Cake decorating for beginners – my top tips to help you get started, or improve your existing skills…
Cake decorating for beginners can be a minefield! There are so many different products, gadgets and tools – how do you know which you will need and which will end up in a drawer gathering dust?
And then there are all the ‘terms’ – like what even is a crumb coat??
WORRY NOT!! I am here to help unravel the mysteries of cake decorating!
I am sharing my Top 10 Tips that I wish I had known when I first started out.
So, grab a cup of tea (& perhaps a slice of cake?) and read on……
TOP TIP 1 – Start with a well baked cake
It perhaps seems pretty obvious, but the quality of the cake really does affect the decoration!
If you are covering with sugar paste, you will need a sponge cake that will hold up to the weight of the covering.
As well as a good recipe (see below), it is really worth using an oven thermometer. The temperature on the dial is not necessarily the temperature in the oven. Surprisingly, they can vary by quite a few degrees.
Ensuring your oven is the correct temperature for your recipe will make a big difference in the quality of your bake.
Looking for the perfect sponge cake recipe? Check out my blog below to get your hands on my ‘go-to’ recipe for baking the perfect sponge cake!
TOP TIP 2 – Don’t overfill your cake
I love a good filling in a cake, but if you are going to be covering and decorating your cake, you need to take care not to overfill!
You really don’t want that filling oozing out under the weight of your sugar paste, leaving you with bumpy ridges around your cake!
TIP – After filling your cake – put a spare cake card on top of your filled cake, place a tin of baked beans (or something similar) on top and leave for half an hour. This allows the filling to settle, and you can remove any excess that has been squeezed out before you crumb coat and cover.
TOP TIP 3 – Take time to perfect your crumb coat
A crumb coat is made up of 2-3 layers of buttercream or chocolate ganache on the outside of your sponge cake.
This gives a lovely, smooth base for your sugar paste and is so important for achieving a perfect finish for your cake.
Watch me in action – crumb coating with white chocolate ganache
Buttercream v chocolate ganache
Both can be used for crumb coating, but which you use is very much personal preference.
Buttercream is prone to be not very stable in hotter weather though, and doesn’t set as hard as chocolate ganache, so my personal preference is to mainly use chocolate ganache.
TOP TIP 4 – Choose a good quality sugar paste
Just as the choice between using buttercream or chocolate ganache is down to personal preference, so is the brand of sugar paste that you use.
For covering cakes, I would always recommend using a good quality paste though.
Supermarket own brands may be cheaper, but they are more prone to tearing and not giving such a good finish.
If you are a beginner to cake decorating, this is particularly frustrating, so don’t be disheartened.
Try out different brands, until you find the one that works best for you.
My personal favourite is Couture sugar paste by Cake Stuff
However, some other cake decorating friends prefer other brands such as Renshaw.
Neither are wrong – just our personal choice.
A good quality sugar paste really helps to make covering your cake easier
TOP TIP 5 – Don’t buy all the latest gadgets!
There are so many gadgets aimed at cake decorating for beginners – which will supposedly make life so much easier!
My advice is, start with a basic set of good quality tools, including:
- a long, heavy rolling pin (an acrylic one is perfect)
- an angled spatula (for crumb coating)
- a metal scraper (for smoothing your crumb coat)
- basic modelling tools – definitely include a Dresden tool
- a sharp knife
And then take it from there.
If there is a particular task you are struggling with, look for recommendations for tools which may help and ask advice (see Top Tip 9).
You don’t need to buy all the gadgets!!
TOP TIP 6 – Removing air bubbles
Air bubbles are little pockets of air that sometimes appear in your sugar paste whilst covering a cake.
They are annoying – but getting rid of them is easy if you know how!
When I first started cake decorating, I was advised to use a sterilised pin or needle, but found they left small holes and marks in the sugar paste, which spoilt the finish.
Worry not – I have the perfect solution for removing the air without leaving holes and marks……
An acupuncture needle – sterile, sharp enough to pierce the paste to allow the air to escape, yet fine enough not to leave a mark! The perfect tool for the job!
Just insert the acupuncture needle into the air bubble at an angle and gently smooth over the paste to remove the air. For larger pockets of air, you may need to make more than 1 hole to effectively remove all of the air.
TOP TIP 7 – What types of colours to use
You can get a variety of products to use for colouring either pastes, buttercream or other edible items.
Here is a quick run down of the most commonly used:
Gel and paste colours are highly concentrated, which make them perfect for colouring sugar paste, cake batter and buttercream.
You can also dilute with clear alcohol (eg Vodka) or lemon extract to make an edible paint.
Powder colours (petal dusts) are primarily used for dusting dry onto sugar flowers, leaves etc. They are good to use for colouring small quantities of flower paste.
You can also mix with rejuvenator spirit or dipping solution to make into an edible paint (or mix with melted cocoa butter to make a paint too).
Lustre dusts are great for giving a shimmer effect to cakes – either brush on dry or mix into an edible paint.
TOP TIP 8 – Cover your cake board!
When you have gone to all the effort of making and decorating your cake, it makes all the difference to put it on a covered board, rather than just the plain silver drum.
Trim the edge of your board with a ribbon for a real professional finish!
A covered cake board makes a real difference!
Or, take your cake boards to the next level by using one of these fabulous texturing techniques to cover them!
So easy, when you follow these step by step instructions, with full colour photos in my FREE downloadable tutorials.
TOP TIP 9 – Ask questions!
Us cake decorators are a really friendly, helpful bunch!
If you are unsure about something, no matter how silly or small it may seem to you, just reach out and ask.
There are lots of places where you can find help. I have my very own Facebook Community Group, which is full of advice about cake decorating for beginners.
It is a small, friendly group, where I share Quick Tips, Live Demonstrations, FREE tutorials and am happy to give advice and answer questions.
I love my group, and would love you to join us there, whatever your skill level.
We have members of all skills inside, so please don’t be shy!
TOP TIP 10 – Practise
Perhaps the most important tip/piece of advice I can give you, is to practise, practise, practise!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, and you won’t become a highly skilled cake decorator overnight!
But, practise does make perfect, and before you know it, your skills will improve and get better and better as you go along.
Don’t get disheartened if things aren’t working as you would like.
Take a break – get a cup of tea and look again with fresh eyes.
Cake decorating for beginners is a journey – and you will have so much fun along the way!
Enjoy learning online?
In this online course, I will teach you how to cover a cake like a pro!
Learn at your own pace and in your own time – re-watch whenever you like.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Julie Rogerson Limited disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.