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How to decorate a birthday cake

Thursday 18th February 2016

How to decorate a birthday cake

Unless you’re the queen, there’s only one birthday per person, per year, which usually means just the one birthday cake. Therefore, the party centerpiece has to be special. Birthday cakes can be made in all manner of inventive shapes and structures, and decorated in myriad creative ways. We’ve outlined some useful tips and ideas to help you get started.

Birthday decorating ideas

Beginners’ tips

  • Because most people have them it’s useful to begin with a round cake tin. They are easier to decorate with fondant icing because there are no tricky corners to work around.
  • Get your hands on some good cake tools. If you are planning to cover a cake in ready-to-roll icing then a smoother will help you to make the surface of your cake decoration-ready.
  • Add another dimension of fun by mixing sprinkles into your cake mix. Use small sprinkles so that they don’t sink in the oven.
  • Frost your cakes when they are cold. Some people even recommend popping your cake into the freezer for a few hours so the icing adheres to it without gathering crumbs.
  • You can also use a layer of buttercream or jam between the sponge and the icing to create an even surface and stop crumbs getting caught up in the icing, particularly spreadable royal icing.
  • Ensure your frosting is well whipped so it is easy to spread, especially if your frosting is not homemade. What’s more it can go further, sometimes doubling the amount.
  • Use fruit as a decoration rather than as a flavor. When using fruit to decorate your cake add it only before it is about to be served, otherwise it can go soft very quickly and make the surface of your cake too moist.
  • Get help, not because it’s needed, but because it’s fun. Making and decorating a cake is a great activity to do with kids – unless it’s for them, in which case keep it a surprise until the big day!

How to cover a cake in fondant icing

Fondant icing creates a very smooth base on which to work. Here’s how to get the most out of your fondant.

  1. Knead your icing until you are happy with the texture.
  2. Prepare the surface of your cake by checking it is even. You can use a layer of jam or buttercream to even it out if needs be.
  3. Dust your worktop with icing sugar to prevent sticking.
  4. Keep rotating your icing as you roll it or add a little icing to your rolling pin, but don’t let the icing dry out.
  5. once you’re happy with the size, gently allow the rolled-out icing to drape over the rolling pin so you can slowly lower it over the whole of the cake.
  6. Easy out any overlaps in the icing with a downward swoop of the side of your hand, rotating as you go.
  7. With a sharp knife remove any excess icing. If you have one you can use a ‘smoother’ to create the perfect finish.

Birthday cake favourites

We’ve listed our favourite birthday cake ideas for different people, though, of course, everyone would enjoy each one. Each recipe has detailed instructions that will support you at every stage of your decoration and bake.

Rainbow cake – best for kids

This cake is far simpler than it looks. It involves making one batch of cake mix that you separate and colour individually, cooking two at a time in the middle of the oven to ensure an even bake. Kids will love the surprise rainbow sponged when you cut into it.

Mismatch cake – for your best friend

This four sponge deep cake is both visually arresting and fun. This is a square cake, but the decorative elements can help conceal any fondant icing mishaps on the corners. The overlapping Atlantic blue, tropical coral, ruby red and emerald green icing rectangles are straightforward to assemble, but give the impression of a great deal of work, which is why your best friend will love you for it.

Birthday bunting cake – best for large parties

This is a two-tier cake that is actually made out of several separate cakes sandwiched together, creating deep indulgent slices. This cake is all about the icing, so properly preparing the surface of the cake first will help the icing to adhere smoothly. The resulting finish makes the cake almost too beautiful to cut into.

Painted flower cake – best for the person with discerning taste

This exquisitely painted flower cake is a chance to show off your artistic skills and impress the person who appreciates aesthetics. If you worry about drawing freehand then trace a pretty flower pattern onto the cake surface with baking paper before colouring it in. Alternatively, use a cutter to imprint shapes that you can then colour.

Rainbow Skittles cake – best for the fun lovers

This ultimate celebration cake could not be more of a feast for the eye. The abundance of the rainbow skittles seemingly contained by the sides of the cake will thrill all who see it. Expect the skittles to cascade when you do cut the cake, which is, of course, part of the fun.

Why not browse our recipes to explore more exciting baking and decorating ideas?