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How to decorate a sponge cake

Wednesday 16th March 2016

The classic Victoria sponge has been a high tea staple since Queen Victoria lent her name to the cake in the nineteenth century. A good sponge is the blueprint for all sponge variations. Its soft, yielding bite, light texture, and smooth jam (and later delicious cream or buttercream) filling is so sumptuous it is no wonder it is the cake of royalty. Traditional sponges are enhanced with a light dusting of icing sugar or sugar, but there are many ways to elevate the perfect sponge further with imaginative decoration.

Victoria sponge decorating ideas and tips

Whatever your level of ability we have an inspired sponge decorating idea to suit you. Before you get decorating, you’ll want to find your favourite sponge cake recipe. Although the recipe for each of the following cakes may deviate slightly from the standard sponge cake, the decoration will work for any variety of cake.

Decorating a sponge cake: tips for beginners

Rainbow heart cake recipe

Though this is a tiered cake, you can also create a single tier using your chosen sponge cake recipe. The simplicity of this cake decoration design is what gives it its impact, but the key is to get the crispness of the shapes and the icing base perfect for maximum impact. You can select a different colour ready to roll icing for your base if you prefer. White fondant icing has been used here, which creates a neutral backdrop to the bright coloured hearts. Follow these 5 simple steps to ensure you have the fondant icing finish you are after:

  1. Sponges have a tendency to rise in the middle, so you might want to gently level the sponge with a knife to give your cake a perfectly flat surface on which to work.
  2. A slim layer of jam or buttercream on top of your cake can even out any inconsistencies. It also makes a tasty adhesive to secure your fondant icing.
  3. Ready-to-roll icing needs to be manipulated and kneaded a little to get it to the right rolling consistency. Add a little icing sugar to your rolling pin or work surface to ensure it is easy to roll out. Keep rotating the icing as you roll to avoid it sticking to the surface.
  4. Gently drape the icing sheet over your rolling pin and lower it over your cake. It can be useful to have a cake table so you can rotate the cake as you even out the icing.
  5. Use the side of your hand to gently tease out any folds, right down to the base of the cake. Cut off the excess icing with a sharp knife. If you have a ‘smoother’ you can smooth out any inconsistencies, or you can use a lump of the excess icing to do this instead.

Prepare the other icing colours similarly, and use a shape cutter to cut out a variety of different coloured hearts. You can use any shape you like, the trick is to arrange them so no shapes of the same colour are next to each other. Star cutters look equally appealing, or you can choose any shape you like. Just use a little boiled water on the backs of your shapes to fix them to the iced cake.

Decorating a sponge cake: advice for more experienced bakers

Flower bouquet recipe

This delightful sponge cake makes use of a spectrum of fondant icing colours. What makes this cake different to a standard sponge is its giant cupcake shape. The green icing requires a little shaping to create the impression of stalks, so it can be worth first practising the sculpting a little on some rolled icing before covering your cake. Rest the icing flowers igently in an empty egg box for an hour until they set a little. There is a degree of artistry involved in arranging the flowers on the top of the cake and it’s important they do not look too tightly packed. The bow also takes a little bit of practice, so it’s worth first experimenting on some icing before you apply the final bow to your cake.

Decorating a sponge cake: guidance for advanced bakers

Bird cage cake

This beautiful birdcage cake is a more challenging one to decorate because of the variety of icing techniques. Once you have the sponges you are happy with, you will need to coat each cake in icing using the same technique outlined in the ‘beginner’s’ guidance above. Obviously you will be alternating icing colours for each tier. Good piping skills are required in order to achieve the beautiful lines and scalloping that simulate the effect of a birdcage. Practising your piping techniques on a surface first will help you to develop the steady hand you will need to create the perfect, evenly spaced lines and patterning. The delicate roses use Celebration fondant icing, and, again, it’s worth experimenting with petal thickness before applying the completed rose to the cake; the instructions will give you step-by-step guidance about how to create the perfect bloom. A leaf cutter will help you attain delicate leaves with which to surround your roses, and then all that remains is how you choose to arrange them on your cake.

If you crave more recipe inspiration and cake decorating ideas why not browse our recipe archive?