Icing Alternatives

If icing still terrifies you (and we’re doing our best to prevent that) there are plenty of ways to make your cake look gorgeous – without mixing, moulding or piping. Today, anyone who can spread glue can build a pretty cake. It’s true – here’s our guide to avoiding icing!


No, it’s not an Olympic sport, but a cake-decorating method that even the professionals use from time to time! If you’re baking a Cherry Cake, a Fruit Cake or even a Chocolate Cake, chocolate-dipped morsels make an adorable topping.

  • Simply melt a block of good cooking chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water.
  • Wash and dry a selection of fruit (cherries, strawberries and grapes are good) or nuts (big ones like Brazils or pecans), then, using a cocktail stick, dip the pieces one at a time.
  • Experiment using your instinct: try dipping Brazils in dark chocolate and cherries in white chocolate, or even double-dipping – leave to set after the first dip, then dip into a different chocolate for a stunning finish.
  • Sift icing sugar over the top of your cake, and top with the dipped fruit.

Gold Leaf

Well, this one does call for some rolled icing, but since you can buy it read-rolled and slap it on your cake, it’s still very easy.

  • Moisten the icing on your cake by brushing it lightly with boiling water (do one section of cake at a time), then carefully place a sheet of Gold Leaf onto the surface.
  • Using a dry brush, gently flatten the sheet so that it sticks to the icing, and smooth out any bubbles.
  • Continue until the whole cake is covered.

This one almost looks too good to eat…but we’re sure you’ll be persuaded!

Frosty Fruit

An Easter or Christmas cake looks beautiful with a very simple garnish of frosted fruit or spices. Try picking pansies, rosemary, calendula, primroses and lavender from the garden. You can also use dried cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and orange or lemon slices that have dried out in a very, very low oven.

  • Whisk an egg white lightly and pour into a saucer, then fill another saucer with icing sugar.
  • Wash and dry your fruit or spices, then dunk first in egg white and then in the sugar.
  • These will dry overnight in an open, dry place.

Sweet Appeal

There are hundreds of sweets that are suitable for topping a cake – from smarties to minstrels, and chocolate buttons to maltesers. Truffles make a grand garnish for grown-up cakes. You can make a batch of butter icing to act as a soft canvas on which to arrange your sweets, or you can take a more rustic approach. To try this easy method without icing properly, dissolve 2tbsp icing sugar in 1tbsp lemon juice, and brush this syrup over the cake. Scatter your chosen sweets all over, and leave to dry.

Chocolate Drizzle

This technique is so easy, the children can do it.

  • You’ll have to melt some chocolate – place it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, then turn off the heat and wait for the chocolate to melt. (Don’t stir too much, or it will seize up.)
  • Dip a knife or a skewer into the melted chocolate, then hold over the cake until it starts to drizzle off.
  • With practice, you can make the patterns as elaborate or messy as you like! A second layer of white chocolate drizzle makes a great effect, too.

Where Next?

If all this talk of easy decoration has inspired you to try making your own, head over to the Classic Cake section for the very best recipes to start with. And if you’re ready to move onto icing techniques, you’ll find everything you need is here too. Get baking!

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