Cake Decorating – Getting Started

There are many ways to start on a path to a successful cake decorating career (if you plan to make it a career) or even to learn cake decorating as a hobby. Many cake decorators, myself included, started by making cakes for family members or friends, some started working in the bakery section of a grocery store or by taking formalized cake decorating classes. The important thing to remember is that no matter where you start, you can become a skilled cake artist if you practice, practice, practice!

Equipment

As a novice cake decorator you don’t need to go out and buy every cake decorating tool that is out there! Here are what I consider the basics:

  • Good Cake Pans – If you have good cake pans these will last forever! And make such a difference in how your cake bakes up as well as the texture of your cake. I use the Fat Daddio brand of cake pans and they have worked great for me, but any professional grade cake pans would work fine.
  • Cake Leveler – Personally, I think this is a must have, especially for a beginner. Trying to level a cake with just a sharp knife takes experience (especially larger cakes), and why not get it right the first time! I use the Wilton Cake Leveler, the smaller one is only 4.00 right now on Amazon but remember you need to get a leveler that is larger than the cake that you are cutting!
  • Fondant roller and fondant smoother – If you plan on working with fondant. I bought this set, because A) it was cheaper then buying the smoother or roller alone and 2) I also knew I would be working with fondant a lot and this had many of the tools included as well.
  • Off-set spatula – Useful for leveling your frosting on the top and sides of your cake. This is the one I have but any one will do.
  • Piping bag and piping tips – I get disposable piping bags because I like to just throw them away when I’m done with them and since I mainly work with fondant I also don’t have many tips. I usually buy them as I find the need for them, so no need to go crazy here either. These are the piping bags that I get but there are so many available.
  • Gel food coloring – Not the kind that you buy in your supermarket. Gel food coloring is more concentrated then the liquid type bought in supermarkets so you don’t need very much. Additionally, you can just buy the primary colors and mix them as needed. I started with this Wilton set which has 8 colors.

This list is the bare minimum that I would suggest for those who are just getting started and do not want to make a huge investment. As you get more experienced and learn more techniques you will find that you will need to add to your arsenal of cake decorating supplies!

Practice

Practice is the most important thing that you need to do to learn cake decorating and to master it as a skill. Watch tutorials (there are some great ones on our tutorial page) or read some books and practice your techniques. YouTube can be your best friend! Volunteer to make cakes for friends or family. Who doesn’t love free cake? As long as the cake you are making tastes good, friends and family will be very forgiving when it comes to how the cake looks. If you think this will be too stressful early on then practice at home – get out some parchment paper and practice your piping techniques.
One thing that I found helpful were dummy cakes. I started with a 6” Styrofoam “fake cake” and would practice icing, and fondant on these cakes. Although it is not the same as icing a real cake it was great practice and I didn’t have to take the time to bake a cake (and no leftovers either!). This is the one I first bought, you will notice that the height of this dummy is 4 inches, that is the standard size that any tier should be.

Take a class

If you still don’t feel comfortable after watching tutorials, you can always sign up for a cake decorating class. For in person cake decorating classes, Michael’s offers varying levels of The Wilton Method of cake decorating classes. There are also a number classes available online as well (Craftsy and Udemy offer some good ones).

Don’t get frustrated

You won’t do everything right the first time around. You will make mistakes, and you will learn from all of them. One of the first times I made a tiered fondant covered cake, only to wake up the next morning to see that the side of my cake was bulging! I didn’t even know that such a thing could happen! It was a nightmare, but needless to say I learned from that mistake.

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