I am by no means a professional cake baker. Seriously. (Look at the photos below if you want proof.) In fact, my husband and my favorite cake is Funfetti with Rainbow Chip frosting. We actually had that as our wedding cake 😛
While we are totally happy with our box-cake celebrations, I still love to look at the lovely creations of current cake bakers. Their organic, floral goodness—stretching far beyond the old-school fondant style—is just gorgeous. (In case, you haven’t seen it for yourself, check out the Instagram feed’s of @cakesbycliff and @asweettale.)
Which led me to wonder, could a total amateur (like me) mimic this style? If I want a somewhat easy, gorgeous cake for an upcoming party, could I get the look?
So I tried it and found learned some tips and tricks on how to decorate a cake to transform it from average to extravagant:
1. Start with two round cake pans
Sounds like an obvious one, but it will set the base for your cake looking great. I used two 8 x 3 inch round cake pans I found at Michaels. I guess the really tip here is, despite what the back of the box says, a full box of cake will fit nicely into one of these cake pans instead of splitting the batter between two. (You can see below how I followed the box directions and ended up with two thin cakes, before making the nice thick one.)
2. Pre-made frosting makes great filling, but use an easy homemade buttercream to frost the outside.
I guess you can use a pre-made frosting for the whole cake, buuut I found this easy buttercream frosting that tasted delicious, was super quick to make, and spread smoothly across the entire cake. I would also suggest buying a cake spatula; it made the whole process so much easier!
3. Refrigerate the frosted cake before decorating.
This just helped in getting the frosting to harden a bit before laying on top of it. As you can see, I layered and layered items, so the refrigeration helped with flowers not sliding off the back of the cake!
4. Choose a color palette and decorate from big to small.
I went with fuchsias and pinks for my color palette. We had some really pretty roses growing in the backyard that I wanted to use, so I based the decor off of them. If you would like some specifics, the items I used are listed below:
1 handful of raspberries
1 handful of blackberries
10 yogurt covered raisins
5 white chocolate wafers
20ish mini white chocolate chips
I had no idea you could buy macaroons in Santa Barbara, but I googled it and was surprised! I have also heard that you get frozen macaroons at Trader Joe’s? I have also found Trader Joe’s to have the best, inexpensive floral selection. For the white chocolate goodies, I went to the bulk section in Smart and Final, and just purchased small bags of different sized items.
Once you’ve gathered your decor, start by placing the biggest items first. I placed the roses and the macaroons, knowing I would want them to create a sort of halo effect around the border of the cake.
I placed one macaroon one the side of the cake, along with two berries and a couple of mini chips. Then I moved to grouping the rest of the berries onto the cake. Keep in mind that groups of three tend to be appealing to the eye. I slowly filled in the gaps between the roses with a couple berries, following this with the wafers, raisins, and white chocolate chips. For me, this was a go-slow-and-see-what-looks-right sort of process.
That really is it! How to decorate a cake!
You can see I also added a layer of caramel sauce before laying the decor. It’s doable, but definitely a lesson learned for me. The caramel was messy and loved to slowly seep off the top of the cake onto the platter. Not worth it! However, if you like the look and don’t want to make a ganache by hand, just make sure you use a small amount 😉
Interested in other party baking tutorials? Check out this easy way to make cactus cupcakes.