DIY Cake Decorating Hacks From Industry Professionals

Is there anything more enjoyable than baking a DIY cake at home? Whether you're decorating a birthday cake, celebrating a holiday, or just making a cake for fun, putting on the icing and DIY cake decor is the most exciting part of the process. 

Of course, most of us aren't born professional cake decorators. It takes practice (and a few tricks up your sleeve) to make your cake decor look professional.

Take it from experienced cake-experimenters, we've found several easy decorating cake hacks to make your DIY cake look perfect for any event you happen to be celebrating. Baking with kids, baking for yourself, for the holidays, or for a friend; with these tricks you won't even recognize your own cake as a DIY effort.

 

What Makes a Homemade Cake Look Professional?

  1. Let the cake completely cool

  2. Keep cake layers even

  3. Smooth Top Icing

  4. Unbroken Cake Sides

  5. Artful & Symmetrical Decoration

 

When trying to up your cake-decor game, it helps to define your priorities. A cake with too many goals is easy to over-decorate. To make a cake that looks beautiful, you need to meet three simple criteria: smooth top icing, unbroken cake sides, and artistic/symmetrical decorations. Your cake may be one layer or four. It might be topped with piped icing or fruit, but if you meet these three goals then it is sure to look beautiful. 

Let's dive into the easy cake decorating ideas anyone can use for a gorgeous DIY cake. Share with the bakers in your life!

 

Let the Cake Cool Completely In the Pan

The most common frustration in cake decorating is cakes that fall apart. When your cake edges fall apart or your cake falls to pieces in the pan, it's pretty hard to decorate cleanly. Fortunately, this is a problem that's easy to solve with a little patience: Let your cake(s) cool completely in the pan before you get started decorating. Most of us know that icing melts if you ice a warm cake, but not everyone realizes that cakes fall apart far less (with smoother sides to ice) if you wait until fully cool before removing from the cake pans.

From there, use a flexible spatula to help your cake out. Flip the pans upside-down onto a rack or large cutting board as you prepare to ice.

 

Cut Your Cake Layers Even (Keep the Crumbs)

If you are decorating a multi-layer cake, getting the stack right is essential. Take your two-four layers and set them all beside each other in a line. Use a sheet of wax paper on the countertop if you need clean flat space and to move your cakes after. Look at them at eye-level and ready your bread knife. Very carefully cut any uneven tops so they are all the same height and flat on both the top and bottom.

From here, you can lay down your inner-icing and start the stack. Make sure your cakes are 100% cool before stacking or you'll get a leaning tower of pastry. Line your cakes up evenly and admire that nice clean line.

 

Smooth Top Icing: The Central Dollop Method

If you know the trick, icing a smooth crumb-free cake top is ... well, a piece of cake.  Has your icing ever rolled up into a crumb layer? This is very common, and very avoidable Icing the top of a cake is harder than it sounds unless you know the "Dollop Method".

Start with room-temperature icing, you want it just a little soft and pliable. If your icing is too cold and stiff, microwave for 10 seconds to soften it just a little. Now deposit half that canister of icing onto the top of your cake. Spread it out from the middle, never allowing the icing to become thin enough to 'roll crumbs'. Push icing from the center out to the sides, but not over the edge. Don't over-spread once the layer is on and your top icing will stay pristine.

 

Use Cookies and Cake Crumbs for Topping

Piping icing decoration takes practice and hand-eye coordination, but decorating a beautiful cake doesn't have to be hard. Take those cake crumbs from your cut layer tops (or scraped out of the pan) and use them as a vibrant filler in the center of your cake (or inside an iced shape) for texture and color. You can also use cookies whole or halved around the edge of your cake for a beautiful DIY scallop cake design without piping a single arc of icing.

 

Top Your Cake with Pieces of Fresh Fruit

Fruit is another wonderful way to make a cake beautiful without any pro-decorating skills needed. Cut strawberries into halves and quarters for a vivid fruit topper. Combine with bright green kiwi slices, dark blueberries, or richly textured blackberries. With white icing, you can also dribble berry juice over the top for an artistic splatter-paint design without disturbing your icing surface.

Press your fruit pieces into the icing gently to form a beautiful fruit mosaic on top of your cake. As a bonus tip, if you plan to put fruit on top of the cake, consider thin layers of fruit between your cake layers as well.

 

Practice Your Icing Piping

Love the idea of DIY piping your own cake decorations? So do we! But it does take some practice. Start by filling your piping bag and loading up the tip. When filling the bag, we've found it helps to roll the bag down so icing doesn't get stuck on the sides as you fill. 

Start simple. Use grooved dollops instead of icing roses, at first, and draw shapes that you can fill in with cake crumbs, sprinkles, or fruit pieces.

If you're decorating a special cake and want it to be perfect, practice your piping on wax paper before decorating the cake. Practice your shapes, edging, and icing-penmanship. If you keep your colors separate, you can even scoop the icing right back into the piping bag for cake-time.

Check out our recipe for perfect chocolate buttercream frosting

 

Consider Candle Placement

If you're decorating a birthday cake, don't forget to plan for candles. Decide your candle placement so that they don't pierce your beautiful cake-top decor. You can place the candles in clusters, outline a shape, or along the outside as easy solutions to try.

 

DIY cake decorating takes practice to perfect, but with the right tricks you can make professional-looking cakes in a snap. With a quick stack, smooth top, and well-constructed top decor, any cake can look like you just bought it from a professional bakery - but with that special personal touch of a handmade gift.

Don't have time for a homemade cake for an upcoming event? Need the cake to be absolutely perfect? Get in touch with us to order beautiful cakes in any design you need.

 

Keep going? Read our guide to cake tiers next: https://sunflourbakingcompany.com/blogs/news/cake-tiers