Cake Decorating 101: the icing on the cake!

crumb coatsmoothing icingflower transferfinished cakeBefore I begin, let’s talk about icing. Here are few things to know:

1. Even though you can get clear vanilla extract from Wilton in order to keep your icing pure white, I prefer the taste of 100% pure vanilla extract.

2. When making a cake like this, it is harder to work with real butter in the icing. I have tried it many times, but it just doesn’t work as well as the crisco.

3. I use the Wilton professional butter cream icing recipe. It’s available online.

Decorating the cake:

1. Begin with a crumb coat. (picture far left) after icing the top of your bottom layer and stacking your cakes, cover the entire cake in a thin layer of icing. This is to catch all of the crumbs so that your second coat it pure white.

2. Generously ice a second time. Try to get the icing as smooth as possible with the spatula.

3. Use a viva paper towel (must be Viva, cloth-like with no dimples) to smooth your wrinkles and cracks out of the icing. (second photo)

4. I used a shell border around the base and top of the cake. I can’t give directions briefly enough here, so you may want to visit the Wilton website. Other easier options would be just a simple “ball” border. You need a rather large holed tip to pipe these, but they’re very easy. Also, when I was less consistent with my piped borders, I just used candy to line the base of the cake (skittles, m&m’s, etc).

5.  I used a suncatcher from the children’s craft section at wal mart for these flowers. I just pressed them gently into the icing and filled in the lines from the imprint with piping ge.

6. write your message. As you can see from photo#4 – I am not great at writing! But I keep on trying :).

Ask questions if any of this is unclear. You can find thousands of websites that walk you through this in a more comprehensive way. I just thought I’d let you in on the fact that it’s easier than people realize to decorate a cake!


6 thoughts on “Cake Decorating 101: the icing on the cake!

  1. It’s very pretty, and those instructions actually do make it sound easier than i thought. It’s just you don’t do the easy stuff anymore, you advanced cake decorator! 🙂

  2. Oh I love making cakes. I have never gotten to take a class before but I have picked up stuff from my mom and brother. I always use real vanilla too…or Almond extract. Almond is my family’s favorite icing. We do it the same as the Wilson Buttercream but either do a complete substitution for vanilla with almond or half it with half vanilla. I am terrible at the writing too. I have never done the papertowl thing…gotta try that. I love the pans that are shapes…then I just to the star fill in. I have done the car one for my son and for my SIL 16th bday. But usually I end up drawing a design with a toothpick and filling in with star tip. It is fun hearing all the tips you are writing, I always have trouble with the base coat…gotta try your viva paper towl thing.


  3. Thanks for all the great ideas. I took a Wilton Cake decorating class with my grandma when I was in highschool. The paper towel trick is new! They used to tell you to wet an offset spatula to smooth. I’ll have to try it with the paper towels.

    I’ve always had a hard time with my writing too. I used to practice on the Wilton practice board. (I don’t know if they still make them.) It is a clear plastic sheet that you can place over pictures of borders or what you want to write. Then you can practice your writing or shell border.

    I love how the flowers came out. That was such an original idea!

  4. wow! That doesn’t sound so bad. I would try one myself, but why bother when I’ve got my talented sister-in-law to do it for me? 🙂

    And if you’ve never tasted one of Laurie’s cakes, you’ve got to ask her to make a cake for something you’re having, because they taste amazing! (And always look great to top it off!)

  5. I was using paper towels to smooth out the tops and sides way back some 20 years ago when my oldest child was a little one. I still have all the pans and decorating tips including the extra-large three-star tip for filling in the starburst patterns for large areas. I decorated upright 3-D trains, Jack o’ Lanterns, Santa Faces, Heart Cakes, Bunnny Cakes for Easter (including an Egg Cake Decorated like an Easter Egg one year), Baby Shower, wedding shower (both bride and groom sexy cakes), book cakes, and a few wedding cakes. I created a four-tier ivory-colored wedding cake for one of my closest friend’s weddings. I added ivory colored lace trivets beneath each layer on the stacked round holder with columns that went into the cake area beneath it. The top was the masterpiece. I was able to remove it after pictures but before serving. I placed it in a nice safe Tupperware holder so they could freeze it for their first anniversary – as per tradition. She said it was as great a year later on their first anniversary as it was at their wedding.

    The most difficult part was making all the children cakes. Finally by the 6th or 7th grade my oldest pleaded with me to stop making the cakes. It upset her teachers but I did. I began making the small petite cakes for the teachers so they would have something special to bring home that was, as one teacher put it, “too pretty to eat.”

    The last year I baked for the Halloween carnival at school I had something like 20 to 25 Jack O’ Lantern Cakes for the auction to earn $$ for the PTA and there were another five for the cake walk. Mine always got gone first and always sold high so the PTA made a decent amount of money that could be put to good use.

    My last cake was for a college class I took. It was the end of the semester. I baked a rectangular cake and piped in using the professional letters for the class name. It was so nice the head dean sent for the school photographer to take a photo for the college’s newsletter. It caught the attention of the teacher that taught the Wilton program on campus. I asked if she would let me take her advanced class but she turned me down. It was because she didn’t want to ruin the unique style I had made for myself.

    My mother learned from her oldest sister and her husband how to make these cakes because they designed and made all the cakes for the major brass where they were both based in the military. I never touched a decorating bag until I was grown and the most I did as a child other than lick the icing from the mixing spatula was pay attention and watch. My first cake turned out perfectly and I just started baking away decorating the cakes as an adult for extra money and for my oldest child’s classroom parties and school functions.

    I had only one rule, which somewhat upset the teachers through the years. I would make as many or as unique of a cake as they wished but I would never cut the first slice. It was just something I couldn’t do. The teachers couldn’t bear cutting into them either so they always dragged another teacher or the principal into the room to make the first cut. LOL!

    It was great while it lasted but I had far too much arthritis in my hands and nerve damage that I had to give it up. I couldn’t make them when my youngest was coming up. Anyone that has used the Wilton Icing knows how thick it can be and how much pressure it takes to twist and press the bags to make the decorated pieces using the tips and a great number of my cakes had a tremendous amount of bagged hand-pressure decorating on them, especially the upright 3-D Train with two to three sections of the train behind it.

    I did do something to make sure the tradition continued. I taught one of my dearest friends how to make them. She did as I did before her. She used the baking and decorating as a way to earn extra money to raise her child after the husband/father walked out on them just as I did before her when my first husband walked out on us. The extra income from the cakes helped offset the high cost of living without child support b/c the jerk refused to pay it even when I told him he didn’t have to pay me directly if he didn’t want to do so, he could pay her daycare and after-school program fees for the month instead. That would take a load off me but the jerk refused that as well. He was well onto his second marriage and second child then third marriage with 5th child and still didn’t pay until he got hurt the last year my child was in high school. she received disability income off him for something like 8 months and then it was gone. The state couldn’t make him pay all the back money owed, which was wrong. It would have put a major dent in the cost of her college education today. She still has two more years of college left; I just hope we can afford to keep finding the grants and saving the extra to cover the costs.

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