Cake Decorating // Let's face it, we all see those amazing cakes on Pinterest and it deflates us a bit. How on earth can we create a cake so stunning. Are you less of a woman if you can't? NOT AT ALL!! I'm not a professional baker but I have found a few tricks that help to create some fun cakes for my family and friends on their special days.
This is a cake that I made for my little guy's 3rd birthday. It looks pretty and… It was pretty easy to make. Over the years I've learned a few tips to make things a little easier for those of us who aren't professional bakers / decorators. Here are a few of my secrets…
I have made many different types of cake in my life; homemade, box mix cakes, doctored box mix cakes and I've even… bought naked cake!!
From Scratch // Homemade can be challenging if you don't have a lot of baking experience. In my early years when I was aspiring to be just like Martha, I made my first from scratch cake for a friend's party, and it was a disaster. The cake was dense and awful!! I had to go back to the drawing board on that one. After a little more practice, I can now make a much better from scratch cake, but I don't have a fabulous go to recipe just yet.
Box mixes // I have been a cooking show junky for years and many different chefs / bakers on various different shows have said that todays box mixes are as close to perfect as you can get. They say there is no need to try any other method. I have to agree with this as well. Don't feel any shame at all when you use a box mix. You can even take a box mix to a whole new level by doctoring the mix a bit. One of my most popular posts is a post that my friend Janeen helped me create. She has an amazing recipe for a doctored chocolate cake that is DIVINE!!
Naked Cake // Here is my favorite cake secret… When in a pinch, buy naked cake from your favorite bakery. Yep, you can do that!! The week of Gage's birthday was super crazy, and I really wanted to make a fun cake for him. I just didn't have time to bake and decorate a cake so I went to the bakery at my local market and asked to buy three cake rounds. They always have cakes in the freezer waiting to be decorated. However, if you have a specific flavor in mind, you may want to call a couple of days ahead. On the fly, you kind of have to take what you can get. My bakery charged me $5 per round, not bad considering the time that was going to save me.
My sweet friend Lara from Less Cake… More Frosting would say, frosting is the most important part of the cake. Others may say, they can take it or leave it. For me, you need to make sure you have a fabulous frosting. That means… steer clear of the store bought brands and learn how to make a signature frosting that can act as a good base for many different flavors. My signature frosting is my Simple Vanilla Buttercream recipe…
It is a perfect, easy to make frosting that even a beginner baker can't mess up. For Gage's cake I went a step further and added the paste from a vanilla bean to the frosting to make it a little extra special. I just love the little flecks of vanilla in the frosting. I order my vanilla beans from Beanilla. They have some of the best product around. Steer clear of the dried-up, stale vanilla beans you find for a premium price at the super market.
Building the Cake
Here are the boring mechanics that many people like to skip. Since the inception of Pinterest, there have been a ton of blogs out there who's main purpose is to see if you can recreate what you see on Pinterest. They LOVE to show-off if they have a fail and they want everyone to know that the feat is impossible. Case in point…
img source // I wish I could find the original source, I would love to show them how easy it is!
Here is how you can avoid this mess.
- Make sure you have a good frosting that will hold up to a layered cake. That frosting looks more like a glaze, not the type of frosting that will hold a layered cake together.
- Freeze your cake. A frozen cake is much easier to work with.
- Trim off the dome of the cake if it has one, creating a nice flat cake. Then flip the cake over and have the bottom be the top of the cake. That way you have a nice flat surface to work with.
- Place a small amount of frosting on the cake plate to provide a stable base for the bottom layer.
- Skewer your cake. Add a few bamboo skewers to the cake to keep it stable.
- Create a crumb layer. What is this you ask? You will frost the cake with a thin layer of frosting and then place in the fridge for a bit to create a clean work surface.
- Take your time, work clean and your cake will look like the top cake. Rushing before you've mastered a skill is the bakers worst enemy.
Decorating the Cake
Here is where the fun begins! For Gage's cake I worked in stages. First I frosted a crumb layer and then put the cake in the fridge for a bit to create a clean, solid, workable surface. Next, I frosted the smooth layer of the cake with a small off-set spatula and since the cake was cold, it made that process really easy. I then used one of my favorite tools a jumbo star decorator tip that I purchased at Sweet Baking Supply. Having the right tools makes all the difference. Those small decorator tips that you can find at your local craft store will not do the trick for this cake. You NEED to have the jumbo tips which I have only been able to find online. Then all you have to do is create a large rosette with a small circular motion. It's really easy, just practice a few times on a plate. When you have the technique down all you have to do is scrape the practice rosettes back into the frosting bowl so you don't have to waste the frosting.
Another tip… If you mess-up on a rosette, take your off-set spatula and carefully take it off the cake and start over. Frosting is very forgiving!
I found these lovely blue gum balls at Target and bought several containers because I knew I would find something to make with them. They are so pretty! I thought they would be the perfect addition to the cake around the base and on top of the rosettes. I loved how they turned out.
Now, hind sight being 20/20 I would've left off the polka-dot straws. I was wanting something vertical and something that showed that Gage was turning three. If I had to do it over again, I would've just stuck with the extra tall candles, but that's just me. Just keeping it real.
Now, keep in mind… I'm not a professional, far from it. These are just some of the tips and tricks that I've learned over the years that have made my cake decorating what it is. I hope they can inspire you to try something fun and different the next time your loved ones have something to celebrate!
What are some tips, tricks or secrets that you've learned when it comes to cake decorating? Let's all take a minute to share, so we can all become EXPERT cake decorators.