If you don’t have much experience cake decorating, your wedding is not a day to get overly ambitious. Practice on a few sample cakes first (or even pieces of cardboard) and stick with the basics. A simple, classic cake looks wonderful even with few embellishments.
The most important tool you can have is a pastry bag (aka piping bag), which is an easily-held, triangularly shaped bag you can fill with icing. You can buy one or make your own by cutting the tip off of a corner of a plastic sandwich bag. When you squeeze the icing through the small hole in the corner, it comes out in a narrow stream which can be applied to the cake to create intricate shapes.
The more complex the shape you’re trying to make, the more important it will be to use a professional pastry bag. These come with interchangeable plastic or metal tips, which will change the shape of the icing as it squeezes through the hole. (Remember that Play-Doh toy that would crank out lines of stars, squares, and hearts? It’s the same general principle.) Tips can be bought in affordable sets of commonly-used shapes, or you can get fancy and purchase gourmet ones individually.
Insert the tip through the hole, from the inside, before you put any icing in the bag. Pairs of adapter rings help keep the tip securely in place so it pokes out through the small hole in the bag. Then, fill the bag with icing (use separate bags for separate colors).
Tips with flat slits in them are perfect for making ribbons or flower petals. The icing will squeeze out in a thin, graceful line, which can be dipped up and down to make folds. Treat the ribbon of icing like fabric and experiment with swirling it around and upon itself. Just don’t try to adjust it once it’s sitting on the cake.
To create icing “flowers,” start in the center of the flower and treat each petal like a mini-ribbon. Create new petals in a circle around the center, with each new layer of petals opening more and more horizontally. Play with different icing colors for the center and outer petals, as well as adding icing “leaves.”
You don’t have to stick with realistic shapes. A simple spiral pattern on a round cake can be striking, as well as a evenly-spaced pattern of stripes or dots. You may even want a simple, one-color cake with your initials.
Tips with round holes are perfect for making small beads, such as strings of icing “pearls,” or decorative dots around the edge of a layer. You can find tips with more complex shapes, such as starbursts or hearts, and make “dots” in whatever shape you like. Just be careful not to smudge these, or the shape won’t be as apparent.
Decorating doesn’t have to be all about icing. You can use fruit, flower petals, or even inedible objects like seashells and gemstones to decorate your wedding cake. Add a few candied violets to a simple icing as accents, or completely cover your cake with a layer of fresh, ripe berries.
If you’re using fruits to top your cake, you can make an easy glaze to help preserve their fresh appearance and give them a special sparkle. Boil half a cup of sugar and half a cup of fruit juice together, and stir in two tablespoons of cornstarch for thickening. Stir in two more tablespoons of corn syrup, boil again, and let it cool. This will give you a clear glaze that can be painted or drizzled over any fruit. Easy as … cake!
If you’re using flowers, candying them adds a special touch and is only slightly more difficult. Be absolutely certain that the flowers you’ve chosen are edible: rose petals, violets, apple blossoms, violas, pansies, and orchids are good choices.
Wash and dry your flowers and separate them from their stems. Prepare a bowl with a beaten egg white and a few drops of water. Paint the clear mixture onto the flowers with a small paint brush, then sprinkle the flower with very finely blended sugar until it is covered on all sides. Let your flowers air-dry for a few days, or bake them at very low heat for an hour or so. You can do this well ahead of the wedding as your candied flowers will keep for up to a year.
If you start getting nervous, remember that the shape of the cake itself will make a large impression on your guests. Even a simple white frosting that covers the cake neatly will look extraordinary when presented on a shiny platter. You can’t go wrong with simplicity, so give yourself free reign to play within your range of confidence. Give your guests one more reason to congratulate you. How many brides and grooms get to say they had a hand in making their own cake?
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.