Words and pictures by Hannah Penwright
If you’re a big baking fan, decorating cakes is a great way to take your skills to the next level. However, I know first-hand that making some easy mistakes can often end in a mediocre result. So, to save you facing the same issues I have, I’ve put together some of my top tips for creating stunning cakes every time!
Levelling and Layering Cakes
First up: levelling. It might seem a shame to cut off cake that you’ve just made from scratch, but it’s worth it! Flat layers will lead to a neater stack of cakes, and when you cut into it, the layers of buttercream will be even throughout. If you’re worried about the exposed cakes going dry, brush over some simple syrup before icing. And if you’re worried about crumbs- don’t! Icing a thin layer of buttercream all over helps to lock in crumbs and create a smooth surface for the final coat.
Creating the Perfect Drip
Once you have finished icing, the cake is your canvas to decorate as you please. For a pretty design, that’s not too difficult to master, a drip cake is my go-to. First off, you want to chill your cake in the fridge so the drip sets as it falls down the sides. To make sure it drips smoothly, make sure you’re using something quite thin. I like to use melted Biscoff spread or chocolate ganache made with a higher quantity of double cream. For maximum control over the drip, use a piping bag to run the mix down the sides of the cake, using differing pressures to create different length drips.
Fondant often allows you to take your creativity to the next level, but it’s not always the easiest to use. To maximise your chances of success, use fresh fondant that hasn’t been exposed to air as it dries out quickly. If you want to colour it, use pastes rather than liquid colouring so it doesn’t change the consistency. When rolling out, use as little icing sugar as possible and keep lifting it off the surface to prevent it sticking. If you’re covering an entire cake with fondant, make sure the fondant is thick enough to prevent it cracking.
Piping has always been my favourite way to decorate, as the possibilities are endless. It’s a great way to add height to a cake and use up leftover buttercream at the same time! If you’ve never piped before, I’d recommend investing in a quality reusable piping bag and set of metal nozzles, as these will last you for years. Before piping straight on a cake, practice with different nozzles on a sheet of greaseproof to work out what’s your favourite. Make sure to always hold the piping bag directly upwards and use both hands to squeeze the bag gently.
With these tips under your belt, creating stunning cakes will hopefully be much less daunting. Good luck, and happy baking!
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