Pictured: Easy Cream Cheese Frosting
You, too, can turn any cakes or cupcakes into bakery-worthy confections with just frosting or icing and a handful of cake decorating tools to help express your vision. Here's a short list of the essentials you should have in your cake and cupcake decorating toolkit.
Basic Cake Decorating Set
- Disposable and reusable cake decorating bags. These hold frostings and icings, and are especially useful for applying fine detail work such as flowers and writing.
- Pastry tips. Come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. A pastry tip fits on the pointy end of a pastry bag, and is held on with a coupler. As frosting and icing is squeezed out of the pastry bag it passes through the tip, which forms it into a continuous stream of thick, thin, or patterned shapes. Pastry tips can be bought individually or in sets. It's often best to start with a basic set and purchase specialty tips as needed.
- Food coloring. Comes in liquid and paste form; paste is more concentrated and produces more intense coloration. Use food coloring to add a rainbow of colors to plain white frosting and icing.
- Writing gel. Comes in tubes and pens. Useful for quickly adding colorful details.
- Edible sprinkles, glitters, sanding sugar, pearls, etc. There's no end to the colors and shapes these decorating embellishments come in. For best results, apply while the frosting or icing is still wet to help them stick on. There may be some color bleeding when candies and frosting get together, so you might want to experiment a bit first.
- Serrated knife. Used to cut cake into horizontal slices for making multi-layered cakes.
- Icing spatulas. Comes in several widths and lengths, with offset or straight handles. Used to spread frosting and icing. The rounded tip ensures you'll be smoothing instead of stabbing the frosting. Offset spatulas are especially useful for keeping the proper angle when maneuvering frosting around the cake.
- Cake decorating stand. Not only does a cake stand elevate your finished creation for maximum appreciation, but you can also rotate it as you decorate. Try it: The height plus rotation makes the job much easier. You can slip a towel under a regular cake stand to protect your table or countertop as you rotate the stand. Or if you're getting serious about decorating cakes, get yourself a rotating cake decorating stand, also known as a cake turntable. That's what the experts use to give the sides of their cakes a perfectly smooth or patterned finish—they rotate the cake turntable while applying frosting with a long spatula, bench scraper, or textured icing comb.
Cake Decorating Extras
- Cake base. Comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and finishes. If you've ever bought a bakery cake, the cake base is the cardboard shape the cake rests on. More than just decorative, a cake base prevents the cake from falling apart when moved. The larger and heavier the cake, the more sturdy the cake base should be.
- Fondant. A thick, pliable sugar paste that's rolled out to make perfectly smooth sheets of icing that can cover cakes or be cut into shapes. Food coloring can be kneaded into the fondant dough. You can purchase fondant online or at a specialty store, or make your own fondant. This video demonstrates how to decorate a cake with fondant.
Pictured: Marshmallow Fondant
- Molds and cutters. Used for forming fondant and gum paste into decorative 3D shapes. Find molds in a wide range of silicone and resin patterns. Cookie cutters and pastry cutters can also be used to quickly cut fondant shapes.
- Airbrush. Used to spray edible decorating paint onto cake frosting. Airbrush kits are available complete with pump, hose, paint, and decorating nozzles. You can find hours of how-to tutorials on YouTube, but the most important thing to know is you can't use the same airbrush to decorate cakes and paint crafts. 'Nuff said.
Nothing's more discouraging than having to hunt around for your tools when inspirations hits. Make it easy on yourself and gather the goods into a handy cake decorating tool caddy.
Pictured: Easter Basket Cake
Using tools from your basic cake decorating set, you can decorate a baseball cake for your favorite sports fan, or decorate a train cake for a kids' birthday party. Or get a jump on the future and decorate a robot cake to appease our robot overlords.
Check out more tips for decorating cakes that take you through basic cake decorating techniques. When you're ready to tackle more advanced cake decorating, we've got you covered. Or maybe you want to learn how to make chocolate and fondant cake decorations.
Yes, you can have your cake, decorate it, and eat it, too.