Cake decorating tips

June 15th, 2013

Cake decorating is a hobby that I do on and off. (See my works.) It came about after I watched way too many cake shows on TV, and I just kind of taught myself over the years. Though I show off my fondant ones, I actually use frosting a lot too. Here are a few tips on getting pretty cakes with frosting instead of fondant :)

1. Crumbcoat
I always crumbcoat my cakes, whether I use fondant or frosting. A crumbcoat is a thin layer of frosting that traps in the loose crumbs. After your cake is fully cooled, apply a thin and smooth layer of frosting, then refrigerate for about an hour.


What does this do? First, the crumbcoat seals in the cake’s moisture. Second, after you take it out of the fridge, you’ll notice it turns into a solid layer with the loose crumbs stuck in it. It gives you a smooth surface to do the rest of your frosting.

2. Homemade frosting
Not only does homemade frosting taste a billion times better than any store-bought frosting I’ve ever tried, but I also find it easier to spread. Need a recipe? I recommend this one.

3. Icing spatula
If you don’t have a long, flat icing spatula, I would definitely get one! They are great for getting a smooth look. You can find different sized ones in the cake aisle at craft stores.


4. Pile on the frosting
I like to put a bunch of frosting on the cake before I start smoothing it out. I find this easier to do than just putting a little on at a time. A thicker layer of frosting will also be easier to work with than a thinner one.

5. Level your cakes
Cakes often dome up in the center after they bake, which is caused by the edges baking faster than the middle. I always level them off afterwards if they do. I just use a serrated knife (like a bread knife) and cut off the excess until it’s flat at the top.

Sometimes I don’t need to do that though. I now use “Bake Even Strips” around my cake pans. You soak them in water, then wrap them around your cake pan and keep them on while they’re baking. This will prevent the edges from baking too fast, thus preventing the middle from rising higher.


6. Icing colors
This is really food color, but it comes in a large variety of colors. If you’re frustrated with mixing colors with the basic red/blue/yellow/green food color, try looking for icing color instead at a cake or craft store.

7. Frosting tips
If you’re new to frosting tips, I think the star patterns are the easiest to work with. You can often find a beginner’s set with a few different tips. Practice on a plate until you’re comfortable with it, and then try adding some decoration around the edges!


8. Gumpaste
Gumpaste is similar to fondant, but it dries harder, which is good for making decorations. It’s edible and has a clay-like consistency, so you can just work on it with your hands. To add some extra cake decorations, you can try making some with gumpaste :) Remember to make them at least a day early, so they have time to dry and harden.

Here are a couple cakes I made using all of the above tips! (The roses are made with gumpaste.)



20 Responses to “Cake decorating tips”

  • Agent Q says:

    These look delicious. Duly noted. I’ll definitely refer back to this if I decide to bake a cake + add some classy decorations on top. Thanks for sharing!

  • Stephanie says:

    Thanks for the tips! I will probably look back at this page again in a few months. :D

  • Jessica says:

    Omg, thanks so much for this! And number 1 is so genius! I’ve always had trouble with the crumbs of the cake coming off and making the frosting look ugly, but this is so smart! And those cakes look so beautiful T^T I actually had a phase in college where I liked to decorate cakes, but I didn’t have many tools or knowledge about it, so they didn’t come out as I had hoped. But following your advice, I’m really excited to try again! Hopefully someone gives me a reason to make one :P

  • Kim says:

    Awesome tips. You are very crafty, in many areas of expertise ;) hehe. I love baking, but I’ve never actually frosted a cake except for once in high school (and that was done with just a simple store-bought can and a butter knife). I can totally see how home-made frosting would be a billion times better. Cake decorating seems like a very fun craft IMO; it’s something you can have fun with and turn out as a “useful” gift to someone else…and edible! :P

  • Joyce says:

    I love your tutorials..the one with the camera one was helpful (even though i dont have a dslr) but maybe in the future if i get one, i’ll definitely be referring to that one again lol. love this post as well!! :) i know nothing about decorating cakes but these are really helpful. especially the first one about crumbcoating the cake. i’ve seen professionals do similar things like that but never really understood ‘why’. Now i know! :D good stuff cat! <3


  • Nancy says:

    I have seen a couple of your cakes on Instagram and they look amazing! You are really talented in so many things with your hobbies!

    Your tips are definitely useful for decorating a cake! I didn’t know there is an actual reason to add a layer of frosting over the cake besides trapping in the crumbs. Homemade edibles are definitely a lot better because you know what you put in it, it’s really fresh so there are no preservatives, and it’s delicious!!! :D I have never heard of those “Bake Even Strips” before but it sounds like it does the job! Those cakes look so delicious and beautiful! If I can hire you and make a cake for me for any occasion, I would! :D. I will keep these tips you shared in mine for any future cake-baking adventures. Thank you for sharing! :)

    Thank you for your birthday wishes!! My birthday was on Friday :)

  • kibumie says:

    oh man, the cakes both look lovely and delicious! I’ve never tried baking before especially a cake, but this makes me one to try someday. I can’t stop staring at the flowers, they look so pretty.. *U*

  • Esme says:

    Oh wow, the cakes look so nice!! You’re really good at decorating cakes. Every time I bake a cake, it always looks so bad and not appetising :S

  • Brittney says:

    Wow! Those cakes look amazing, I wish I had the skills you do! I tried making a nice cake once and tried to do a strawberry filled center and it ended up running and making the layers all lopsided and than the icing was all over the place and it was just a hot mess Lol

  • tiff says:

    You are a cake-making MASTER!

    I’d love to make my own pretty little cakes one day, and when I do, I’m definitely going to go back to this post for some tips. You make it look so easy. xD

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Diane says:

    I’m actually familiar with most of your tips, since my mom used to work at a bakery and decorate cakes all the time….But that doesn’t mean I can do it skillfully. :P You’re absolutely amazing.

  • Liz says:

    These are really nice! I always wondered how people were so good at them, and how they iced things so perfectly. :p You’re really good at this, haha. Perhaps when I get to that cookbook I’ll come up with some cakes to make. Then, this post will be super helpful to me in making them pretty!

  • Jenny says:

    Wow, these are really helpful tips! While I doubt I’ll be baking and decorating my own cake anytime soon, when I do, your tips would probably make the process so much more manageable :D

  • Kalliste says:

    Wow, your previous works are awesome! I especially love the sandwich. I think I’d love a sandwich that ended up being cake :D

    The crumb coating tip is a good one, I would never thought to do that and always end up with crumbs all through my frosting.

  • Holly says:

    I make a really simple but delicious buttercream frosting. I have to make twice as much as I actually need because I can’t resist sampling it. :P

    Bake Even Strips sound like magic haha! I wonder if you can get them in the UK?

  • Jessica says:

    Oh, these are absolutely wonderful tips! I definitely need to start decorating cakes more often…okay, first I need to do some more baking. Would these tips also work with cupcakes?

    • Cat says:

      I recommend using homemade frosting and a large frosting tip for cupcakes :) The other tips don’t really apply since cupcakes don’t need to be leveled, and they aren’t frosted the same way cakes are.

  • Mija says:

    This is amazing – we actually received lots of cool baking items for the kitchen and I have been too scared to play with it!!

    These tips will help ;o;

  • Tiff says:

    Wow!! I had no idea you had such an amazing talent & skill, Cat!! This is absolutely wonderful. :) This was such a useful post too! I love baking cakes, but I always have that problem with the rising center, but nowwwww I know of the waysss of the cake master. Just gotta get those strips!

  • Amanda says:

    Your cake decorating techniques are so spot on. My mom’s a cake decorator so I used to spend a lot of time at her bakery but I’ve never really picked up on the techniques, haha. I’m glad now I have your blog to reference ^-^

    I’ve never seen or worked with gumpaste, though… only fondant. I’m terrible with working fondant, though so I can’t imagine I’d do any better with gumpaste.

    PS- the flowers are just perfect! :)

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