Cake Decorating

Cake Decorating


Here I answer FAQ for Cake Decorating and list my favorite products for decorating cakes.

Q: What frosting recipe do you use for decorating cakes?

A: I almost exclusively use the Easy Vanilla Buttercream recipe. You will notice I refer back to it A LOT. As the name suggests, it’s super easy and quick to whip up, and it tastes AMAZING. My “foodie” brother-in-law has decided it’s his favorite frosting – this is a huge compliment. Occasionally I will make a Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but the process is more time consuming, and when I’m decorating a cake for a birthday, I need all the time I can get!

Easy Vanilla Buttercream
Easy Vanilla Buttercream on these Bridal Shower Mini Cupcakes
Collage of Cakes Decorated with Easy Vanilla Buttercream
UPPER LEFT: Penelope Bird Cake, UPPER MIDDLE: Daniel Tiger Cake, UPPER RIGHT: FROZEN Cake, LOWER LEFT: Cinderella Cake, LOWER MIDDLE: Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake, LOWER RIGHT: Tinkerbell Secret of the Wings Cake
Back to School cakes, bus cake, pencil cake, apple cupcakes
UPPER LEFT: School Bus Cake, LOWER LEFT: Pencil Cake, LOWER RIGHT: Apple Cupcakes
Cake Decorating Collage
UPPER LEFT: School Bus Cake, UPPER RIGHT: Daniel Tiger’s House Cake, LOWER LEFT: Garbage Truck Cake, LOWER RIGHT: House Cake
Cake Decorating Collage
UPPER LEFT: Belle Doll Cake, UPPER RIGHT: Descendants Cake, LOWER LEFT: Cheetah Print Cake, LOWER RIGHT: inside of Rainbow Unicorn Cake
Cake Decorating Collage
UPPER LEFT: Galaxy Cupcakes, UPPER RIGHT: Star Wars Cupcakes, LOWER LEFT: Grinch Cupcakes with Candy Filling, LOWER RIGHT: Descendants Cupcakes
Cake Decorating Collage of Easy Vanilla Buttercream cakes and cake pops
UPPER LEFT: Very Hungry Caterpillar Cupcake Cake, UPPER RIGHT: Butterfly Cupcakes, LOWER LEFT: Apple Cake Pops (made with homemade chocolate cake and Easy Chocolate Buttercream), LOWER RIGHT: Snow White Doll Cake with Easy Vanilla Buttercream on top and ganache frosting on the bottom.
collage of Sofia the First cake, galaxy cake, and a zoo cake
UPPER LEFT: Sofia the First Cake, UPPER RIGHT: Galaxy Cake, LOWER: Zoo Cake
collage of chocolate chip cookie cakes
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cakes decorated with Easy Vanilla Buttercream

You may be wondering if you can decorate a cheesecake. Yes, you can! My girls each requested a mocha cheesecake for their birthday cake, so I tested this out. For The Nutcracker Ballet cake, I left the top plain and added a plastic tree on top which I covered in Easy Vanilla Buttercream and a gold star Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookie. For The Wizard of Oz cake, I covered the entire cake with piped Easy Vanilla Buttercream to create the yellow brick road and field of poppies. Lastly, for a Starbucks party, I simply drizzled store-bought caramel sauce over the top of the mocha cheesecake.

Mocha Cheesecake collage with cheesecakes decorated 3 ways: Nutcracker cake, Wizard of Oz cake, and Starbucks cake
Mocha Cheesecake decorated for The Nutcracker Ballet theme (UPPER RIGHT), Starbucks theme (LOWER LEFT), and The Wizard of Oz theme (LOWER RIGHT).

For Homemade Ice Cream Cakes, I like to decorate the Cool Whip top. You could use whipped cream instead of Cool Whip but it may not hold up as well unless it’s stabilized whipped cream. I like using a plain white canvas for my decorations for the ice cream cakes, such as the My Little Pony Rainbow Unicorn Ice Cream Cake. I have also added color to the Cool Whip like for my Mermaid Ice Cream Birthday Cake.

Dairy Queen Copycat Ice Cream Cakes
UPPER LEFT: Rainbow Unicorn Ice Cream Cake, UPPER RIGHT: FROZEN Ice Cream Cake decorated with Elsa’s Ice Candy, LOWER LEFT: Mermaid Ice Cream Birthday Cake with step by step instructions how to make fondant ocean decorations, LOWER RIGHT: Miraculous Cake made of round ice cream cake with brownie crust

Q: What piping bags do you use for decorating cakes?

A: I use Wilton Piping Bags for buttercream. Other bags sometimes have a seam that gets in the way when decorating and can interfere with the design. My only complaint about these bags is that they are a little small when decorating a large cake and you have to refill them, but they are very sturdy and hold up to refilling many times. When I’ve run out of bags in the middle of a project, I’ve tried using plastic gallon-sized storage or freezer bags and am always disappointed. Inevitably I squeeze too hard and bust a hole in the bag. The real deal bags are so worth it!

Q: What tips do you use for decorating cakes?

A: It depends on what I’m decorating. For large rosettes like on the side of this Frozen Cake, I use a large Wilton tip like a 2D.

Disney’s FROZEN Cake

If I’m piping details like on this Daniel Tiger Cake, I use a smaller tip similar to the ones for Royal Icing such as a Wilton #2.

daniel tiger cake and birthday party
Daniel Tiger Cake

For making fur or grass, I use a grass tip, like on this Cookie Monster Cake. This is why I like having a set of tips to give me many options.

Cookie Monster cake
Cookie Monster Cake

Q: What type of food coloring do you use for buttercream?

A: Most of the time I use Wilton food coloring gels or Americolor gels. I have used these McCormick Neon colors as well. While they are not a gel so you will need to use more product to achieve a color, they are really pretty and work well when I’m not needing a super vibrant or dark color.

Q: Do you have a special way to mix in the food gel?

A: One of my most beloved kitchen tools is a small silicone spatula. I literally have 10+ of these. My mom has found them for me at outlet kitchen stores. I use them just about every day for recipes, but when I’m decorating a cake, I use a LOT. I like to have one to mix up each of my colors of frosting, and I don’t want to have to stop to wash it in between colors. When I make Ice Cream Cakes, I need to mix the colors at the same time otherwise the ice cream melts too much, so having many of these is super helpful.

small silicone spatulas

Q: What kind of fondant do you use for fondant cakes?

A: I do not like the taste of fondant, so if it’s on a piece of cake I’m eating, I remove it. I think many people feel this way. It’s beautiful for decorating, but to me, it’s like taking off the candles from a birthday cake before you eat it. I’ve made Homemade Marshmallow Fondant a few times, and it was tastier than store bought, but it can be a pain when working in large quantities, like to cover this very large Bridal Shower cake.

Bridal Shower Dessert Table
Bridal Shower Cake covered with Homemade Marshmallow Fondant and gum paste flowers.

As I’ve mentioned before, when I’m decorating cakes I’m typically getting ready for a party and pressed for time, so I’ll take shortcuts when I can. I buy Wilton Decorator Fondant. I typically just buy the white and use the Wilton gel food coloring to tint it, like I did for this Cinderella Cake. Occasionally I buy colored fondant, particularly if I need black or a dark color that would require a lot of food gel to achieve the proper color intensity.

For this Unicorn Cake, I used store bought white fondant to cover the cake and make the larger white portion of the ears. I colored the fondant pink for the inside of the ears. For the horn, I colored the fondant with gold food coloring gel, then painted it with a gold luster dust suspension.

Unicorn Cake
Rainbow Unicorn Cake

I drew on the eyes using a black food coloring marker.

Q: How do you roll out the fondant?

A: I use special fondant rolling pins to roll out fondant. I have this large rolling pin for rolling large pieces that cover the entire cake, and this small one for rolling smaller pieces of decorations. I love these rolling pins because they come with the guide rings to ensure even rolling, which is really important when working with fondant.

Q: How did you make the coral flowers that decorate the Bridal Shower Cake (pictured above)?

A: I’m working on a step by step tutorial, but in the meantime: I tint gum paste to the color of my choice and roll it out using the small rolling pin. I then use shape cutters such as these to cut the flower shapes. Then using gum paste tools such as these, I mold the cut-out into a flower shape. I then put a dot of Royal Icing in the center and carefully placed an edible sugar pearl in the center. The Royal Icing acts as glue that will harden as it dries to secure the sugar pearl. I did this same method to attach the gum paste flowers to the fondant cake – used a dot of Royal Icing to secure. Alternatively, Wilton makes these little flowers already prepared, but you are then limited on color. I was going for a coral and ivory theme and wanted the flexibility of creating a custom color.

Q: I have other questions you didn’t address here; how can I contact you?

A: Please send me an email at mtmbakesblog [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’d be happy to help! Alternatively, you may comment on a specific post with your question, and I’ll do my best to answer!