How to make cake decorations

Updated April 17, 2017

The showpiece of any celebration is the sweet treat. Cakes can come in simple packages with decadent icing, or as an elaborate masterpiece stacked with layers and intricate designs. In order to successfully decorate a cake, you have to do most of the work before any icing reaches it. Here are a few steps to successful cake decorating.

Bake a flat cake. The first step to successful cake decorating is achieving a smooth, level cake. Cool completely. Most professional bakers freeze cakes prior to decoration. Freezing helps cakes keep their shape and retain moisture once they are decorated.

Decide on filling, frosting and colours. Buttercream may taste good, but it melts in heat and humidity. Fondant creates a smooth, perfect look and will not melt under oppressive weather conditions. When decorating with coloured icing, mix it a few shades lighter, because the icing dries darker. Mix more icing than you need of a particular colour; it’s impossible to match the exact colour again.

Pick the correct pastry tips for your design. These are metal cones through which the icing is squeezed to create a shape or design. Round tips are used for outlining, details, writing, string work, beads, dots, stems, vines and flower centres. This tip creates a round, smooth tube. The star tip provides stars, zigzags, shells, puffs, rosettes and scrolls. This is one of the most popular designs, and ranges in size from small to extra large. Petal tips create a variety of flowers, ribbons, bows and swags. The basketweave tip makes smooth or ribbed basketweave designs.

Shape the decorations. A variety of substances can be used to create cake decorations. Gum paste is pliable and can be used to shape flowers, leaves, figures and shapes. Fondant can be rolled out and cutters used to create various shapes and designs.

Apply decorations. To apply fondant shapes, use a sticky mixture of ready-to-use fondant and water. Brush the mixture onto the back of the shape and apply to the cake. Icing can be used to attach shapes as well. Follow a few guidelines when decorating with icing. First, apply bottom borders, swags and bottom decorations. Next, add top borders and any top decorations. Writing is the last decoration added to any cake.

Use your imagination. Cake decorations consist of everything from confectioner’s sugar to edible flowers to premade cake toppers. Cake pans resembling cartoon characters, animals and shapes are available. These cakes make decoration easy, using a pastry bag and special tips to create rosettes, shells and borders.


When using a pastry bag, burp the bag to remove air. Use a toothpick to lightly draw lettering as a set of guidelines.

Things You'll Need

  • Cake pans
  • Pastry bags and tips
  • Icing
  • Fondant
  • Decorations (as needed)
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About the Author

Erica Green has been a freelance journalist since 2008. She has contributed to the Atlantic Publishing Company, Texas Sports, Confessions of a Homeowner and more. Green is currently pursuing a degree in Spanish, and she tutors English Language Learner students. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas and is a certified middle school teacher.