Have you ever iced and decorated a cake? Well with a little practice you will soon be able to ice cakes for any occasion.
This step-by-step beginner's guide to decorating cakes has been written by the baking experts at Tala, one of Britain's best loved kitchenware brands. Once you have mastered some of the basic techniques covered in this guide, you will be eager to expand your skills and start experimenting with your own decoration ideas!
You can choose to ice a sponge cake or a fruit cake depending on the occasion and your own preference. Very rich cakes such as traditional wedding or Christmas cakes improve by being stored for some weeks or even months. They should be well wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in a cold, dry place.
Your cake should be well proportioned and have a level top. If the cake is slightly domed you can use the bottom of the cake for the top or level it with marzipan before applying a layer of marzipan icing.
You will need a Tala Icing Syringe Set or an icing bag set with a selection of nozzles to create different designs. You will find that a turntable, whilst not essential, will make decorating your cake much easier.
In addition you will need a sieve, a palette knife (or steel rule), mixing bowls and a wooden spoon or spatula.
Iced cakes usually have a layer of marzipan under the icing. Marzipan can be shop bought or you can follow our easy recipe here.
To apply the marzipan:
Now the cake is ready to be iced. Royal Icing has a hard, glossy surface perfect for cake decoration. Click here for Tala's royal icing recipe.
You will need a palette knife and a turntable or, failing this, an upturned cake tin on which to stand the cake. Every time, before using it, the palette knife should be dipped into hot water and shaken afterwards.
Top: Put some icing on the cake and spread it with the palette knife all over the top, right to the edge. To level and smooth the surface take the knife with both hands and holding it quite straight, draw the edge of the blade right across the top. Put surplus icing back into the bowl.
Sides: Spread icing roughly over the sides of the cake. To smooth the sides of a round cake stand the damp palette knife with its edge against the cake and revolve the turntable. When finished lift the knife off gently. Without a turntable or with a square cake you have to rely on the steadiness of your hand and the accuracy of your eye. Take special care of the edge and make it as neat as possible. Remove any excess from the bottom edge of the cake.
Allow to dry in a dust-free, airy and not too warm place for 24 hours. After this you can apply a second coat or place the cake on a cake board ready for decorating.
Perfect piping is a question of practice so don't despair if you find it difficult at first. Before starting on your cake practice your piping on a plate or piece of paper until you get used to the process. For decorative piping the icing should stand up in peaks.
Using a syringe
Using a teaspoon or palette knife fill the syringe, about half way, replace the plunger and secure it with a sharp turn to the right. Press down with the plunger and, as soon as the icing appears at the opening, screw on the nozzle.
Insert your thumb into the ring at the end of the plunger and your index and third fingers will slip quite naturally into the other rings. A slight pressure with the thumb will now be sufficient to eject icing. Support the syringe body with your other hand.
Using an icing bag
First fit the nozzle. Scoop up some icing on a palette knife and place it deep into the bag; it may help to fold the bag to do this. Hold the bag together as you carefully withdraw the knife. When the bag is one quarter full twist it together behind the icing. Hold the bag with your leading hand and gently squeeze down towards the nozzle to release the icing. Support the bag with your other hand.
*TIP* The heat from your hands may affect the consistency of the icing as you pipe, causing it to dry and crack. To avoid this use small amounts and refill often.
Here are a few tips to get you started….
To pipe a straight line:
Stars and shells