Hi Y'all! I'm Kate and I blog over at The Kate Mixes about my life and my attempt to reach my goal weight by the end of 2012 (spoiler alert - it doesn't seem likely right now but I'm pushing hard!). One of my hobbies is baking and recently I've started selling my cakes for parties and events. Today I'm here to do a tutorial on how you can make your own cakes look awesome without buying a lot of fancy, expensive, and/or single-use equipment. One of the most important things to realize about cake decorating is that it can be as complicated or as simple as you'd like. Just a few steps can take your
cake from this:
things you'll need:
Plus whatever embellishments you'd like to use and plenty of time.
For this tutorial I'm going to show you two possible designs - one just uses frosting and food coloring, the other requires sprinkles as well. But using the steps I give you here you can ultimately do whatever you'd like. Think "outside the box" when it comes to embellishments.
You don't need to make your own roses or hydrangeas from piped icing or gum paste! I mean, if you want to stand around hunched over intricate detail work for hours upon hours, by all means, go to it.
But remember that this thing is just going to get eaten - and I can't remember the last time I heard someone say, "I'd really like more of that sugary frosting on my cake." - usually people say the exact opposite.
Visit the craft store and look for lightweight items you can use like ribbon, buttons, toys, or even paper! You're not restricted to edible items.
Adorable, no? And pinwheels are a simple project.
A word about embellishments - anything that's going directly on frosting is likely to get greasy if it sits too long. Use tape to line the back of your ribbon or paper to protect it against an ugly grease stain. Plastic items like flowers or toys won't have an issue with this.
Got your plan? Let's do it.
Start by baking your cake. If you have a food scale in the house, you can weigh your pans before you bake the cake so you know the batter was evenly distributed between the two layers. If not, just eyeball it.
Even with box mix I will turn the oven down by 25 degrees and extend my baking time. This makes your cakes come out with a little dome on top - but don't stress! While they're still super hot and in the pan just take your GLOVED hand and push down until it's flat.
And that just saved you the trouble of having to level a cake. Before you ask - yes, you have to have a level cake or you're begging for catastrophe.
When your cake is completely cool you can frost it. I will pop my cake layers in the freezer to make sure they're entirely cool before I start frosting.
I almost never cool cakes on a wire rack - the weight of the cake will create lines from the rack in your cake. This isn't the end of the world but it can be tricky to work around wire marks.
I do a crumb coat - one thin, thin layer of frosting on the cake first to catch all the "crumbs."
Here's an example of what that looks like from a cake my roommate once made (she was in the process of decorating it - but I think you know I mean the thin white frosting, not the stuff that's been piped on):
Then I put the whole thing in the fridge and wait for 30 minutes. Then I go back and just frost that sucker.
It won't be smooth and pretty at this point and that's okay. But DO use the flat edge of your knife instead of the serrated edge when you do this! Then, again, put the whole thing in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Smooth it out.
When your frosted cake is hard to the touch - as in, not just crispy frosting crust (ew) but actually solid - you can take it out of the fridge and get to smoothing. I will use my (clean) bare fingers for this or a clean knife.
Get a cup of warm water to dip your knife in and use that to smooth out any rough spots you might see. This gives your cake a more polished look and it doesn't need to be totally perfect.
Don't forget to clean up your plate!
With your cake smooth you'll be able to get to the fun part - decorating!
This is where you let your creativity go wild - in a very controlled and planned way, of course. Icing tips are not expensive and you can often find them at the grocery store - but if you don't want to buy one it's not always necessary. Just cut the tip off an already filled ziploc baggie and have at it!
But if you're used to piping and/or feeling good about your drawing abilities, why not try creating a pattern of swirly "S" shapes?
You can see that mine are not perfect - but if you were to pop this guy back in the fridge you'd be able to tidy up those little spikes really easily with a toothpick or your finger. To creat the border at the bottom, you just do a back and forth motion as you're piping the edge. Imagine that you're drawing little "Z" shapes:
This looks even better when you use a serrated icing tip, but as you can see it's not a necessity. Once you do own a tip you can also use it to make your cupcakes look neat and tidy:
And I tell you - once you've successfully piped a few dozen cupcakes you will never go back to the old smear method again. It's SO much faster and the results are spectacular. For cupcakes I recommend a larger tip - just don't get carried away because remember that not everyone likes frosting very much.
I know at this point you're saying, "Kate, this is all well and good, but won't you show us the finished cake?"
Sure. I've dubbed this masterpiece "The Hot Mess Cake!"
If you have any specific questions or want advice for a particular cake please feel free to ask! You can catch up with me on any of these sites: