A delicious cake deserves beautiful decoration. If you’ve got a special occasion or a party coming up why not turn your favourite cake into a jaw-dropping centrepiece? You don’t have to be a sugar-paste artist to turn out something incredible: here are some stylish and creative ideas to get your imagination started.
For a chic, modern look, adorn your cake with a favourite photograph that’s totally edible. Edible photographs are easy and inexpensive to order – printed in edible ink on sugar paper, they’re suitable for large and small cakes, and create a truly unique effect. Why not make a ‘scrapbook’ cake of nostalgic snapshots for your parents?
Simply white-ice a rectangular cake, cut out a ‘spine’ in the centre, and attach a selection of pictures. Black-and-white portraits are ideal for romantic or anniversary cakes. And how about a sneaky on-the-loo shot of the birthday boy for a grown-up party?
This technique is particularly suitable for special cakes – fruit, nut or carrot – which will be served in small slices, or those with a sweet tooth. A deeply coloured layer of royal icing is first laid onto the cake, and smoothed out as normal. A second layer of royal icing should be prepared on a board: roll out thinly, and use a cookie cutter to stamp out shapes. This layer is finally applied to the cake, creating a random cut-out design that looks effortlessly stylish. Try this technique to create polka dots, different sized hearts, or an edging of stars.
Sugared Flowers and Herbs
Frosted flowers, the stalwarts of 1970s cake baking, can be used to a modern effect for country glamour. For a rustic decoration gather a selection of edible flowers and herbs – pansies, flowering rosemary, calendulas, bay leaves, lavender heads. Inspect for insects, and wipe if necessary. Whisk an egg white lightly, then dip each stem into it (brushing the petals) and lay on a baking tray. When they’re perfectly dry (which takes about 2 hours), you can use them on the cake. Pull the stems into a wild-looking bunch, or scatter them casually, on your iced cake. For a formal arrangement, set the flower heads in the middle of your cake, and surround with a ring of frosted bay leaves (which are edible, but unappetising!).
Typically used on Italian and Fruit Cakes, a glazed nut topping can be adapted to a wide range of recipes. It makes an appealing crunchy finish without the super-sugariness of icing.
During your cake’s last fifteen minutes in the oven, toast a selection of nuts in a dry pan. For a coffee and walnut cake you might choose just walnuts and pecans, while a mixed fruit cake warrants a glorious jumble of all kinds of nuts. Remove the cake from the oven and arrange the nuts in a concentric design, covering the top entirely.
Finish by brushing with a syrup glaze (made by warming lemon juice, liqueur or coffee and thickening with icing sugar), and leave the cake in the tin to cool.
All Wrapped Up
When you want to give people pieces of cake to take home – for a wedding or Christmas party – it makes sense to create some individual portions. This is easier than it sounds.
- Bake your cake in a large tray, and cut in half.
- The large half – your base – will be wrapped in fondant icing to form the main ‘present’.
- Cut the second half into squares of varying sizes.
- Now wrap each square of cake in fondant icing, just like you would wrap up a gift.
- Tie with wide ribbon.
- Finally, secure each mini parcel on top of the large parcel, creating the appearance of an abundant pile of gifts. Parcels can be given out individually, and the cake below sliced as normal.
Dream up your own
Icing a cake can be easy once you’ve got a grip of the basics. Read our Icing Articles to find out more about the options available, and you’ll soon be inventing your own designs. Don’t forget to have a good look in the baking section at your supermarket – new shortcuts and additions are being offered all the time! Most importantly, enjoy your decorating.