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.
#2 Offset Spatula or Palette Knife
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:
#3 Frosting Smoother
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!
#4 Cake Boards
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.
#5 Gel Colours
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:
#6 Piping Bags
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.
#7 Piping Tips
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.
#8 Online Courses are Digital Tools to Decorate a Cake
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!
#9 Textured Cake Comb
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!
#10 Cake Boxes or a Cake Caddy
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.