The popularity of culinary TV shows like The Great British Bake Off has inspired a new generation of Britons to don their oven gloves.
But this revival of the art of baking isn’t just about making treats tasty: it’s also about making them look irresistible.
So it’s no surprise there’s been a surge of interest in cake decorating in recent years.
If you’re hoping to join the trend, but you’re daunted by the idea of making an eight-tier cake studded with intricate sugar roses, there’s no need to fear.
The trick to decorating cakes is to start with simple tasks, and then build up to towering majestic confections.
The first steps to cake decorating
If you’re serious about getting into cake decorating, you’ll need to make sure your kitchen is well-equipped first.
The first piece of kit you’ll need is a piping bag. You can buy disposable piping bags, as well as reusable ones.
Nozzles – which vary widely in shapes and sizes – are best bought made from durable stainless steel or non-stick, easy to clean silicone. Popular kitchenware purveyor Lakeland has an excellent selection to choose from.
Of course, where there’s a piping bag, there’s also icing. Buy a few big bags of icing sugar when you get started to allow room for mistakes.
Start by making easy buttercream icing: simply beat one part softened unsalted butter with two parts icing sugar.
When you’re happy with the consistency, spoon into your piping bag and get to work on your cake; try covering it in small peaks for an easy but elegant effect or simply work the icing into a pretty spiral pattern.
To jazz up your buttercream icing, make sure you have some natural food colouring in your cupboard. This is best bought in paste or gel form as liquids can dilute your icing.
If you’d rather avoid food colouring altogether, this article offers a great tip: simply mix in some hundreds and thousands into your icing. It’s quick and easy and will make your cake look fantastic.
Also simple to use is ready-to-roll icing, which you can buy in blocks pre-coloured. This is a very easy way to decorate a cake and gives it a professional-looking finish.
Make sure your cake is placed on a cake board before simply rolling the icing out and covering it, trimming off the ends.
If your trimming looks a little shaky, you can hide it by tying a ribbon around the bottom of the cake. Use any offcuts to make shapes – like small animals, polka dots, petals or leaves – to adorn the top of your cake.
How to develop your cake decorating skills
Once you’ve mastered the art of piping and shaping fondant icing, you can start developing your cake decorating skills further.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, begin by making a list of the kinds of decorations you’d like to make and gradually tick each one off your list.
Sugar roses, for example, are a great way to liven up a cake, and are easy to make once you know-how. This blog offers invaluable video resources that teach you the art.
You’ll also find spectacular inspiration on blogs like Bakerella and Cake Journal. But it’s also a good idea to look for cake decorating courses and clubs in your local area for some hands on experience with professionals.