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:
How to Decorate a Cake with Frosting
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:
Cake Decorating Tip: Be sure to serve cakes embellished with cookies or fresh fruit within two hours.
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:
Cake Decorating Tip: Use stencils to create shapes such as hearts with edible glitter, decorating sugars, or nonpareils.
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:
Sometimes you can't judge a cake by its frosting. For our Pot of Gold Rainbow Cake, we used frosting to make the cake look like a rainbow, but we hid the real surprise inside. The outside doesn't have to be plain (it can be just as candy-coated as the inside!), but it's a fun surprise to cut into a simple cake and reveal overflowing sprinkles or candies. No matter how basic the surface decorations are, nothing is more impressive than cutting into a cake to reveal chocolates, sprinkles, or other candies tucked away inside. To create this effect, bake four round cake layers. Leave two of the layers intact, and cut a small circle out of the center of the two remaining layers. Place one whole layer on the bottom and frost, then stack the two layers with a cut-out hole on top, frosting each layer in between. Fill the center hole with your desired filling, then top it off with the last whole cake layer. Frost as desired, and wait for the big reveal when you cut the first slice! Here are a few ideas for filling the inside of your cake:
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.
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.
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.
Whether you're throwing on a quick crumb coat or trying to create the ultimate smooth edge, any cake decorator needs a few trusty cake supplies for frosting. For spreading frosting across the top of the cake or along the sides, use an off-set spatula. This tool can also be great for creating pretty frosting swirls on the top and sides. If you want to smooth out the frosting on the cake, or blend piped stripes of frosting together, be sure you have a bench scraper handy. And of course, to make frosting and smoothing much easier, be sure to place your cake on a turntable or rotating cake stand before frosting. This will make adding and smoothing frosting SO much faster!
If you want to create wavy rows, gorgeous flowers, or pretty swirls, piping is the answer. You can use a piping bag with tips if you want to be able to pipe different shapes of frosting, or you can fill a plastic bag with frosting and cut off a small corner if you just want to be able to pipe straight frosting. This method is best for piping lettering, stripes, or drawing freehand designs with frosting.