If you are as passionate about baking cakes as I am, now is the perfect time to move on to the next level…the art of cake decorating. Cake decorating can be something as simple as filling and icing a cake with buttercream or can be as complex as piping delicate flowers on the sides of a fondant covered cake. When entering the world of cake decorating it is important to remember, it will take practice. Cake decorating can be overwhelming but there is nothing to fear as I’m here to give you the essential tools you will need.
Cake on board
A cake board is the support to any cake. There are two types of cake boards, a straw board is skinny, is often used as a base board when stacking cakes and should be the same size as the cake so it can be hidden when creating tiers. Thick boards are used to decorate on, transport and serve the cake. Cake boards come in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Turn the cake around
A turntable isn’t essential but it will make your cake decorating a lot easier. It allows your cake to turn with ease when decorating and gives a 360 view. A turntable will give your cake more height when decorating to give you a more direct view and a smoother application of buttercream.
Spatula/ pallet knife
A basic rubber spatula is the staple tool in cake decorating as it will get every bit of icing out of the mixing bowl. A pallet knife or offset spatula is one of the most frequently used cake decorating tool. It is used to smooth buttercream all over a cake. Whether you decorate in buttercream or fondant, an angled pallet knife is essential for a smooth cake.
Bench scraper/ scotch scraper
Bench or scotch scrapers are primarily used to divide pieces of dough. However, in cake decorating, once the cake is covered with buttercream, place your bench or scotch scraper against the side of the cake and turn the turntable. This process spreads your buttercream evenly and gives you a smooth finish.
Top Top: Cut a half moon shape out of a plastic lid from a container, to create an easy diy scotch scraper.
Nozzles and piping bags
A piping bag and nozzle are used to fill a cake, pipe designs and boarders. A small and large round nozzle, a star nozzle and a reusable/ disposable piping bag, is enough to get started. There’s a huge range of nozzles available that give different effects which you can invest in at a later stage.
Top tip: If you do not have a piping bag, snip a corner off a sandwich bag, add your nozzle and pipe away!
Fondant also known as ‘roll out icing’ is made of sugar, water and corn syrup. It can be bought pre- rolled or in blocks, white or coloured, and are found in supermarkets or cake supply shops. Fondant is my favourite way to decorate cakes.
Sometimes buying ready coloured fondant isn’t essential. Gel food colouring can be found in cake supply shops and comes in an array of colours. Liquid food colouring will work but isn’t as pigmented. A little goes a long way with gel colouring, add a dot to your buttercream or fondant and work it in. Add little by little until you get your desired colour.
Tooth picks are a simple wonder of the world! Use a tooth pick to add your food colouring to avoid adding too much at one time. I like to use tooth picks to stick in any fondant decorations to avoid them from falling off the cake but do warn people when they are in a cake otherwise…..OUCH!
Cornflour/ icing sugar
Similar to kneading any dough, it is important to dust your work surface to stop your fondant from sticking. When kneading fondant, lightly surface with cornflour or icing sugar. I personally like to use cornflour so that I can save my icing sugar for my buttercream.
Keep rollin, rollin, rollin
A rolling pin for any baker is essential whether you’re a cake decorator or not. You can use a non stick rolling pin but I’m old school and use an ordinary wooden one. Small non stick rolling pins are also available in cake supply shops and are very handy when working with small pieces of fondant for decorating.
A fondant smoother, is a wonderful gadget to work on sharp edges and tight corners that are difficult to smoothen out. It is crucial when it comes to fondant as it will smooth out any lumps and bumps.
Let the cake be your canvas
Paint brushes are great for sticking fondant cut outs onto the cake by using water or vodka. You can buy paint brushes in cake supply shops but it isn’t necessary as regular paint brushes will do the job. Finer paint brushes are great for adding painting on small details which can really bring a cake to life.
When stacking cakes, inserting plastic or wooden dowels into the bottom tier give support to the cake on top to avoid it sinking.
You will have an easier time decorating cakes once you have your essential starter kit. Get creative and don’t fear fondant…BE THE FONDANT!
For a guide to cake decorating check out https://easyfood.ie/articles/a-guide-to-cake-decorating/