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This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of cake decorating, from the preparation stage right to the finer details. It looks at the tools you need, how to level and ice your cake, and all the different ways in which you could decorate it beautifully!
After you've planned out the design you'd like to create, you should consider what cake decorating tools you'll require to create it. Using the right tools is crucial for guaranteeing precision, quality and, fundamentally, success. Below is a list of the most popular tools available, many of which you may require depending on your design.
Spatulas, or 'palette knives', allow you to evenly and consistently spread and smooth the top and sides of your cake with a layer of icing. This tool has either a straight or angled blade, depending on your preference, and is available in a range of sizes – generally between 9 and 15 inches.
Perfect for rolling out and covering cakes with fondant, Fondant rolling pins are specially designed so that sugar paste, icing, marzipan, gum paste and other materials don't stick or tear. These specialist rolling pins are available between 9 and 20 inches in length, however the larger size allows you to cover more surface area and roll to a consistent thickness.
For the ultimate precision achievable, cake levellers allow you to evenly cut off the tops of cakes for a perfectly straight base to decorate onto. Easy to position, this tool gives you complete control, allowing you to decide exactly how much of the cake to level with meticulous care.
If you're a total perfectionist, then a fondant smoother is the tool for you! Gliding across the face and sides of an iced cake to reveal a smooth, soft surface, this tool allows you to rid any unwanted marks and create the aesthetically pleasing iced cake you'd only ever dreamt of.
Decorating bags, or 'icing bags', allow you to create additional iced decorations once your cake has been iced. These containers hold the icing and a tip together to form a funnel-like tube, allowing you to gently squeeze the icing out at your own pace.
Holding your decorating bag and decorating tip securely together, a coupler is a two-piece component that is extremely handy when wanting to change a decorating tip without changing the decorating bag (or icing colour!).
Attached to the end of decorating bags with a coupler, decorating tips (or 'piping tips') work as a sort of funnel to ensure precision when applying lines of icing or creating iced shapes. These versatile metals cones are available in a multitude of shaped ends and sizes, giving you artistic freedom to explore every piping possibility you can imagine!
Designed with intricacy in mind, cutting wheels are generally available as double-ended cutting tools that allow you more versatility and precision when cutting fondant, icing, sugar paste, gum paste and more.
Modelling sticks are thin plastic sticks with one curved end and one pointed end, ideal for adding finer, more intricate details into flower centres or topper figurines. There's such a huge variety of other modelling tools available too!
Long modelling sticks with one larger and one smaller ball shape on each end, small and large ball tools are primarily used to create smooth curves in icing or for cupping and frilling flower petals or leaves.
Small and large veining tools are excellent for creating elaborate patterns and designs in sugar paste, and particularly for adding 'veins' to the petals of flowers. These plastic tools have a sharp, thin point on each side to allow total attention to detail.
Similarly to ball tools, small and large bone tools have ball-like shapes on either end, but with bends in the arm. This tool is perfect for thinning and smoothing the edges of sugar paste decorations, such as leaves and petals.
With a bulbous, curved cone shape on one side and a serrated, pointed, arrow-like shape on the other, the serrated and cone tool can be used for creating cone or arrow-shaped depressions in cake toppers. They're particularly great for creating indentations in fruit-shaped toppers or for forming the throats of a variety of flowers!
The innovative shell and blade tool has a 'shell' shape on one end with a diagonal blade on the other, allowing you to not only emboss shell-like patterns into icing, but to cut and shape precise details into sugar paste.
A particularly specific modelling tool, the scallop and comb tool has a comb-shaped end for marking and drawing serrated designs, and a specialist rounded end to create scalloped projections or facial features.
Cutters enable you to cut out specialist shapes in fondant or sugar paste, allowing you to create your own edible decorations. They are usually constructed from metal to ensure durability and accuracy when cutting.
Manufactured from strong food-grade plastic, stencils are available in a huge variety of designs, varying from scripture to paisley and more. To use, simply place your stencil onto your cake or rolled out fondant and spread icing or edible paint over the top to replicate the design.
Using a stamp is one of the simplest ways to decorate a cake or cookie. Simply press the stamp into sugar paste or fondant to leave an impression of the design, then dust with edible lustre dusts or paint to make the impression really stand out.
A fairly new technique in the baking world, die-cutting with special food-safe metal cake dies allows you to create the most intricate decorations possible! To use, simply layer wafer paper or an icing sheet with the die and run through a die-cutting machine to produce highly detailed, edible die-cuts.
Moulds are constructed from food-grade silicone or plastic, and are compatible for use with fondant, sugar paste, gum paste, icing and more, allowing you to create embellishments incredibly quickly. Simply push your material into the mould, and voila – you've replicated its shape and fine details!
Impression mats are quite similar to stamps but on a much larger scale, allowing you to fully cover your fondant with textured patterns. To use, simply roll out your fondant and carefully place the mat on top. Lightly use a rolling pin to apply even pressure, then gently lift the mat to reveal the impression. Alternatively, there are mats available that allow you to add smaller, extremely intricate lace-like details to enhance your designs.
Pattern embossers are snap-on rollers with handles that allow you to effortlessly create patterns in fondant or gum paste – available in a huge range of designs, such as basketweave, woven, pebbles, dots and more. They generally measure four inches in width, however there are detail embossers available which will add extremely thin, subtle lines quickly.
Airbrushing machines allow you to take cake decorating to the next level, assisting you in quickly and evenly colouring entire cakes. These machines are of a higher price bracket in comparison to other decorating tools, however you can create spectacular effects, colours and designs which would be very difficult to achieve by hand.
Perfect for piping precise decorations, turntables let you rotate your cake smoothly and evenly so that you can easily access all angles, without having to lean over. Keeping your cake perfectly balanced, this tool makes cake decorating a much quicker and easier process, allowing you to give your full attention to your design.
Ideal for the accurate placement of ribbons or fondant borders, a cake marker is an adjustable guide ruler which marks specific levels around the diameter of an iced cake. Simply snap the pin(s) at your desired height, place the marker on a level surface next to your cake, then move it around to mark the position(s), creating an indentation.
Brushes can be used for a variety of purposes in cake decorating, however the most common uses are dusting with edible dusting powder and painting onto your cake. Used to create beautiful designs or to simply enhance an embossed design, brushes come in a variety of sizes and bristle shapes to cater for different strokes and levels of detail.
If you're looking to create a tiered cake, you'll need somecake pillars and dowels to support the structure. For use with separator plates or cake circles to add height to your cake designs, pillars and dowels are available in a variety of sizes, colours and designs, so there's no doubt you'll find the perfect ones to cater for your creations.
Brushes are often used in cake decorating, but for a whole range of different purposes. When purchasing brushes, you should consider why you'll be using them – for example, some brushes are designed for dusting, while others are made for drawing with edible food paint. But fundamentally, there's one thing all cake brushes have in common: they're specially made to work on fondant, royal icing and modelling pastes.
Generally constructed with soft, synthetic, food-safe bristles, you'll find a range of brush shapes and sizes out there – but which should you buy to satisfy your needs? Below, we've listed six of the most common types of brushes you should expect to find.
Liner brushes are predominantly available in a very fine size – and there's good reason for that! These thin, pointed brushes are perfect for painting thin lines and fine details with edible paint, or alternatively are great for using in brush embroidery. Dainty in size, these brushes make it far easier to control your painting when writing words and adding tiny details, such as facial features, onto toppers and cake decorations.
Perfect for painting very broad thin or thick lines, depending on the size of the brush, round brushes are your general-purpose brushes in cake decorating. With a rounded end, these brushes are especially ideal for novices as they can be used with multiple techniques. Fine brushes are ideal for painting finer details, while small brushes are ideal for attaching decorations with edible glue, and medium brushes are ideal for generous brush strokes.
Flat brushes are available in a variety of sizes, each ideal for a different technique. Whereas smaller brushes are great for shading, blending and for use in brush embroidery, wider brushes are better for painting and blending larger surface areas, creating bolder strokes. Fundamentally, flat brushes are perfect for creating sharp, accurate lines and edges. Angled flat brushes are also available, however, allowing you to reach tight corners or paint curved strokes and petals with ease.
Designed for blending, gentle shading and softening, mop brushes are fuller than fine brushes and are especially ideal for painting a whole cake, instead of creating smaller details. Available in a range of sizes and shapes, these brushes are perfect for painting onto fondant cakes in a single colour, producing different effects when changing the direction of the strokes. If used lightly, mop brushes can elegantly soften an otherwise 'hard' edge.
Ultimately, dusting brushes are ideal for dusting cakes or sugar decorations with edible dust. These wide-spread, soft brushes are gentle on your decorations and move incredibly smoothly across your cake. Larger brushes are ideal for covering larger cake areas or dusting entire decorations, such as gum paste flowers, with edible dust, whilst the smaller brushes are better for dusting smaller details onto decorations, allowing you to add realistic shading and tone.
A slightly different brush, water brushes aren't used for creating decorations per se, but more to attach decorations to your cake. View these brushes as an alternative to edible glue – instead of dabbing adhesive onto your cake, your water brush is immersed in water to allow you to carefully moisten the exact area on your fondant-covered cake where you'd like to place your decorations. These brushes can attach fondant and gum paste decorations as well as glitter designs.