What tools do I use to decorate a cake?
You've thought about the many wonderful, colourful and edible toppings that are available for decorating your cake, and you've probably got a lot of cake decorating ideas ready to roll. So now's the time to turn your attention to tools and trimming utensils - how can you take those toppings and mould them into something special?
Let's run through the types of tools you'll need for maximum cake decorating creativity...
A piping bag allows you to pipe shapes, words and borders on cakes and cookies, as well as professionally ice the top of cupcakes.
Piping Tips or Nozzles
There are a number of piping nozzles you can pair with your piping bag to produce intricate and even elaborate results, depending on how ambitious you are. While the stock-standard tip is round for producing simple lines in different sizes, you can also choose from a variety of shaped tips, including:
- Star tips for piping circular patterns with ruffled edges - great for drawing flowers, piping icing on cupcakes or decorative edges on your cakes
- Flower tips shaped in specific ways for adding floral artwork to your baked creations
- Border tips for producing long, consistent edges - look for ones in several shapes so you can pipe traditional shell borders, smooth scallops, stars or classic roses around the border of your cake
- Leaf tips for making wavy pleats that look just like folded and draped ribbons
- Writing tips with small, round openings designed for piping words - because they're simple, you can also use them to pipe small, fine details like buttons and eyes
- Ruffle tips for producing defined, wavy lines.
A tip on piping tips: A tip with a couple of openings lets you pipe with two different piping bags at the same time to create a multi-coloured effect. If you have a screw on your piping bag, pick up some coupler rings, which let you screw the bag to the tip. Or, simply use tubes of coloured piping gel as a simple, no-fuss way to add a splash of colour.
Spatulas & Palette Knives
When covering your cake with icing, put the cake on a cake turntable first, and then turn the table as you ice for even coverage and a perfectly smooth finish. Always use a spatula or a palette knife to spread icing over the cake.
If you're working with fondant or marzipan, roll and cut it into shapes with a sharp knife or cookie cutter, otherwise, you can roll it out into a large sheet and then drape it over your cake. The shape of your fondant sheet should match the shape of your cake e.g. circular cakes need a circular sheet of fondant and so on.
- Fondant trimmers have rotary blades so you can easily cut smooth lines
- Embossers allow you to press patterns and shapes into your icing, fondant or marzipan, or create fancy edges with slides that you run through the icing
- Fondant and gum paste modelling sticks help you with drawing fine details or making impressions - modelling sticks have a pointed end for detailing, and a rounded end for creating shapes or draping the fondant to achieve a rounded effect
- Fondant cutters help you cut precise patterns - look for cutters that are similar to cookie cutters, or ones that look like rotary wheels for cutting your own shapes.
Tip: Sheets of edible gold leaf can be cut into shapes, just like wrapping paper, and then pressed into the fondant to create a very special, luxurious finish to your cake.
There are many factors you need to take into account when choosing the right bakeware for your baking - the type of materials you choose being just one of them. Until you commence baking, your cake is just batter but there's no reason why the shape, individuality and final look of your creation can't start coming together in the oven.
Cake and cupcake tins come in all sorts of shapes and sizes for baking something very personal. If you can't find the one you want, there are a number of kits available that let you construct your own letters, words and shapes in which you can then bake your batter.
Cupcake inserts consist of two round rings - one inside the other - that are used to make multi-coloured cupcakes. Simply fill the outer section in one colour or flavour, pour a second flavour into the inner section, pull the whole insert out and bake.
Tip: Use drying racks for cooling your baked treats before you ice them, or for letting your painted designs dry. Never start decorating before your baked creations are cool, otherwise, you'll see your artwork melt away.
Shaping & Cutting
Using a cake leveller is an easy way to remove a rough or uneven cake top and ensure you have a lovely even surface as the 'canvas' for your icing. Adjust the leveller to the height you need and then simply slice off the top of the cake.
Edge Corner Smoother
Trim edges and create corners, curves and sides with an edge corner smoother, which also allows you to achieve the same shape each time.
A cupcake corer helps you easily remove the centre from a cupcake so you can fill it with delicious jam, chocolate spread or icing. You can either choose to leave it exposed or cover the top with icing so someone gets a tasty surprise when they bite into the middle. Serrated cupcake corers make this process really simple because the slide through the cake smoothly.
An essential tool (especially for cookies) is a rolling pin. It will serve you well with your baking, especially when rolling out things like marzipan, fondant or pastry. Use a rolling pin guide to make sure your dough or icing is always a consistent height. Simply adjust the ruled slide to your chosen measurement and roll away.
Your cake is ready - it's time to show off your handiwork!
Whether you're displaying your baked beauty at a party or sharing it with a few lucky friends, let everyone fully admire your decorating skills with the following tools:
- Cake lifter - for helping you move the cake from the board to your decorative serving plate without the cake breaking or falling to pieces
- Sticks for presenting cookies, cupcakes or cake pops in an innovative way
- Dusting tools - for dusting powdery edibles like icing sugar, cocoa powder or cinnamon over your cake, similar to a sieve
- Cake rods - for propping up your tiered cakes so the bottom tiers don't get squashed
- Cake stands - the final decorative flourish for presenting your cake.
Looking for more inspiration for your baking? Check out our other cake decorating guides.