7 Things I Wish I’d Known When I first Started Baking and Decorating Cake

7 things I wish I'd known when I started decorating cake

Learning how to bake and decorate cake is tricky. Here are seven things that I wish I had known when I first started decorating cake!

7 things I wish I'd known when I started decorating cake

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Baking and decorating cake is one of my favorite creative outlets.  It’s the time where I get to smash my science brain and my artist brain together for one big sweet pile of deliciousness.  I have been baking and decorating cakes for several years now and have learned a lot along the way.  Here are some things I wish I had known from the beginning:

7 things I wish I'd known before I started decorating cake: ugly cake

1. You Will Make Ugly Cake

You will make a hundred ugly cakes.  Drop more icing on the floor than you can stand.  Your icing flowers will flop.  Your icing will turn out the wrong color.  Your writing will be shaky, off-center, and sometimes spelled wrong.  The cake will take a thousand times longer than anticipated and will never look like what you think it’s going to.

Just remember two things: it’s only cake and it can always be fixed.  This took me so long to realize.  I used to get so stressed out every time something wouldn’t go according to plan and I lost the enjoyment of my art (and made people afraid to come in the kitchen).

Farm Cake

2. The Difference Between Parchment Paper and Wax Paper

You can bake on parchment paper, you cannot bake on wax paper.  Parchment paper has been coated with silicone to make it non-stick and heat resistant.  Wax paper is paper that has been infused with wax, making it non-stick but not heat resistant.  You will have one hot mess on your hands if you forget this tidbit.  Use wax paper for candy making.

Fish Cake

3. Most People Prefer Cake Mix

When I first started making and decorating cakes, I felt a little bit like a fraud because I never made cake from scratch.  I slowly started to make cake from scratch and I was surprised by the reaction I got from family and friends.  They didn’t like my scratch cake.  They wanted me to go back to making cake how I used to.  Which is from a cake mix.

Most people grow up eating cake made from cake mix and most bakeries make their cake that way too.  If you like to make your cake from scratch, more power to you.  But if, like me, you would rather spend time decorating instead of sifting flour, make your cake with cake mix and don’t beat yourself up about it. Spend your time making your own frosting and creating a masterpiece.

Sock Monkey Cake Topper

4. Always Grease The Pan

There is this really fun baking show on Netflix called “Nailed It” and it’s basically about how people try and re-create these masterpiece cakes and epically fail at it.  I watched several episodes and someone always forgets to grease the pan.  It’s a big mess.

Baker’s Joy Is Your Friend  It’s a baking spray that is infused with flour and in my experience, the cake comes out of the pan nearly perfect every time.  If you don’t use Baker’s Joy, grease your pan with butter or shortening and dust it with flour (or cocoa powder for chocolate cakes) or line with parchment.  But for me personally, Baker’s Joy has saved me tons of time and always works.


5. You Don’t Need All The Gadgets

When I first started decorating cake, I thought that I needed every flower former, petal maker, cake pan and piping tip known to man.  As it turns out, I routinely use pretty much the same small set of tools for every cake.  Also, there is really quite a lot of garbage out there that masquerades itself as cake decorating tools.

A basic set of piping tips, an offset spatula, an x-acto knife, and a turntable, along with a set of round and square cake pans will go a long way.  As for educating yourself, the internet is endless and this book is pretty sweet too.  I read it cover to cover at least once a year and learn something new each time.

Ruffle Cake

6. Set The Timer

I can never seem to get this through my thick skull.  I cannot tell you how many burnt, overdone, dry and just plain ruined cakes and cupcakes I have made just because I haven’t done the simple task of setting a timer.

work in progress

7. Measure Your Progress

Take pictures.  Seriously.  It might seem silly, but it is so easy when you begin a new creative venture to feel like you are never getting any better.   So take a photo.  You will quickly realize that you are making more progress than you think.

The most important thing to remember, though, is to have fun.  Cake decorating is so much fun and no matter how things turn out, you usually have something pretty sweet.


The Spruce Eats

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