Happy August! It’s birthday month in our house - my daughter Amara, my mom, and my husband Brett. In honor of the births of some of my favorite people on this planet, I’ll be talking all about birthday cakes this week.
Today, I am sharing simple ways to decorate layer cakes. Later this week, on Bake Club+, I’ll be sharing Amara’s 3rd birthday cake. She helped design it herself: chocolate cake, raspberry filling, a couple layers of whipped ganache, and pink frosting (of course).
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You know I am a big advocate for from-scratch cake recipes. Whether you are baking for a birthday, anniversary, or holiday, something homemade will likely taste better than store-bought. Of course flavor and texture are always the most important, but we eat with our eyes first so it never hurts to make it pretty.
New to cake decorating? Don’t sweat it! If you are nervous about nailing the decor, here are 9 easy ways to put the icing the cake:
Stressing about frosting your homemade cake? Skip it all together and go naked. This rustic look can be dressed up or dressed down. Add cake flags, candles, or a flower crown on top.
Because the sides are exposed, there are a few key points to keep in mind. Take care when preparing your cake pans before baking so that the cake layers come out clean. For even layers of filing, opt for piping them on or use a measuring cup for perfect portions. Select a filling that is stable or use a frosting ‘dam’ to keep things from slipping and sliding around.
With a fully-frosted cake, the buttercream protects the cake and locks in moisture. Keep this in mind when serving and storing (knowing that exposed cake in the refrigerator will start to dry out quickly).
Check this out for more naked cake tips and tricks.
This technique is not only effective but super fun to do. Start with a frosted cake that has been chilled for about 15 minutes. It should be firm to the touch but not so hard that the sprinkles won’t stick at all.
If it is too soft, the frosting may smush when you roll it in a tray of sprinkles. Fill in any gaps by simply pressing the sprinkles onto the cake with your hands.
Don’t stop with just sprinkles! Similar to above, the options for covering a cake are endless. Try coconut flakes, chocolate chips, colorful cereal, etc. This is a perfect idea for when you aren’t 100% confident in your smooth icing skills.
Instead of rolling, dump your topping of choice on a rimmed sheet pan. Gently gather with your hands and then press the toppings onto a freshly frosted cake. Make sure to do this over the sheet pan so any toppings that fall off can easily be scooped up and reused.
Create a Pattern
Instead of scooping and rolling, use toppings to create a pattern. Think colorful candies lined up in rows, stripes, diagonals, geometric shapes, etc.
Want a charming cake that looks effortlessly beautiful? Make it rustic! The key here is to fill and stack the cake as you would a smoothly frosted cake, then go back and add your swirls and swoops. The goal is rustic, not falling over. Use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to swirl fresh buttercream.
Put it in your bag and pipe it! Use a variety of piping tips (or just one, repeated) to create texture and patterns all over or on part of your cake. Use the same or a rainbow of colors. A gentle squeeze and release to the piping bag will create icing “kisses” or flowers on your cake.
Flex your flower powers with this fresh idea! Use whole or just the petals of edible flowers to cover a frosted cake.
When we were sweeping the patio the other day, my daughter called the fallen petals “flower sprinkles,” and nothing has ever been so accurately named. Picking apart the petals and throwing them on a cake like confetti definitely feels like a party.
Fresh fruit is so beautiful as is. Especially if the cake has the same filling, using fruit slices and berries to decorate a cake not only gives it some flair but also lets you know the flavor inside.
For a more professional look, be mindful of the size of your fruit and slice with care. Consider placing berries in a pattern or piling them high in the center.
Make It Abstract
Tap into your inner artist and paint a cake with buttercream! Start with a smoothly frosted cake then swipe on different colors. Bonus, this is a great way to use any leftover colors of buttercream from past cake creations.
For all of the cake designs, it is best to start with a level cake. Make sure to practice good cake building skills, like trimming your layers and stacking them straight, before adding toppings or decorations. Check out my best tips for icing a smooth cake.
Sprinkles will cover icing imperfections, but they can’t disguise a leaning cake or keep it from falling over.