Cake Decorating Ideas and Tips

Does the idea of baking, frosting, and tastefully decorating a cake from scratch seem a bit overwhelming? It shouldn't. Get cake decorating inspiration with our easy ideas, and follow our basic steps to turn batter, frosting, and your desired toppings into a showstopping centerpiece.

Easy Cake Decorating Ideas: Add Piping

Using a pastry bag with a large star tip will help you re-create the look of this Double-Layer White Chocolate Cake. Tint each row of frosting a darker shade to produce an ombre effect.

An easy technique that gives your cake a sophisticated look is piping your frosting through a pastry bag. There are different types of bag tips that will get you different looks on your cake:

  • Round tips are used to make lines, dots, and writing.
  • Star tips are used to create stars, shells, flowers, decorative borders, and rosettes.
  • Leaf tips are used to make leaf shapes.
  • Basket-weave tips are used to make lattices and ribbonlike lines and borders.

How to Decorate a Cake with Frosting

  • Fill a pastry bag about two-thirds full of frosting.
  • Fold the corners over, and roll the bag down to the frosting.
  • With one hand, grip the bag near the roll above the frosting.
  • Apply pressure with the palm of your hand, forcing the frosting toward the tip.
  • Use your other hand to guide the tip of the bag.

Try the recipe for our Double-Layer White Chocolate Cake

Get step-by-step instructions for how to frost a cake

Easy Cake Decorating Ideas: Add Creative Toppings

Our recipe for the cake shown uses a sweet combination of sliced strawberries and halved chocolate sandwich cookies.

Instead of achieving the perfect look for your cake with piped frosting, you can get a creative look by adding fresh fruit, purchased cookies, and nuts. Here are a few creative cake-topping ideas, including inspiration for how to decorate a cake with strawberries:

  • Whole small berries
  • Sliced fruit
  • Pecan, cashew, or walnut halves
  • Sliced or slivered almonds
  • Chopped hazelnuts, pistachios, or peanuts
  • Toasted or raw flaked or shredded coconut
  • Gingersnaps
  • Cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies

Cake Decorating Tip: Be sure to serve cakes embellished with cookies or fresh fruit within two hours.

Get the recipe for our Berries & Cookies Cake Topper

Easy Cake Decorating Ideas: Use Baking Decorations

Our Rainbow Pinwheel Cake pops with color. To get clean lines when decorating with nonpareils, use strips of waxed paper to provide borders.

Check out the baking aisle at supermarkets, crafts stores, or specialty food stores for some of these edible garnishes. Here are a few that you'll find, plus tips on how best to use them:

  • Nonpareils: Available in mixed or single colors, these tiny opaque balls add a touch of color and texture to your cake.
  • Colored decorating sugars: Choose from a wide variety of colors of coarse sugars, such as sparkle sugars, or finer-grain sanding sugars to add sparkle to your cake.
  • Pearl sugar: These small, opaque white balls of sugar add a unique texture to cakes.
  • Edible glitter: This flaked, colored sugar adds a glistening look to cakes.
  • Jimmies: Also called sprinkles, these tiny cylindrical decorations are available in single or mixed colors.
  • Confetti: These colorful, flat cake decorations come in many shapes for just about every occasion and holiday.

Cake Decorating Tip: Use stencils to create shapes such as hearts with edible glitter, decorating sugars, or nonpareils.

Get the recipe for our Pinwheel Rainbow Cake

Easy Cake Decorating Ideas: Use Candy

Gum balls are an appropriate candy choice for this creative cake. Get the recipe!

Decorating a cake with candy provides you with tons of creative ideas. Here are a few types of candy that can easily be arranged to make decorative patterns and borders:

  • Miniature candy-coated chocolate pieces
  • Chocolate-covered peanuts or raisins
  • Jelly beans
  • Gumdrops
  • Licorice strips
  • Fruit rolls or leather
  • Peppermint sticks
  • Whole or crushed malted milk balls
  • Sour fruit-flavor straws

Get the recipe for our Gum Ball Machine Cake

Check out 11 more fun ways to decorate a cake with candy!

Cake Decorating Basics: Choosing the Frosting

Before you can start cake decorating, you have to generously spread the base frosting along all sides of your cake. We used the Vanilla Sour Cream Frosting recipe in this photo.

Before getting started on any cake decorating, you'll have to choose a frosting. You can easily whip up a homemade frosting, or if you're tight on time, use storebought frosting (it's just as good!). Keep in mind that creamy frosting varieties work best for piping, and whipped frosting varieties spread and swirl smoothly and evenly.

Having trouble choosing a frosting? Learn how to make our classic buttercream frosting.

Cake Decorating Basics: Adding Color to Frosting

Artist’s Palette
When cake decorating, the color options for frosting are practically limitless.

After choosing the frosting you'll use, you have to decide whether you want to tint or flavor your frosting. Butter frostings, white frostings, and cream cheese frostings can be tinted almost any color and flavored to match the cake's flavor.

How to Color Frosting

There are three ways to add color to frosting (one also adds flavor!). Paste or gel food coloring is highly concentrated and comes in a variety of colors (you can find it at hobby stores and specialty cooking stores). A little goes a long way with this type of food coloring—just swirl a toothpick into the coloring and mix well with your frosting. Add the color little by little until you have your desired hue.

Liquid food coloring is more commonly found in grocery stores and is usually packaged in a set of four colors: red, yellow, green, and blue. To use, stir drops of food coloring into the frosting (mix and match the primary colors to get creative hues!) until you achieve your desired color.

If you want to skip the artificial dyes, you can follow our instructions for naturally coloring frosting. Since this method uses blended fruits and veggies, it will add a little bit of flavor to your frosting. Feel free to get a little creative mixing up your colors, but you can also follow our guide for using strawberries, peaches, mangoes, and more to make pink, purple, yellow, and green frosting.

Get our instructions for how to color frosting with fruits and veggies

How to Flavor Frosting

For a little something extra, you can add flavor to your frosting to complement the flavor of the cake. Choose from various flavorings and extracts, such as vanilla, almond, rum, or maple, as well as different liqueurs (raspberry, hazelnut, coffee) and citrus zest to add standout flavors before decorating your cake.

Quick How-To: Bake and Frost a Cake

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