10 Simple Ways to Decorate a Cake
Whether you’re celebrating Easter, a birthday, anniversary or any number of special occasions, baking is on the rise (pardon our pun)! It’s a fun and productive activity with a sweet payoff. If you’re new at baking, bread and cookies are a great place to start. But another simple baked good, perfect for making a family occasion even more special, is cake.
Cakes can come in a variety of shapes, layers, flavors, and frostings. We know that decorating a cake can seem overwhelming, but there’s no need to feel intimidated. We’ve got ten easy ways to decorate a cake that look professional and delicious. If you have questions about how to frost a cake, here’s a great tutorial from Wrap it in Sugar on how to get that perfect textured buttercream look.
1. Top with fake or real blooms
This is one of those timeless techniques we see all the time and wonder in amazement at. Who knew, it can be just as simple to add some beautiful botanicals to your cake at home. No need to create intricate flowers from icing or fondant, simply cut a few buds from your garden or use some fake flowers and clean thoroughly before use. Medium size buds are best to border the sides. Arrange the largest blooms on top in the center, getting smaller as you work your way out to the rim of the cake, or simply use a small handful of blooms and place them off-center to cascade down the side.
2. Use candy
Using chocolate chips to outline your rims looks professional and gives a little added texture to your cake bite. Hershey kisses, skittles, M’n’Ms, Oreos or any mini-size candy bar add some flair and fun and pair well with a chocolate cake or frosting. You can even use cotton candy!
3. Sprinkle with nuts
If no one in your household suffers from a nut allergy, coating your cake with chopped nuts is a great way to hide any imperfections in the frosting and adds a great crunchy texture to each bite. Try sliced almonds or macadamia nuts with a sponge or yellow cake mix, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts for a chocolate base, and pecans to a spice mix, or go all out with a mix!
4. Top with marshmallows
To get extra fancy, use a torch to flambé the top and give them a nice golden brown fluff. You can also put large marshmallows in a cast-iron skillet and put them in the oven for just a couple minutes, then use a wide spatula to scrape and lift the whole fluff onto the top of your cake.
5. Arrange small toys
Yes, you read that right. Arranging small items on the top of your cake or around the edge of the cake platter is a quick and easy way to add some fun and quirkiness to your dessert. For kids’ birthdays, you can use cars and trucks, dinosaurs, paper doll figures, Beyblades, horses, fairies or any number of figurines. Just sanitize before and after.
6. Use ribbon or string
Wrapping your layers in ribbon gives a very timeless and traditional look. For a more funky, modern twist, you can use string and wrap it in a haphazard fashion, creating a bit of a geometric print (this works best on a cake with the same size layers, rather than tiers). Or layer printed and solid ribbons and strings to create texture and dimension.
7. Frost with whipped cream and fruit
Perfect for summer, this is one of the quickest ways to elevate a simple sheet cake. Frost the top and sides or simply layer the fruit and whipped topping in between layers and on top (aka, a “naked cake”). Both rustic and trendy, it pairs well with a yellow cake or even tropical flavors like orange or pineapple.
8. Shake that powdered sugar
For a fantastic dairy-free option, use powdered sugar instead of whipped cream. You can even use this technique to create messages and designs on your cake as well. By placing letter cut-outs or a design stencil onto the cake, and generously applying powdered sugar on top, you’re left with a design as dainty as a doily. Just dust off your stencils with a small paintbrush before pulling them off to displace the sugar and maintain your perfect outlines.
9. Use caramel or chocolate syrup
Drip it down the sides. Swirl it on top and run a tooth-pick from the center outwards. Create a ZigZag effect with alternating syrups, then scrape across the top of the cake with the edge of a spatula or any thin long rectangle. You could also use butterscotch, white chocolate, strawberry or any number of syrups.
10. Spread Nutella or jam
Using Nutella or jam between the layers instead of frosting is another great choice for simple, rustic cakes and pairs well with nuts, candies or fruit.
The possibilities are endless! If your mouth isn’t watering already, then just wait until you get started baking. Remember to always let your cakes cool to room temperature before applying any kind of frosting or topping. You can use a beautiful plate, or serving platter to display your cake. A cake stand or lazy susan are especially great for effortlessly turning and frosting your cake.
Then, have fun with it! Enjoy the experience of creating, even if the outcome isn’t what you thought it would be. Mix and match techniques, build flavors, experiment. And tell us your ideas! What’s your favorite way to decorate a cake?