Don’t forget this list – most items cost $15 or less to create nice pastries even with a budget. According to our Test Kitchen, these tools are indispensable:

  • Offset spatula: These spatulas are kitchen MVPs, especially when it comes to cake decorating. Large offset spatulas are perfect for adding even amounts of frosting between each cake layer. Smaller offset spatulas can help achieve smooth finishes and elegant swirls on the outside of your cake.
  • Bench scraper: To give the outside of your cake a smooth finish, you’ll want a bench scraper. This gadget helps to smooth out any imperfections. If you prefer a bit of texture, try these cake combs.
  • Bags and tips: For fancy finishes, you’ll want to invest in piping bags and a few piping tips. Use these to write on cakes, make flowers and other decorative elements.
  • Turntable for cakes: While you can decorate your cake right on a serving plate, the work goes a little faster with a turntable. This rotating table allows you to rotate the cake as you frost so that your frosting is even and perfectly turned.

Check out more cake decorating tools

Tips for how to decorate a cake

Choose the Right Frosting

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Not all frostings are suitable for filling and topping cakes, but the good news is that there are still many delicious options. Butter creams of all kinds (Italian butter cream, French butter cream, German buttercream, American Buttercream and flavored butter creams) works well for decoration. You can also use it cream cheese and ermine glaze. Essentially, you want a thicker frosting that can hold up under the weight of the cake layers and still stick to the sides.

In general, when it comes to decorating, you want to avoid whipped cream frosting and very thin frostings.

How to fill a pastry bag

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Yes, a zip top bag will do in a pinch, but if you’re serious about cake decorating, you’ll really want pastry bags—both the used kind and reusable pastry bags.

To use a pastry bag, start by snipping off the tip. Then insert the tip of your choice inside and make sure that it is properly pressed into the bottom. Place the bag in a tall glass and fold the ends over the lip of the glass. Scoop up the homemade frosting with a spatula and press it into the bottom of the piping bag.

Once filled, squeeze the frosting into the bag and twist the top (you only want the frosting to come out of the tip, no the rear end). After your bag is prepared, you can experiment with pressure and piping techniques on a piece of wax paper or a plate before moving on to your cake.

How to level Cakes

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When making layer cakes, it is important that each layer is level and flat so that they are easy to stack. To create even layers of cake you can try two different techniques (or a combination of both):

  • Cake strips: You can take measurements before your cake goes into the oven for even layers. All you need is cake strips. Dip these strips in water and wrap them around your cake pans before going into the oven. The moist strips help the cake to cook more evenly, leading to level cakes.
  • Serrated knife: After your cake is baked and cooled, use a serrated knife to cut the domed top of your cake. Work slowly and go down to the level of the eyes with the cake. This will help you make an even cut.

Chill the Cake Layers

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Cold meals are easier to frost. If you have time, put your cake layers in the freezer to firm up – 30 minutes should do the trick. Once cold, stack and frost as normal. The cake will be sturdier and the cold will help contain some of the crumbs.

And whatever you do, never, ever frost a warm cake – the frosting will melt right away.

How to crumb coat a cake

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Strange as it sounds, the crumb coat is to prevent a mess, not make one. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting applied to the outside of a cake to help contain the crumbs that the cake may spread. This foundation layer means that any decoration you apply on top will be neater and cleaner.

To crumb coat a cake, Use an offset spatula and apply the ice cream, and spread it as thinly as possible. Make sure you get the sides and the top. Then put the coated cake in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes to firm up before adding more decoration.

How to cut a cake

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After all the hard work of baking and frosting, you want every slice of your cake to be perfect.

To slice a cake cleanly, take a sharp knife and immerse it in hot water. Then remove the dry knife and cut into the cake in a fluid movement. The heat from the knife will soften the frosting and the sharp tip of the knife (nope, no serrated knife or cake cutter needed!) will give you the prettiest slice. Clean the knife and repeat for each slice.

Put these skills to work

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Lisa Kaminski

Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. Pour this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home’s baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, cookware and home products for ours Test Kitchen-Preferred program At home, you will find yourself working on embroidery and other items.