One of the fastest growing fields in the culinary art world is cake decorating. The number of people who enjoy baking and decorating has been growing exponentially. What has created this sudden interest in cake decorating? For many people, cake decorating is a wonderful way to blend a number of different talents and interests. Cake decorating is unique in the number of skills that are touched on in this one field – you not only need to be a good baker, but a sculptor, color specialist and designer. With so many people wanting to try out their own talents, we’ve decided to put together a few helpful tips to set you on your way.
Practical Hints for the Beginner – Start with the Perfect Cake
The real fun begins with the most essential part of any cake decorator’s tools – the cake itself. Even if you’ve never baked a cake before, you’ll need to put one together before you can start decorating. The easiest way to create a good cake is to buy a box of cake mix from the grocery store. The directions for using the mix are very easy – all you need to do is add water, oil and eggs – and as long as you follow the directions, you should have a nice cake to work with. If you’re feeling a little more brave, you can make a cake from scratch. Homemade cakes are no longer the difficult chore they used to be. The ready availability of fresh ingredients has made it much easier for bakers to create their own homemade cakes. For long-time bakers, you can select any recipe you think will work well but if you’ve never made a cake from scratch before then you should start with the simplest recipe you can find.
1. Topping Your Cake with the Right Icing
Another key element of successful cake decorating is the selection of icing to go over your cake. Icing is usually broken down into one of three types. The type of icing is based on the consistency. You’ll notice that professional bakers describe icing based on one of these consistencies – either soft, medium or stiff. When you’re just learning how to decorate cakes, you’ll probably want to stick with icing that’s either soft or medium. Soft icing is usually thinner than the other varieties and is used to write messages on the cake. It can also be used to cover an entire cake if you want to create a unique look. On the other hand, if you want to add more complicated designs like scrolls, scrollwork or decorative borders, you should use medium icing. Icing that has a medium consistency will hold its shape much better than a soft icing, yet you can still scoop it up with a spoon. The last type of icing is the stiff icing. This is used for much more complicated design elements, like flowers or leaves. Because these designs are so elaborate, the icing must be stiff enough that the pattern will be able hold its shape. The more complicated pieces will require a very stiff icing which is probably inedible – clearly these pieces are just for looking, not eating.
2. Build Your Collection of Cake Design Tools
Those who are just starting out probably won’t have the best tools for the job just lying around in their kitchen drawers. Fortunately, finding the right tools for just about any cake decorating challenge you decide to take on is far easier today than it was just a few years back. There are plenty of places that now sell a variety of cake decorating tools. When you’re trying to decide which pieces to pick up first, it’s often easiest to simply buy the tools you need for the cake you’re planning to make during your next project. A great alternative to this is to take advantage of the growing popularity of cake decorating and pick up one of the cake decorating tool kits that are now available. These kits includes all the basics that you’ll need to get started including piping bags, pastry bags, paper cones for decorating, different sized frosting spatulas and a nice collection of various tips.
3. Find Inspiration in Books and Magazines
Sometimes the hardest part of cake decorating is coming up with an idea. A great way to spark your creativity is to surround yourself with pictures, quotes or other items that inspire you.
4. Creating the Perfect Lacework for Your Cake
This popular pattern will require an exacto knife. First, cut all of your ribbons to the same exact length. Then, carefully slice the thin insertion slits on your cake using the exacto knife. Another favorite option among cake decorators is the curtain work pattern. This is typically done with small tips because they provide a smoother line breakage. To start, build scallops and a bridge on the surface of the cake. This can be a difficult design to get right, so it helps to have a marked pattern that you can use to guide your hand.