Let's decorate a half stripe cake with rainbow colours and optional gold and green shamrocks! This is a unique, eye-catching cake perfect for St Patrick’s day or any other rainbow themed celebration.
You can use any flavour for the cake layers but rainbow colours makes them more fun to cut into! To do that, I divided my Very Vanilla cake batter between five bowls. Add a drop of gel color to four of them, leaving the last bowl plain. Cut the ends off 5 piping bags and spoon the batter into them.
Then you can pipe the batter in squiggles to make a random, colourful pattern. Tap the pans so that the cakes are level before putting them in the oven. As they bake, the edges will darken like they always do but the insides will be bright and beautiful!
I like to chill my cake layers after they cool so that they’re less crumbly. This makes the next few steps much easier and neater. Thirty minutes in the freezer is enough time for them to firm up but they’ll come back to room temperature and get nice and soft again before you eat the cake.
Assemble your cake by alternating the cake layers with whatever filling you choose. Next, cover the cake in a crumb coat, which traps any crumbs that come off the cake. This is my 4 Minute Buttercream.
Piping the frosting onto the cake is quicker than spreading it straight on. Then spread the piped frosting around the cake and you’ll pull off fewer crumbs this way. Chill the crumb coated cake in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes. This will set the crumb coat before adding your next layer of frosting.
Spread another layer of frosting generously onto your cake. Scrape around the cake a few times with a cake comb so that the sides are straight and fairly smooth. Then switch to a striped cake comb. You need quite a thick layer of frosting for stripes, at least as thick as the grooves of your striped cake comb. If your frosting is too thin, the grooves on the comb will dig through this frosting and into the crumb coat.
Keep scraping until your stripe grooves are very neat, with smooth edges. Don’t worry about the top edge of the frosting yet. Put the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes to set these stripes and meanwhile, prepare the colours for the rest of the stripes.
Here’s a hack for rainbow colours that you can mix in just one bowl without washing the bowl in between colours. Start with yellow and after scooping that out and into a piping bag you’ll continue in this order:
This obviously isn’t the order of the colours in the rainbow. The reason for this order is that the leftovers of each colour in the bowl can blend together with the next colour without muddying that colour. For example, leftover orange mixed into red is fine and leftover red mixed into purple is fine. You'll end up with bright colours even though they’ve all been prepare in the same dirty bowl! (Well, not dirty, just not washed and dried in between colours!) To make half-stripes you’ll need a piping bag with plain white buttercream in it, too.
Take your cake out of the freezer and use your cake comb to score a diagonal line into the cake. Spin the cake around and score another one on the other side of the cake. These lines will divide the cake in half.
Pipe the white buttercream into the striped grooves on one half, between the two scored lines.
Then scrape around the cake with a straight edged cake comb. You'll push this buttercream all the way into the grooves to fill them. You'll also take off the excess with your comb. Scrape in both directions so that the ends of the stripes don’t drag into the other half the cake. If there are any indents or air pockets, spread more buttercream over those areas and scrape again. Scrape until you’ve left a smooth surface behind. The stripes will blend into each other to make a solid white half of the cake.
Now use your rainbow colours on the other half. Follow the same technique of piping and then scraping, scraping, scraping, in both directions.
When the stripes are smooth they'll lie flat against the white stripes, as if they're painted onto the cake.
Put the cake back into the freezer for 2 minutes while you fill a glass with hot water. Dip a sharp knife into the hot water and take your cake out of the freezer. Cut around the top edge to take off the buttercream that’s sticking up, leaving a smooth, straight, sharp edge.
My top stripe is too thin. I should have made my filling thicker to add some height to the cake or baked another cake layer. Oh well!
To cover up the join of the two halves of the cake, spread out a piece of cling film on the counter. Pipe the leftovers of your coloured buttercream onto it in rainbow order.
Roll the colours tightly to make a log and cut one end off so that the colours are right up against the edge.
If you want to use several piping tips, you’ll need a coupler in your piping bag. If not, drop your chosen piping tip down into the piping bag. Now lower the cut side of the log of rainbow buttercream down into the piping bag.
If you’re using a coupler you can use various piping tips to add different textures. I’m starting with these swirls or spirals which I’m piping with a 1M star tip:
Then unscrew the coupler ring and switch to another piping tip and screw that on. I’m piping these ruffly ribbons next, with a #125 petal tip:
Rosettes are great to add last to fill in any gaps. This is a 4B open star tip. They can also be used to widen the band of piping anywhere you think it needs it.
Stop at this point for a rainbow cake or for St Patrick's Day, add these fun shamrocks! Put the cake in the fridge and pipe a few shamrocks onto a piece of parchment paper or wax paper. Pipe a dot using a small round tip like a #4 and drag with your piping tip to make a teardrop shape. You can spread the dot gently with an offset spatula instead, to drag the shamrock leaf inwards.
Squeeze the dot out for a few moments to make it bulge. This will give you more frosting to drag out next. Add a stem with the same piping tip.
After finishing the cake I googled shamrocks and clovers to find out the difference and wouldn’t you know, shamrocks are only supposed to have three leaves! If you make three-leaf shamrocks yours will be even quicker to pipe, with one less leaf on each!
Piping onto paper is great practice before piping onto the side of the cake, which is a bit trickier! And you’ll turn these into gold shamrocks in a few minutes.
Put these into the freezer while you make some gold paint. You can do this by mixing gold luster dust with a few drops of any clear alcohol like vodka, or a clear flavor extract like clear vanilla. You can also buy edible gold paint in bottles instead.
Take the frozen shamrocks out of the freezer and paint each one. Use little dabbing motions for the thickest coverage which will give you the strongest, most metallic gold colour. Put these back into the freezer for a few minutes to set the colour.
Measure a piece of parchment paper or wax paper so it will wrap around the white half of the cake. Marking the diagonal onto it will make it easier, so that your piping won’t get in the way. Cut those diagonal ends off now.
Fold the paper in half and in half again and again and again. Then unfold it and do the same in the other direction to make a grid.
Take your cake out of the fridge and the piping should have set, so you won’t damage it. Wrap your paper grid around the cake and pin it in place.
Then use another pin to poke through every other join in the grid along one row. For the next row, poke through every OTHER other join or crease, so that the places you’re poking are not one above the other. These dots you’re poking will guide you as you pipe your shamrocks.
Unpin the paper grid and peel it off the cake. You should be able to see the holes you poked into the frosting. Next, pipe pipe green shamrocks onto the cake using the same technique as you did onto paper earlier. Cover all of the dots you poked into the cake except for one diagonal, which you'll cover with gold shamrocks next.
Pipe a tiny white dot of frosting onto those poked dots along the empty diagonal. Then pick up a gold shamrock by sliding an offset spatula underneath it.
Press the frozen gold shamrock gently into the buttercream dot you've just piped. Continue along that diagonal to fill it with the gold shamrocks. Work quickly because as the buttercream shamrocks thaw, they'll get soft and you won't be able to pick them up.
I love adding edible gold to cakes because it’s so expected!
This is such a fun cake and the diagonal divide is so eye-catching! I teach hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs like this one on my cake school. You can take individual courses or choose a membership for access to all of my courses, live sessions, and more!
Piping bags are useful to save time when you're cake decorating, even without piping tips! Here are ten ways to use them.
Pour sprinkles into a piping bag and cut a small piece off the tip of the bag. Put a tray on a turntable and place your cake on top. If the frosting has already set, brush around the bottom with a damp paintbrush to make it slightly sticky. Now hold your piping bag of sprinkles with the cut end resting on the cake board. Pull it slowly around the cake, letting the sprinkles spill onto the cake board.
Tapping the bag on the cake board will loosen any sprinkles that clog the bag. Now use an offset spatula or a spoon or your hand to scoop up the sprinkles and press them into the cake. The tray will catch any sprinkles that roll off the cakeboard so they don't go everywhere!
At the end you can angle the cake board and tap it so that loose sprinkles fall onto the tray. With the help of a piping bag you've made a a pretty sprinkled border! Here's a tutorial with more ways to use sprinkles to decorate cakes!
Use piping bags to make chocolate details to decorate your cakes. Melt chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power so it doesn't overheat. To colour it use oil-based colours so that the chocolate doesn't seize.
Spoon the melted chocolate into a piping bag or a sandwich bag like a Ziploc bag. Cut a tiny piece off the tip to squeeze the chocolate through. Squeeze the bag to pipe the chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper or wax paper or baking paper or a silicon mat. You can trace shapes or designs or pipe them freehand.
You could leave the chocolate to set at room temperature but it takes about 30 minutes. For a quicker option, slide a cutting board or upside down baking tray underneath the paper. Then lift the tray with the paper and chocolate decorations on it. Put it in the fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes.
When the chocolate has set you can lift it up with your fingers or slide an offset spatula underneath. Press the chocolate into the frosting on a cake while the frosting is still soft and sticky. Learn how to make a chocolate collar cake in this tutorial!
Pipe elaborate patterns and designs using just piping bags with no piping tips! Start by cutting a tiny piece cut off the end of each piping bag. The more you cut off the bigger your dots will be. It's a good idea to do a test squeeze before piping onto your cake. If you have to use a lot of pressure to get the buttercream out, cut the hole bigger. When you can push the buttercream out easily, your dots will be neater.
Hold your piping bag at the same angle as you pipe so that you're always pulling away from the cake. That way, the little peaks on the dots will all point in the same direction.
Use piping bags for a foolproof drip on cakes. Heat about a quarter of a cup of heavy whipping cream in the microwave for 20 seconds. Then add 3/4 of a cup of white chocolate chips, pushing them underneath the cream.
Leave it to melt for 5 minutes and then stir until it's smooth. To tint it, oil-based colours are best because you can add as much as you like to make bright colours. If you only have gel colours used for buttercream, use just a few drops so the chocolate doesn't seize. When the drip cools to room temperature, pour it into a piping bag and cut a tiny piece off the tip.
To apply the drip, pull the piping bag slowly around the outer edge of the cake. Pause and move it just over the edge of the cake to allow each drip to spill over. This is the fastest drip you can apply without any special tools!
It's no surprise that piping bags are time-saving for piping! Fill cakes quickly by piping around the edge of each cake layer and spiraling inwards:
For frosting, pipe onto the top of the cake and then in zigzags around the cake. By piping the frosting on first, when you spread it it won't pull off crumbs or chunks of cake.
You can also pipe cake batter! This is really useful for quickly filling cupcake pans without getting batter all over the pan. Tint and pipe cake batter to make unique, colourful cake layers:
Make sure you tap the cake pans so that the cakes bake as level as possible. The outer edge will darken as it bakes but the colours inside will stay bright. Cutting into a cake like this is so much fun!
Make scallops by piping dots of frosting onto a cake with piping bags. Then swipe them upwards or sideways to flatten and spread them. The trick here is to wipe your offset spatula clean after every swipe so you don't drag the previous colour of buttercream onto the next scallop.
You can use a spoon for this technique instead if you prefer. By covering the cake with these scallops you can create colourful texture quickly and without any special tools.
To create striped frosting without a striped cake comb, use a piping bag for each colour. Cut the ends off together so that the holes at the ends of the bags are exactly the same size. This way your stripes will all be the same width… or height I guess!
Squeeze to pipe a ring around the cake. You'll flatten the rings later to make stripes. Continue up the cake, trying to pipe each ring so that it's right against the one below so that there aren't any gaps where you can see the crumb coat of frosting underneath. This will give you the straightest stripes with the most precise division between the colours. If there are any gaps, the colours will blend together where the stripes meet.
Scrape around the sides of the cakes several times with a straight edged cake comb. You'll take off the excess frosting and although the stripes won't be perfect, they'll be neat and pretty. It's much quicker and simpler to do striped frosting this way than to use a striped cake comb.
If you do have a striped cake comb, use piping bags to fill in the grooves between the stripes created by the cake comb.
Using piping bags is quick, which is key when you're making a striped cake because of temperature. The cake is cold because you have to chill it after using the striped cake comb. That means that now, you need to work fast! You don't want this buttercream between the grooves to chill and set before you scrape off the excess. Piping bags allow you to add these colours quickly so that you can achieve smooth stripes. Check out this tutorial on how to make these rainbow half stripes!
Use piping bags to make detailed characters that look like they're made with fondant. Pipe or draw your character and cover it with parchment paper or wax paper. Now trace it with buttercream in piping bags with a tiny piece of the tip cut off. Start with the small details and freeze for 5 minutes after each colour.
Leave the colour with the biggest surface until the end. Spread that colour flat to cover up the frozen details so that they're sticky.
Lift the paper up and press it against a chilled cake so that it sticks. Put the cake into the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for an hour and then peel the paper off to leave the design behind.
You can pipe or spread more buttercream over any air pockets to fill them in. Then scrape off the excess to leave a neat, detailed character on your cake! Here's another example:
To write a message on a cake all you need is a piping bag with a tiny piece cut off the tip. The easiest way to write neatly (I think) is to use loops and swirls in your letters. Also, add a dot at the end of each line by holding still for a moment as you squeeze before lifting the piping bag away. That dot makes the line look more tidy than just pulling away suddenly.
Center your messages by starting with the middle letter and working your way out in both directions. Another method is to write your message on paper first to see how much space it will take up.
I hope this tutorial has been useful. For more cake decorating techniques, tips and tricks, visit my cake school and start your 7 day FREE trial of my All You Can Cake membership, which gives you access to everything on my cake school.
Here are three ways to make a heart cake without a heart pan! This tutorial will show how to bake, assemble, frost and decorate a heart cake.
The first way to make a heart cake is to cut a round cake into a heart. Trace around your cake layers onto a piece of paper before drawing a heart template. You can trace around the cake pan you used to bake the layers instead.
Fold the paper in half and draw half of a heart. This way when you cut the heart out it will be perfectly symmetrical. You’ll this heart as a guide to cut your cake into a heart.
For the neatest results, chill your cake in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes. Cold cake is less crumbly and will be easier to cut. Trim around the heart with a serrated knife like a bread knife using little sawing motions.
When you pull the cutoffs away you’ll leave a heart shaped cake behind!
If you're making a layer cake, cut each layer separately. If you stack them and then cut, the layers can stick together and you're more likely to cut at an angle, causing different size hearts in the top and bottom layers.
I’ll show you how to frost a heart cake later in this tutorial.
The next method to make a heart cake is to use a square or rectangular pan and two round pans. Fill them with cake batter so that the round pans are twice as full as the square or rectangular pan because you need the round cakes to be twice as tall. This is my Perfect Chocolate Cake batter and I used the 6 inch cake recipe.
My rectangular pan is 9 x 13 inches and was 1 inch high and took 25 minutes to bake at 350F. The round pans are 4 inches wide and 2 inches high and took 30 minutes to bake. Ideally, use a square pan twice as big as the round pans, which would be 8 x 8 inches for me. With a rectangular pan you'll have some extra cake but if that's the pan you have, use it!
After the cakes have cooled it's time to cut them. You'll need four square cake layers, each one about the width of your round cakes. If you have a square pan, cut it in half both ways. For a rectangular pan, measure halfway along the short side and cut across the cake there.
Then measure that same amount along the long side, twice, and cut at those points.
This makes 4 cake layers, plus some leftovers if you used a rectangular pan instead of a square pan.
Next, level the round cakes so that they’re flat and then divide them in half horizontally to make two layers out of each. Now the round and square cake layers should be about the same height. Cut each of the round cakes in half to make 8 semi-circles.
To make a heart cake, spread some frosting onto a cake board to attach the first square layer. Instead of placing it in the center of the board, push it towwards one side to leave space at the top of the heart.
Then pipe or spread frosting along the top two sides. Add a dot on the board on each side too and attach two semi-circles of cake. The frosting will act as glue to make the cakes stick together and to the cake board below.
Don’t worry about imperfections because the filling and frosting will even everything out to make a neat shape by the end. Add your filling and repeat with the next square and two more semi-circles. Continue with the rest of your cake layers to make a four-layer cake in the shape of the heart!
The simplest way to make a heart cake with no waste is to bake just a round cake. First, cut two sides off to make the bottom edges of the heart:
Then use frosting to attach those to the top of the cake to make the bulges of the heart. You’ll have to push to curve and wrap them around because they won’t slot together perfectly like puzzle pieces, like the semi-circle cakes did with the previous method.
The benefit of this method is that you only have to bake a round cake, or a few round cakes if you want to make a layer cake.
There are 4 tricks to frosting a heart cake. I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream for this cake.
First, make sure your buttercream is a nice loose consistency so it’s easy to spread and smooth it. I like the microwave hack, where you put a third of the buttercream in the microwave for 10 seconds. Then stir it into the rest of the batch to make it silky smooth.
As you stir, you'll get rid of air bubbles, too. Look at the difference in this batch of frosting before and after the microwave method:
The second trick is to chill the cake before you frost it so that the layers are firm and less crumbly. The cake on the left has been chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes so the frosting glides smoothly and easily over it. The cake on the right hasn’t been in the fridge yet so the cakes are very crumbly.
After chilling cakes they'll be cold and hard. Take them out 2-4 hours before serving so they warm back up to room temperature to become just as soft as before!
The third trick for frosting a heart shaped cake is to apply a crumb coat. This is a this thin layer of frosting that traps crumbs so they don’t get into the final layer of frosting. It doesn’t have to be neat but it does have to cover the whole cake. If there are any naked areas of cake, crumbs can escape later.
For the final layer of frosting, spread the frosting beyond the pointed tip of the heart, so that it sticks out. Then scrape away from the tip of the heart and away from the dip of the heart at the top. This will create a sharp point to make these parts of the heart really angular. That's what makes the shape of the heart easily recognizable.
Tidy up the top edge by swiping sideways with your offset spatula and you have a frosted heart cake!
You can leave this plain or decorate it endless ways. The trendiest way at the moment is to add vintage style, over-the-top piping in different colours. Use piping tips like a petal tip for the ruffly ribbons at the bottom and the swags at the top. A leaf tip will work for these instead and add even more ruffles to the piping.
An open star tip is great for textured beaded borders, which you can layer on top of the piping you already have on the cake. Open star tips are also great for writing messages.
The almost excessive piping really make these vintage designs pop!
I hope this tutorial has been useful! Visit my cake school to learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs with online cake decorating courses and memberships!
Which tools to decorate a cake should you buy first? In this tutorial I'll show you which 10 tools to buy first and how to use them for cake decorating!
A turntable is a spinning cake stand that helps you spread and smooth frosting onto your cake. It's also useful for countless cake decorating techniques. This makes it one of the most important tools to decorate a cake!
A plastic turntable is the cheapest choice. It's a good option if you’re planning on decorating cakes as a hobby. The spin of a plastic turntable is wobbly and jerky and those movements and vibrations will leave lines of texture in your frosting. Look at the indents my spatula leaves in the frosting on top of this cake:
If you want to get serious about cake decorating and want to get your frosting really smooth, choose a metal turntable. The spin is much, much smoother! When you’ve practiced and perfected your technique for smooth frosting, your results will be much better with a metal turntable.
The second cake decorating tool to buy is an offset spatula or palette knife. Offset means that the blade is in two parts with a diagonal or sloped section first. This raises the handle away from the cake so you can spread and smooth frosting more easily than with a straight blade. To choose an offset spatula, think about what size cake you’re going to be making. Make sure the blade is at least half the size of that cake. For examples, if you have 8 inch cake pans, the blade should be at least 4 inches long. That way, you can smooth the frosting on the top of the cake like this:
Frosting smoothers, cake combs, and icing scrapers are all the same tools to decorate a cake. They scrape off excess frosting and leave a smooth surface behind. Choose plastic for the cheapest option or acrylic or metal for even smoother frosting. Make sure your cake comb is at least as tall as the cakes you make!
For the neatest results, frost and decorate your cake on a cake board. The cake board should be at least 2 inches wider than your cake. Cardboard cake boards are the cheapest but the corrugated cardboard edge isn’t very pretty. If you choose cardboard, make sure it has a greaseproof lining on top so that your frosting doesn't stain it.
Foam core cake boards are more expensive but have a nicer edge than the corrugated cardboard. Foam core is reusable and can even be cleaned in the dishwasher!
Acrylic is the most expensive option but it's also more durable and longer lasting. Of course, if you’re giving cakes away or selling them, you probably won’t get the cake board back so you might not choose acrylic.
To make colourful cakes, buy some gel colours. Choose a student or starter kit that includes all of the basic colours, which you can mix to make every other colour you need. Use black and blue to make navy or green and orange to make an avocado green, for example. Gels are better than liquids because they’re more concentrated you can make really bright and bold colours with just a few drops, without making your frosting too runny or watery. I use this case to store my gel bottles, which is intended for nail polist but works perfectly to keep them all upright and prevent leaking:
A list of tools to decorate a cake has to include piping bags! Use these for quicker filling and frosting of cakes, to save yourself time. By piping frosting onto the cake before spreading and smoothing it, you'll also pull fewer crumbs off the cake.
Piping bags can also be used for, or course, piping! Even without piping tips! For example, cut a V into the end to pipe succulents:
Or cut a tiny hole off the end to pipe dots or lines or to write messages.
For more detailed piping you’ll need piping tips. You can buy them individually but sets are usually more affordable.
For piping swirls choose a star tip, which you can also use for rope borders and wave or shell borders.
I love smaller open star tips like a #32 or #199 for textured beaded borders like this:
For neat lines and dots and writing, choose a small round tip like a #3 or a #4.
Petal tips are great for piping flower petal and also vintage piping and ruffles.
Check out this tutorial on 15 piping hacks for cake decorating!
For a digital tool to take your cake decorating skills from beginner to professional, join my online course the Layer Up program. It takes you through three Layers of cake decorating skills and techniques and also gives you access to live sessions AND a members-only community group. Save yourself time and money by learning everything that I’ve learned in 12 years, in just 3-6 months instead!
Once you’ve mastered smooth frosting, use the exact same technique with a textured cake comb. You'll add lots of detail to the frosting without learning any new techniques or skills. All you need is a cake comb with a pattern along one side.
Quick tip: the shallower the pattern is, the easier it will be to use. If the pattern is very deep and dramatic like in the photo below, your frosting will need to be very thick to imprint the patterned texture. It’s much trickier to get the frosting neat than with a shallower texture.
With textured frosting, a simple and quickly frosted cake looks stunning!
To take your cakes anywhere you’ll need a cake caddy or a cake box. A caddy is reusable so great if you’re taking by a cake to a friend or an event you’re going to and you’ll be able to bring back home afterwards. Choose a tall one if you make tall cakes! I like this cake and cupcake caddy that collapses for compact storage but extends to fit my extra tall cakes inside.
For gifting or selling cakes you’ll need boxes that you can give away and not get back. Choose boxes that are tall enough for your cakes and ideally the same width as your cake boards so that the cake doesn’t move around inside.
I hope this tutorial has been useful! You can also watch a video of this tutorial on your first 10 tools to decorate a cake:
Making a square cake can be tricky but these six hacks will make it easier!
First, if you don't have a square cake pan don't run out and buy one! Save the money and bake a rectangular or sheet cake instead, assuming you already have one of those pans. Cut it into squares and stack them to make a layer cake. This 9x13 inch Very Vanilla sheet will make a tall 4 inch square cake:
You'll have some narrow extra pieces at the edge of the cake. Glue these together with a bit of buttercream to make an extra layer. This way you'll use up all of the cake you baked and make a taller cake.
To bake a square or rectangular cake that doesn't stick to the pan, line the pan with parchment paper. Cut a piece the size of the pan plus whatever the height of the pan is. This pan is 2 inches high so I'm adding 2 inches on each side of the pan.
Cut a slit about that same height - 2 inches for this pan - into each edge of the paper.
Now when you push the parchment paper into the cake pan, the sides will fold up easily to line the pan completely. Check out this tutorial on using parchment paper for cake decorating!
Unless you make square cakes regularly you probably won't have square cake boards. Instead of buying them just for this, use a round cake board instead. Choose one that's at least 4 inches wider than the cake.
For this 6 inch square cake I'm using a 10 inch round board. The extra inches will give you space to frost and decorate your cake without buying any new cake boards.
I think the most important hack for square cakes is to chill the cake before frosting it. After 30 minutes in the fridge, cake gets cold and firm so it won't crumble as you spread buttercream onto it. I use this 4 Minute Buttercream for all of my cakes! Cold cake holds its shape so you'll create straight sides around it. Room temperature cakes are much more delicate so as you spread on your frosting you can pull off chunks, which makes it more difficult to get a neat square shape with your frosting.
If you've made several cakes before you'll definitely know that a crumb coat is essential for preventing any crumbs getting into your final layer of frosting. Definitely don't skip the crumb coat! When the crumb coat sets, which takes about 15 or 30 minutes in the fridge, any crumbs that came off the cake will be stuck into it so they won't get into the final layer of frosting.
My hack for sharp angles on a square cake is a simple cardboard box. Cut out a square of cardboard that's half an inch bigger than the cake. Wrap this in parchment paper to make it food safe and non-stick.
Now spread frosting onto the top of the cake only. Push the wrapped cardboard square down onto it, adjusting it so it's centered on the cake.
Next, spread frosting around the sides of the cake. It needs to be at least as thick as the edges of the cardboard square. When you smooth the frosting, your cake comb will scrape along the edge of the cardboard, making the frosting mimic the perfectly straight edges and sharp angles of the cardboard square.
Put the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for 30 minutes to set the frosting. Then slice underneath the parchment with a knife to lift up the wrapped cardboard square.
Spread more frosting over the top to fill in any gaps, scrape off the excess and voila!
To learn hundreds of ways to decorate cakes visit my cake school!
I hope this tutorial has been helpful and I can't wait to see your square cakes. Please tag @britishgirlbakes so I can see them!
Smooth frosting is the number one challenge of most cake decorators. Avoid it with these seven ideas for cake decorations without smooth frosting!
For this first technique, spread some frosting onto your cake but don't worry about making it perfectly smooth. Put your cake in the fridge for 15 minutes so that it firms up a bit. Then put it on a tray or a baking sheet. Scoop up some sprinkles and press them into the cake and they'll stick to the frosting.
Since the frosting has chilled and started to set in the fridge, it won't be super soft so the sprinkles won't sink into it and get buried and hidden. The tray will catch any bouncing sprinkles so you don't have a huge mess to clean up afterwards. The cake will look so neat and pretty without needing to make the frosting perfectly smooth. I find that non pareils or hundreds and thousands work best for this technique because they're so tiny that they don't add a lot of texture to the cake when you bite into it.
Chocolate collars or wraps conceal frosting completely so it doesn't matter if there are lots of imperfections in it. You can do this with parchment paper or wax paper or baking paper. Cut the paper into a strip that's long enough to wrap around the cake and as tall as the cake. You can use the paper as it is or scrunch it up to create some texture. Melt chocolate in the microwave using 50% power for 30 seconds at a time and stir until it's smooth. Spread it to cover the paper completely.
Slide your hands underneath the paper to pick it up while it's still melted and wrap it around the cake. The cake should have a thin layer of frosting to cover it to seal in the moisture but it doesn't need to be neat.
Press the melted chocolate against the cake to attach it. Then put the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate.
Pinch a corner of the paper and peel it away to leave the pretty chocolate wrap behind! You can decorate this with chocolates or flowers on top and a ribbon tied around it if you like.
Instead of hiding the frosting on a cake because it's not smooth, add texture to it so that it doesn't need to be smooth! You can do this using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Press it gently against the cake while you spin it on a turntable, starting at the bottom of the cake. You'll leave grooves in the sides of the frosting.
Pull up slowly to drag those grooves all the way up the cake. You can do this vertically instead, pulling upwards. This is a good choice if you don't have a turntable because you don't need the cake to be spinning smoothly as you do this. This is my 4 Minute Buttercream and it takes on texture so nicely!
Use random movements instead to create beautiful rustic texture with these little arcs. Any of these textures not only avoids smooth frosting, it also creates a stunning base for any other decorations you add to your cake.
For more defined texture use piping bags and piping tips and as many colours as you like. For the best results, spread a thin layer of frosting over the cake first. This seals it to prevent it from drying out even if there are gaps between the texture you pipe.
I'm using pastel rainbow colours for this cake with a different texture for each row. This adds lots of colour and texture and variety but using the same piping tip for the whole cake can look gorgeous too.
This is a petal tip with the narrow end of the tip pointing upwards to make these wavy ruffles. Check out my tutorial on 15 piping hacks for cake decorations!
Cover your frosting completely with fruit or chocolates or candies. Choose cake decorations that are all the same size and that don't stick out too much from the cake, otherwise their weight might cause them to slide down the sides of the cake. If you've just frosted the cake and the frosting is still soft the decorations will stick to that frosting easily.
Arrange them in diagonal rows to completely cover the cake. The neatest way to do this is to choose an order, for example: raspberry, blueberry, blackberry. With so much fruit on this cake, it's almost healthy!
Skip the frosting on your cake completely with a naked cake. Make sure this doesn't dry out by drizzling the layers with simple syrup to keep them moist. Make simple syrup by putting half a cup of water and half a cup of sugar in a pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Then let it cool.
You can spread or pipe your filling but piping it will give you the neatest results. This is my 4 Minute Buttercream and a 1M star tip:
After the cake is assembled you'll see the colourful texture showing through between the layers. The cake will be beautiful as well as delicious! Even better, you've saved yourself the time of frosting the outside of the cake.
Here's another design that doesn't need any frosting to be spread or smoothed. Bake your cake in a pretty dish and choose some piping tips and colours of frosting. I like to tint small amounts in a cupcake pan because it's much easier to wash this than lots of little bowls.
Pipe randomly onto the cake or outline a design with a toothpick and then pipe within that.
The piped details make this cake design pretty and intricate without taking much time and without needing to get any frosting smooth.
I hope you've seen some ideas you like! Tell me in the comments which is your favourite idea and visit my cake school to learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques and designs.
So, you bought a striped cake comb to make striped frosting… What else can you use that comb for? In this tutorial I'll show you five other ways.
You don't have to cover your entire cake in stripes! Try adding them just around the bottom of the cake as a border or accent. Use your striped cake comb as normal at first, imprinting grooves all over the cake.
After chilling the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes, pipe coloured buttercream into some of the grooves. Use the original colour to fill in the rest of the grooves.
After you scrape around the cake a few times, the colorful stripes will start to appear. On the rest of the cake, the piped frosting will blend into the stripe grooves. These stripes will disappear and create a plain, flat, smooth background colour instead.
As with any striped cake, the stripes will get neater and neater as you scrape. Try this hot metal cake comb hack and 9 other ways to improve your cakes in 2024.
Instead of filling in the striped grooves with another colour of buttercream, leave them empty! This creates a unique textured cake. Alternatively, fill them in with interesting piping. This is one of the first cakes I made for my cake school back in 2019 but I still love the technique:
For ruffles like this, use a petal piping tip like a #102. Hold it with the narrow end of the piping tip pointing outwards. This way, the outer edge of the piping will be thin and delicate. The wider side of the piping will make thicker piping, which will attach to the cake more easily.
Pause for a moment at the top of each ruffle and again at the bottom. That pause will let the buttercream fold gently over itself to make these smooth curves. This is a #102 piping tip which makes the ruffles the ideal width for most striped cake combs. Larger petal tips like a #104 or #125 make ruffles that stick out beyond the frosting, which doesn't look as neat. They'd also be more likely to droop when the cake sits out at room temperature for a while.
You could fill the striped grooves with sprinkles or piped flowers. There are lots of possibilities to get creative with this design!
Use your striped cake comb to make multicoloured stripes, where every stripe is a different colour. First, push the comb into a crumb coated cake to show you where each stripe will eventually be. Then pipe a different colour in between each line scored on the cake.
Use your striped cake comb and you'll create multicoloured stripes with a gap in between each one. Scrape with your striped cake comb until these stripes are smooth. Then put the cake into the freezer for 15 minutes to set these first stripes.
Next, pipe colours into the gaps. The first stripes will be cold and firm so you won't damage them.
Scrape, scrape, scrape with a straight edged cake comb until all of the stripes are smooth and flat. They'll look printed onto the cake, not piped with buttercream!
Make your stripes go vertically up a cake instead of around it! Cover a piece of acetate with buttercream and use your striped cake comb on that, instead of directly onto a cake. Freeze for 15 minutes to set this frosting.
Then add your next colour, spreading to fill in the grooves between the first colour of stripes. Scrape off the excess to leave a flat layer of buttercream on the acetate. Then pick the acetate up and wrap it around a cake.
Chill the cake, peel the acetate off and do touch-ups.
I teach how to do this in my Layer Up program along with several other ways to use acetate and parchment paper for cake decorating. The Layer Up program takes you through three Layers to learn cake decorating techniques and also skills like stacking tier cakes and transporting cakes and frosting square cakes, as well as skills to start or grow a cake business like taking custom cake orders and using social media for your cakes and scheduling cakes. Join the Layer Up program to take your cake decorating skills from beginner to professional in 3-6 months!
To create a diagonal division between plain and striped frosting, start by using your striped cake comb as normal. After imprinting grooves around the whole cake, score a diagonal line by pressing a straight edged cake comb or a ruler gently against the frosting. Chill the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes to set the stripe grooves.
Then fill in one side of the cake with the same colour and scrape off the excess with a striaght edged cake comb. This will make those parts of the stripes disappear. Chill again to set this half of the cake and then use another colour in the grooves on the other side of the cake.
Scrape until the frosting is smooth. Then add pretty piping to cover up the edges of the stripes along the diagonal.
I hope you've seen a technique you'd like to try! Ask me any questions in the comments and visit my cake school to learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques with online courses and memberships to take your cake decorating to the next level. Thanks for watching!
Here are 10 ways to improve your cakes in 2024!
Let's start with a two-in-one hack using a microwave for silky smooth and bright and bold buttercream. After tinting your buttercream scoop out about a third and microwave it for 10 seconds. It will melt and the colour will get much darker.
Pour this into your main bowl of buttercream and stir it to mix it in. Within a few minutes as it cools back to room temperature the consistency will be perfect! The colour will be much deeper and any air bubbles will have disappeared as well!
This hack will help smooth your frosting and it's also amazing for textured frosting.
Here's another way to improve your cakes by achieving super smooth frosting. Although the aim of British Girl Bakes is to share techniques that anyone can achieve without needing to buy expensive cake decorating tools, I do recommend buying a metal cake comb for this hack, especially if you struggle with air bubbles or gaps or indents on smooth frosting.
Heat the straight edge of your cake comb by running it under hot water or using a blowtorch. Then scrape around your cake to smooth the frosting. You'll heat the very outer layer of the frosting, pulling it around the cake to fill in any imperfections. The hot metal will leave an impossibly smooth surface behind on your frosting!
Note that you want the metal to be warm rather than really hot. High heat will melt the frosting and can cause changes in the colour of the frosting.
This hack works particularly well with striped frosting, taking off the messy layers of colour and revealing perfectly neat stripes underneath.
After smoothing the sides of a cake, frosting will be sticking up unevenly around the top edge. You can use your offset spatula to swipe sideways to flatten and level that frosting. Or, for for an even better result with much sharper edges, use a sharp knife instead. It's easiest if you put the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes before you do this. Start by slicing off chunks of frosting with your knife, sraping them into a bowl. You can re-use this frosting once it warms up and softens.
Then skim around the cake to level the final bumps. Gently swipe away any buttercream crumbs with an offset spatula and your edges will be razor sharp!
Piped details like flowers, rosettes and borders can be time consuming and tend to get sloppy by the end. Details become less defined, like blobby petals and thicker, shapeless ruffles. Your hands warm up the buttercream in the piping bag as you pipe, making it softer with time. Warm buttercream doesn't hold its shape as well when you're piping.
Put the piping bag in the freezer set a timer for one minute. That short time in the cold will chill and stiffen the buttercream. Now it will be the right consistency to finish your piping. You'll notice that with the right consistency, petals will ruffle around the edges now. Even Russian tips will be easy to use!
Instead of sticking to the same old flavours for your cakes, try something new this year! Developing new cake recipes is complicated and time consuming but it's much easier to develop recipes for fillings and frostings. Start with your favourite buttercream (mine is my 4 Minute Buttercream). Now mix in ingredients like blended Oreo cookies or freeze-dried strawberries. They'll add lots of flavour to your fillings and frostings without changing the consistency of the buttercream, so it will be just as easy to work with as your normal plain vanilla buttercream.
This next thing feels like a small detail but it makes a huge difference to the presentation of your cake. Make sure cakes are centered on their cake boards. Sometimes they start off in the middle but as you spread the frosting on and then smooth it, you nudge it over on the cake board. It ends up off-center, which looks messy.
You can reposition the cake by chilling it in the fridge for at least an hour to set the frosting. Then slide an offset spatula underneath to separate it from the cake board. Lift it up and spread some buttercream onto the cake board to act as glue to attach the cake in its new centered position. Every cake design will look better now that it's centered!
Give yourself more time to decorate your cakes by making them in advance! Do this by freezing them properly to maintain their freshness. Now instead of baking, assembling, frosting and decorating your cake all in one day, you can spend that time just decorating! I have a full tutorial on how to make cakes in advance by freezing them properly.
Take your cake decorating skills from beginner to professional by progressing through three layers in my Layer Up program! You'll learn hundreds of skills and techniques and ways to improve your cake business like scheduling and taking custom cake orders, making cakes in bulk, transporting and serving cakes and making cake videos for social media. Instead of learning everything in 12 years like I did, do it in 3 to 6 months with this program.
A few weeks ago I shared a tutorial on 10 ways to make your cake photos better, showing how to adjust the lighting, how to make the background out of focus on a camera and a phone, setting up props, and more. Check out that tutorial to improve your photos to make your cakes really look their best.
From improving the background and lighting, to adding props and more, here are 10 ways to take better cake photos!
Typically, a plain background is preferable to a very busy background. It makes sure that all of the attention is on your cake. Don't let clutter distract from your cake! To take cake photos in the kitchen, move appliances so that there’s a plain background behind the cake. Look at the difference ths simple step makes:
You may choose not to use a plain background if you're setting a scene for your cake photos. For example, this striped Christmas cake photo with the tree in the background. The Christmas tree background creates a very different effect to a simple white background:
Lighting is one of the most important things to get right when you’re taking cake photos of a cake. There are three types of lighting you can choose between. Natural light is beautifully soft at some times of day and when it’s not hitting the cake directly:
Artificial light usually has a yellow tinge and very harsh downwards shadows:
Studio lighting for photography and video provides soft shadows and even brightness everywhere:
I think the best trick for great cake photos is to make the background blurry, or out of focus. This minimizes distractions to really draw attention to your cake. You can do this on both a camera and on a phone.
On a camera, change the focus by adjusting the F-stop or F number. For the best results, move your cake as far away from the background as possible. I like to use F2, which makes the background really blurry or out of focus:
Compare this to F11, which makes the background much sharper or in focus:
The lines on the wall are really obnoxious here. With an out of focus background, they were blurry and looked more interesting than distracting.
On an iPhone, choose portrait mode and tap the F at the top of the screen. This will display a bar with the F numbers. Scroll anywhere up to 16 or anywhere down to 1.4.
Adding fabric like a kitchen towel can complement the colour scheme of the cake. It can also hide the join between the counter or table and the wall. And it makes the photo a bit more interesting!
Pull the fabric towards the camera to cover up more of the background or leave it against the wall for a splash of colour.
Next, look at the difference between the previous photo of a cake on the counter and this next photo of the cake on a cake stand:
The cake stand makes the photo more interesting and makes the cake look more elegant.
For bonus points, instead of putting the cake on its cake board onto a cake stand, lift it off the cake board first!
Chill the cake in the fridge for a few hours and then slice underneath it with an offset spatula. You'll separate the cake from the board before you lift it up onto the cake stand.
You won’t damage the frosting because it’s cold and firm.
Doesn’t this look much better now, than with the cake board in the photo, too?
Every cake has a front and a back. Sometimes it’s obvious, for example on a cake with a message or decorations on the front side only. But often, you choose the front and back when you decorate a cake and take photos of it. The back is your least favourite side, with any imperfections, and the front is your favourite side! Make sure the front is facing the camera, and lined up straight, when you’re taking your photos.
Photo props sound fancier than they are. Whatever you used to decorate the cake can be a prop, like piping bags! If they’re just enough in focus to know what they are, they can make the photo more interesting without distracting from the cake. On this cake, which I teach how to frost and decorate in my Layer Up program, I've placed piping bags and some extra piped succulents behind the cake:
Instead of decorating tools you can use things you have that match the colour scheme or theme. These cute Christmas trees from Target actually inspired this cake:
It takes a lot of time to set up your cake and lighting and props and camera or phone. Now take the time to take photos from different angles and distances and positions so that you have a variety of shots. You can choose your favourite photo angle or use them all to show off different parts of the cake. On social media you could use photos taken at different angles on different days. For your website, you might use photos of the same cake taken from different positions for different pages.
It’s also a good idea to take both landscape and portrait photos. Alternatively, zoom out so that you can crop the same photo into a landscape and portrait version. You can use landscape photos on Facebook, square photos on Instagram and vertical photos for Instagram reels, YouTube shorts or TikToks.
I hope these 10 tips will make your cake photos better! Tell me in the comments which tip you're going to try for your next cake photos. Learn hundreds of cake decorating techniques on my online cake school, where you’ll find individual courses and also membership programs to take your cake decorating from beginner to professional! I hope to see you there!
Let's make a striped Christmas cake by covering a cake with buttercream stripes and piped Christmas trees! I'm using pink and mint green buttercream but of course, you can use bright red and green if you want something more traditional. Ask me any questions below in the comments and you can watch a video of this tutorial below as well.
To make a striped Christmas cake, start by making the stripes! First, smooth the frosting on your cake with a straight edged cake comb. I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream for this cake and for all of my cakes! This doesn't have to be perfectly neat but the sides need to be straight and the top should be level. The frosting needs to be thick enough that the grooves on your striped cake comb can go through it without reaching the crumb coat underneath.
It's easiest to touch up any indents in the frosting now, rather than after using the striped cake comb. Spread more frosting over the indents and scrape again with your straight cake comb until fairly smooth. Then switch to a striped cake comb. These can be made of plastic, acrylic or metal and I find that metal works best for me.
The first few scrapes will look terrible! You'll see messy texture in the stripes and the grooves. Keep scraping and you'll imprint the grooves of the cake comb into the frosting on the cake.
These grooves need to set before adding another colour so put the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare piping bags with the other colours you're going to use for your stripes. You'll use an offset spatula and a straight edged cake comb for the next step. A little bowl for the frosting you scrape off the cake is useful, too.
After 15 minutes in the freezer the frosting will be cold and firm. Pipe the next colours into the striped grooves using the piping bags you prepared. Hold the piping bag very close to the surface of the frosting within the grooves, squeezing until you see the frosting bulging out to fill in the stripe groove. Spin the turntable slowly to fill the groove all the way around the cake.
There are two things that can go wrong with striped cakes. The first is not completely filling these grooves with these colours. When you scrape next, the wrong colour can get into the groove and cause random flecks within that stripe.
The other thing is not getting the frosting smooth with the striped cake comb before adding these colours. These colours will then get into any air pockets or indents or air bubbles in that first colour of frosting. You'll see random pink or green specks within the white stripes.
After filling in the grooves, switch to a straight-edged cake comb and scrape around the cake. With each scrape you'll push the colours into the grooves and you'll also take off the excess. You'll flatten the coloured frosting until it's level with the striped grooves of the first colour. This makes all of the stripes perfectly flat! It's a long process though, so keep scraping again and again.
After each scrape, wipe off the frosting from your cake comb into that little bowl. I like to start with a plastic cake comb because it's the quickest to use but once the frosting starts to get smooth, I switch to a metal cake comb. This gives me the smoothest frosting. The other benefit of a metal cake comb is that you can heat it with hot water or a blowtorch. The hot metal will melt the very outer layer of the frosting so it comes very easily off the cake, leaving a super smooth surface underneath.
Okay, let's talk about all of these imperfections: why they happen and how to fix them. These flecks of green and pink within the white stripes happen because there were little indents in the white stripes. Those were then filled in when I scraped the colours around the cake with my straight edged cake comb. Keep scraping a few times to try to scrape the flecks off. Very deep flecks can be scooped out with an offset spatula or the corner of your cake comb. Then spread white frosting into the gouges and scrape that smooth.
By now the striped frosting will probably have set since the cake was in the freezer so it's very cold. Using a hot metal cake comb is the easiest way to scrape around the cake when this happens.
Before levelling the uneven top edge, put the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes to set that frosting. When it's cold and firm you can slice it off the cake with a knife. This will give you a very sharp top edge around the cake and prevent smudges or stains of coloured frosting on the top of your striped Christmas cake.
Now let's add some details. For a colourful border put your leftover frosting into piping bags fitted with a star-shaped tip. I'm using a 1M piping tip in each of three piping bags. Pipe a little dot and then pipe a circle, swiping away at the end to leave a C shape. Switch to the next colour and pipe another C to overlap it.
If you only have one piping tip just use only one colour for all of this piping. The dot at the beginning raises the first C so that it sits at the same angle as the rest of the piping. This is called a rope border. It's a great way to use up leftover frosting and also adds height and colour and detail to the top of a cake.
To add Christmas trees you can use any star-shaped piping tips. To pipe the trunks I recommend using one with short prongs very close together, like a #363.
For the green parts of the trees I recommend using star tips with longer prongs more spaced apart from each other. These are a #18 and #16:
The technique for these trees is very simple and very forgiving. Pipe from the middle of the tree, above the trunk, going outwards and downwards. Start with the longest line and then work your way up. Each line should be shorter and shorter so that the trees get narrower towards the top.
To learn all about how to pipe stripes and more advanced stripe techniques like multi-coloured stripes and peek-a-boo designs, check out my Layer Up program, which takes you through three layers of skills and techniques to go from a beginner to a professional cake decorator or join my All You Can Cake membership for access to everything on my cake school!