Most cake decorators start out the same way, baking and decorating simple cookies and cupcakes. Layering a sponge cake with buttercream and jam, creating our kids favourite characters in sugarpaste or perhaps even attempting a wedding cake! After all how hard can it be?
My first attempt was to make my sister’s wedding cake in 2007 (see above) and it was was a very steep learning curve. I made a two-tier fruit cake using my mum’s “Good Housekeeping Cookbook”, covered it with marzipan and Royal Icing.
It took several attempts to get smooth with a giant palette knife. Thankfully I bought the sugar flowers rather than attempting to make them myself.
I had no idea what sugarpaste was or that you could buy a cake smoother to create a smooth finish. The helpful ladies in my local craft shop advised I should dowel my cake and add a separating card between the tiers or it might collapse.
I decided to learn how to decorate cakes properly so I could make my son’s first birthday cake. I enrolled in classes at my local college and from then on, I was hooked. My hobby quickly became a part time business which has adapted as my skills, family life and work commitments have changed.
I have been running my home based cake business, Heavenly Tiers for ten years and specialise in bespoke cakes for events, celebrations and weddings.
I also teach cake decoration for beginners and novelty cake makers and I run Cake Minds monthly modelling classes from my cake studio in Lasswade, Midlothian.
Click here for information on my classes.
Cake decoration simply means to cover your cake, usually sponge based with a light coat of buttercream or ganache. Followed by a top coat of either buttercream, ganache, sugar paste, royal icing or chocolate modelling paste.
Decorative finishes, known as sugarcraft, are made using a huge number of techniques for sugarpaste, buttercream and royal icing cakes. These include; sugar flowers, models, hand painting, airbrushing, textured effects, hand piping to name a few.
Most cake decorators gravitate towards their chosen medium and sugarcraft technique once they have mastered the basics. For example, I prefer to work with sugarpaste to create novelty and 3D sculpted cakes.
The traditional route into cake decoration is via face-to-face group classes. Many cake decorators are self-taught through books, magazine tutorials and free online content. It really depends on your learning style and support you need. Time and budget available for classes, materials and equipment.
I would recommend a general course covering all the basics before moving on to a specialist course. This will save you time and money in the long run.
General cake decoration courses can be found at local colleges and community classes for adults. These are usually held during term time in the evenings and you will have to provide your own materials and tools.
Professional cake makers that offer face-to-face classes and can be more flexible with timings. Provide smaller groups and give more individual attention than large group courses. All equipment and materials are usually provided.
I offer small group and private classes for beginners to intermediates covering the basics to novelty cake projects. Details of my class programme can be found here.
If you are interested in becoming a cake decorator, see my guide here Becoming a Cake Decorator.
If you have some decoration experience and prefer to learn in your own time, joining an online cake school may be for you.
There are many online cake schools, which offer a wealth of classes from artists of all specialisms. For hobby makers and professionals with an annual or monthly membership fee.
I have been an affiliate member Sugar Street Studios Cake Academy since 2019. In addition to the huge library of cake and business tutorials there is an active community forum, which is a great source of support when you need a little help or even just a chat.
Affiliate disclaimer I can potentially earn a small commission from purchases made from this link.
Getting involved in the cake decoration community is simple and fun to do.
The British Sugarcraft Guild is a great way to make cake friends, attend branch meetings, workshops and demonstrations and even take part in cake exhibitions. I am a trainee BSG demonstrator and member at Edinburgh branch. You can find details of local branches here.
There are a whole host of annual baking and cake decorating exhibitions, trade shows and competitions. Its great to place to soak up the atmosphere, meet friends, buy some new kit and see your favourite artists.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my guide to becoming a cake decorator. If you are ready to get started on your cake decoration journey, click here to get my Ten Top Tips – Getting started in cake decoration.