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Do you remember the first cake you ever decorated?
I remember mine! It was a cake for my Dad for Father’s Day back in 1996. All American Style Buttercream made with the small Wilton starter kit of tips. I piped basket weave on the top with some flowers using the tips from my very first cake decorating tool purchase.
I was SO proud of that cake!! It was at that moment when I was bitten by the decorating bug! I look back on it and realize, “Wow…I was really a beginner!” But now, over 20 years later I’ve come a long way, (although I STILL see other cake artist’s work and think “I’ll never be that good!”).
As I’ve improved, so have cake decorating tools! There are so many more options available these days and new innovative tools and techniques are popping up all the time!
Here are 4 more of my favorite tools and/or ingredients that have helped me step up my cake game!!
#1- Better Cake Board Coverage (Paper or Fondant)
When I first started decorating cakes, I was so focused on the cake itself, that I didn’t even really think about how the presentation of the board added to the overall artistic impression of the cake (or in some cases, distracted from it! )
I would use a single cake board, and sometimes didn’t cover it at all, or I would use aluminium foil (not very forgiving in photos). Then I started buying the rolls of cake foil or cake paper (that look like a roll of gift wrap), and this was better, but I still wasn’t totally happy with the overall look. I would have trouble with round cake boards getting the cake paper to neatly wrap around the edges in a clean and precise way.
The next step up was when I started stacking several cake boards to make a cake “drum” rather than just a single board. This had two functions: 1) It added extra stability to support the weight of the cake, and 2) also added some height to the base. I would then hot glue craft ribbon around the edge to finish it off. I still, however, had the same issue with getting the cake paper to neatly wrap around the edge, which made my craft ribbon a bit lumpy or bumpy in places.
Look at that lumpy ribbon! Not to mention the messy cake paper! Detracts from an otherwise pretty cool cake
Enter in the best tip I came across!! Scrapbook paper covered in clear contact paper!! Hooray! I saw this in a cake group (can’t remember which one), but I LOVE this tip!!
12 inch x 12 inch scrapbook paper…comes in a HUGE variety of designs & colors!
Most of the cakes I make (except for wedding cakes) are usually party cakes on a 12 inch diameter round board. It’s super easy to cover your cake boards with a cool design that matches your cake! With a quick addition of food-safe clear contact paper over the scrapbook paper, you’ll have a board that takes the overall design of your cake to a new level!
Step 1: Pick a piece of scrapbook paper to match your cake design, then using a cake board as a template, trace with non-toxic pencil, onto the back of the paper.
Step 2: Cover the front of the scrapbook paper (the side that will be visible and will touch your cake) with the clear contact paper and then cut the shape following the trace mark you made in Step 1.
Step 3: Using a hot glue gun, place a small dab of glue onto your cake boards in the center (I use 3 boards already glued together); place your newly covered scrapbook paper onto the board (contact paper side up), carefully lining it up with the edges; then using a non-toxic glue stick, finish adhering the paper to the boards. It should look something like this:
Step 4: Using a hot glue gun, attach some craft ribbon to the edge to finish off your board (*TIP: I usually do this step after the cake is completed and on the board to avoid getting any frosting, corn starch or other decorating medium on the ribbon).
Such a quick and simple thing that really makes your design pop (especially in photos!)
12 inch round diameter cake boards (3) covered with black scrapbook paper / clear contact paper and edge finished off with black craft ribbon.
Another great way to finish off cake boards is by covering them with fondant. I offer this to my customers as an optional add-on! This is a great way to increase the value to your clients while increasing your potential sale amount. I present this option to them by educating them on the visual appeal it adds to the cake design, especially for photos! Here’s an example of a fondant covered cake board that really made a huge difference in a special occasion cake:
Green fondant that was textured to look like the putting green of a golf course
One of my favorite ways to utilize fondant in a cake board cover is to texture and paint it to resemble wood!
Fondant covered board textured and painted to resemble wood
#2- Cake Stencils
I’ve never been very comfortable with my intricate piping skills. I’m definitely much more of a sculpting, texturing and painting fondant type of girl. However, with the use of cake stencils even I can create beautifully elaborate designs!
With lots of companies creating awesome stencils, there are so many to choose from! Global Sugar Art and Evil Cake Genius are two of my favorite sources for stencils, but you can also find lots of options on Amazon too!
I can’t even imagine trying to pipe this! Photo from Evil Cake Genius
#3- Basic Shape Cutters
I believe that every cake decorating / designer / artist should have in their arsenal of tools some basic shape cutter sets! They are so versatile in not only cutting the basic shapes, but can be used for so many other shapes! (You just have to think outside of the box). I ordered most of my sets from Amazon. Below are some of my favorites:
I recently used the diamond cutter set to help me create a crown from gumpaste for the topper of a Lion King themed birthday cake!
The crown started as a rectangular piece of gumpaste rolled out, and then using the bottom half of a diamond shape cutter, I was able to make the crown shape come to life!
Cutter sets also come in sets for letters, numbers, leaves, flowers and almost anything you can imagine! What’s your favorite set?
#4- Edible (Food-Safe) Marker Sets
One of my absolute FAVORITE inventions!
I don’t know how I ever lived without edible markers!! They are so versatile and can be purchased in most local craft shops in the cake decorating section, or if you’re like me, you’d rather just order online! I get mine from Amazon most of the time!
I find myself using these gems for so many things…you can write or draw on fondant, gumpaste, dried royal icing, even on dried candy melts, like on cake pops!
I use them for writing messages for cakes, like “Happy Birthday!” or more clever messages, like the one written below on the wafer paper “toilet paper” in this Poo Emoji cake:
Edible food marker message on wafer paper
I also love to use them in my realistic “food” cakes – a black food marker was used to create the “poppy seeds” on this Chicago-style hot dog cake:
A black food pen makes quick work of poppy seeds!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this second post of the series “Step up your cake decorating game!” I’ll be adding posts with more of my favorite tools and ingredients that have really pushed my cakes up a level!
Cupcake Regards, Nicole
Owner / Lead Instructor, Angel Foods & Cake Business School
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