What are Some Cake Decorating Techniques?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Unlike a cake purchased from your local bakery, a homemade cake is a one-of-a-kind creation. Serving a homemade cake is an excellent way to celebrate a child’s birthday, a friend’s anniversary, or your spouse’s big promotion. Fortunately, there are a number of simple cake decorating techniques you can use to create a special treat that looks as good as it tastes.

Chocolate cake.
Chocolate cake.

Most cake decorating techniques will call for a large batch of buttercream icing. There are many different icing recipes available, so you may have to do some experimenting in order to find one that suits your tastes. Use food coloring to tint your icing to the appropriate color for your cake decorating techniques, since a basic buttercream icing recipe will result in a white or slightly yellowish icing.

Making frosting is one step of decorating a cake.
Making frosting is one step of decorating a cake.

To create a frosted design on your cake, you’ll need to use large pastry bags topped with metal or plastic cake decorating tips. Star tips, round tips, drop flower tips, rose tips, and leaf tips are versatile tips that allow for a variety of cake decorating techniques. You can purchase the tips individually or look for them in an all-in-one cake decorating kit for beginners.

Decorating a homemade cake make for an artistic, one-of-a-kind creation.
Decorating a homemade cake make for an artistic, one-of-a-kind creation.

If you want to write “Happy Birthday” or some other message, create a flat canvas by applying an even coat of icing with an offset spatula. Add your message to the top of the cake using a pastry bag topped with a round cake decorating tip. Using the star tip to make a shell or zig-zag border around the edges of the cake is one of the easiest cake decorating techniques to finish this type of cake.

Creating frosting flowers is one of the cake decorating techniques that can add an elegant look to your cake. To create flowers that lay flat on the cake, use the drop flower tip and the leaf tip while holding your bag at a 90 degree angle. If you want to create roses, however, you’ll need to use a flower nail covered with wax paper. Make the base of your rose using the round tip, and then add petals with the rose tip.

If you’re using a shaped pan to bake a cake that looks like Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo, or your child’s favorite cartoon character, the star tip is all you’ll really need. For these cake decorating techniques, hold your bag straight, push down gently, squeeze for three seconds, and lift up. Work from top to bottom to fill in the entire pattern of the cake with these frosting stars, changing colors as needed.

Inedible decorations, like ribbons and fresh flower blossoms, are often used to decorate cakes.
Inedible decorations, like ribbons and fresh flower blossoms, are often used to decorate cakes.
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - I'm so glad that decorating cupcakes has become so popular lately. It means that there are all kinds of books and classes available for people to learn how to do it.

I remember when I was a kid my mother had a book on how to decorate birthday cakes that I thought was amazing. I was constantly looking through it and hoping that I would get one cake after another.

It actually had some pretty advanced cake decorating techniques in it, now that I think back. I remember there were cakes with faux swimming pool and a cake ball gown dress with a barbie doll in the middle, as well as the usual basketballs and so forth.

Although the most amazing cakes I've seen recently are those ones where they make the tiers look like they are lopsided so that the cake levels are all on an angle.

I think I watch too many cake cooking shows on TV though and I should put into practice what I've picked up one day.


@browncoat - I've never managed to get the chocolate clay to set properly. It's always either too sticky or too firm.

But, if you can't use chocolate clay and you really want chocolate decorations you can always use molds to make things like chocolate leaves.

There are all kinds of molds out there, particularly if you have a look in art supply stores and consider the molds they have for clay and so forth.

I had to make a whole bunch of chocolate butterflies for my friend last year as she wanted to have cupcakes with chocolate butterflies as her birthday cake. Decorating them was a blast though, as we made the wings from a mold I found at a craft store, just pouring in melted chocolate, and then decorated them with icing and little bits of candy and used a thin chocolate dipped stick as the body of each one.

She used licorice strings for the antennae which I thought was a nice touch. They really looked amazing and completely professional, even though they were quite easy to make.


Another option for decorating a cake or some other kind of dessert is using chocolate clay.

There are recipes for this online, or I think you can get chocolate clay from a craft store that has cake decorating supplies.

From what I understand it's made by melting chocolate and then mixing it with a certain amount of corn syrup.

The chocolate then forms a clay like texture which you can use to mold into anything you like. It's got certain advantages over icing because you can make it into more shapes and it will hold its shape more readily.

It's a bit like marzipan I suppose, but tastes like chocolate which I think more people will like.

If you make it with white chocolate you'll be able to color it any flavor you want as well.

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