I don’t make many cakes these days. It’s much harder to do now that I have the three girls, four chickens, and that pesky dog we all know and love… But it’s still one of those things I’ll always love to do. My little apartment kitchen in Oakland, back in my college days, was where I put in most of the time figuring out what I was doing and how to decorate cakes like the beautiful ones that suddenly became popular on TV. Through VERY MUCH trial and error, I learned how to replicate various techniques and how to make my own cakes look as good as they tasted.
For this post, I thought it might be fun (and hopefully helpful!) to share the tools and equipment that I’ve come to love and rely on. While there are many creative activities in life that don’t require specific methods and instruments, cake decorating isn’t one of them. Having the right tools will help you SO much if you are just starting out or trying to get better at your decorating just for fun. I’m going to share what I love and what I’ve found to work well for me. Nothing I’ve done has been the product of any class or formal training. I’ve taught myself everything via blogs, youtube, books and practice. Hopefully this post will help to get you prepared and excited to start making beautiful cakes yourself!
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THE RIGHT TOOLS:
1. Wilton Modeling Tools with Storage Case – this is by far the best tool set I’ve come across. The different tips help you to achieve different effects and they don’t stick to the fondant.
2. Fondant Mat – I’d classify this mat as an essential. If you think your cute fondant pieces won’t stick to your counter, you are wrong. This mat is heaven. Nothing sticks! Huzzah!
3. Satin Ice Fondant – I prefer the consistency of this fondant to that of Wilton brand. While Wilton has recently changed the flavor of their fondant (I think all fondant is gross personally) the texture is still the biggest thing for me. Satin Ice is just easier to use from the get go and more forgiving. If you buy a big tub of white, it will last you a long time and you can dye it any color you need in small amounts so you aren’t left with a ton of some color you won’t use.
4. Revolving Cake Stand – It’s nearly impossible to get smooth base frosting without a turn table. This allows your cake to spin freely while you smooth frosting over the surface.
5.Cake Leveler – another essential. While I DO think it’s possible to torte (re: split) a cake into even layers by hand, I think this takes an immense amount of practice and a steady hand. The torter takes care of the precision of creating even layers without any worry of messing up. Fool proof is good, right?!
6.Icing Tip Set, X-Large– these make frosting cakes SO much easier. You can evenly apply a layer of frosting, or add filling in a breeze without needing to mess around with a spatula (and cake crumbs that come from smoothing!)
7.Featherweight Decorating Bag– the big washable kind are awesome.
8.Stainless Steel Bench Scraper – again, another essential for creating a smooth surface. This coupled with the turn table mentioned above will help you frost the sides of cakes like a dream.
1. Use Gel Paste Food Colors. It’s less watery and more pigmented than the liquids.
2. Buy a set of food coloring markers. These are so handy for tiny details and more convenient than using a paint brush. Gel Paste Food Colors
are my favorites.
3. If you don’t have food coloring markers, you can make your own food coloring “paint” by mixing gel food coloring with a bit of clear vodka. This creates a watercolor consistency paint that glides smoothly over fondant. The alcohol evaporates as the paint dries leaving you with a beautiful design.
4. Use homemade rice crispy treats inside large fondant sculptures! This is the best trick ever, in my opinion. It will lighten up any figurines or models you are creating and save you tons of fondant! (the yarn balls in the images from this post are ovals of rice krispies covered in a thin sheet of fondant.
5. The microwave can be your best friend! Use the defrost setting to ever so slightly soften any fondant that’s gotten too hard to work with.
6. NEVER refrigerate cakes with fondant. This will cause crazy condensation that is really hard to manage in a home cooks kitchen. Unless you can refrigerate and bring to room temperature in a room with constant airflow (re: fans pointed directly at the cake) your fondant will get slimey as the cake warms up.
7. Use gloves when working with food coloring if you want to keep your hands clean (you can buy them super cheap at a drug store with the hair dye stuff!)
Hopefully some of these little tips and ticks help you with your own cake adventures. And below I’ll share a few more of my own. A few are recent, but the smaller darker (pre-DSLR days) pictures are of cakes I made when I was first starting out! If I can figure it out, you definitely can too!
Happy baking, friends!