Cake Decorating Tips: Decorating For Taste

This article discusses what kinds of frosting taste good and look nice on a cake, and some ideas for simple decorating for a good-tasting, good-looking cake.

We've all been there: sitting through office parties that featured a grocery store bakery cake, thick with white frosting, consisting largely of shortening, sugar and imitation white vanilla flavoring. Some people love the stuff, but many would rather have frosting that tastes as good as it looks. It actually is possible to decorate a cake so that it looks nice and tastes good, too.

Decorating a cake for good taste is not difficult, although what the baker does will be affected largely by who will be eating the cake. A cake for a child's birthday party can have pink, shortening-based frosting all over it. As long as it's sweet, most children will eat it. They just don't care if the frosting actually has any taste. So, a baker can come up with a basic buttercream frosting, tint it pink and pipe it on to the cake, and presto! Happy child.

In fact, kids probably will appreciate the frosting from a carton, with candy sprinkles as much as they will a homemade effort. Moral: don't spend a tremendous amount of time on a homemade, deliciously decorated cake for a 7-year-old. The child and his friends will plow through it before the birthday candles have cooled and none of them will complain about the taste, or lack thereof.

However, as we get a bit older, we like things that taste good, as well as look good. So, good-tasting decorations on a Sweet 16 cake will no doubt be more appreciated than they would have been even five years earlier.

A buttercream frosting is easy to make and tastes better than anything made with shortening. The basic ingredients are softened butter, confectioner's sugar, milk and flavoring. With these elements, any baker can make a tasty frosting, suitable for decorating. Buttercream frostings are very forgiving, and the baker can make a slightly stiffer frosting for the cake itself, then a softer one for piping.

Rolled fondant is neat, pliable and suitable for all sorts of decorating whimsy, but it is extremely sweet. If those eating the cake are not as fond of really sweet frosting, a less-sweet buttercream might be a better choice. Fondant is, however, great for decorating a cake in advance, since the heavy fondant layer will keep the cake moist and the filling fresh-tasting. However, a baker can embellish a simple frosted cake with fondant curls or "bunting" for a spectacular effect. These are easily removed, as well, if the diner does not like the fondant.

Buttercream frosting can be flavored in almost any way the baker wishes, from a deep cocoa frosting to Irish creme to strawberry. This means the cake can be tailored to the tastes of the baker or to the person the cake is being baked for. Simplicity is the watchword here. Almost anyone can manage to make a nice decoration from the purchased tubes of frosting with their accompanying tips. A simple ruffle along the bottom and top of the frosted cake will add a festive air without the baker running the risk of botching the whole thing. For a little extra d├ęcor, the baker can use the liner tip to make a criss-cross design on top. Too simple.

One great, simple way to decorate a cake is to drizzle several parallel lines of thin frosting or chocolate syrup on top of the cake. With a metal or bamboo skewer, or even a cake tester, draw a line across the lines of syrup, dragging the syrup down to the next line. Then, in the spaces between, draw lines in the opposite direction, back across the cake. This creates a dramatic look with practically no effort.

A baker's best friend for cake decorating is a good, basic buttercream frosting recipe, that can be altered for amount and texture, and can be flavored as desired. A basic decorating kit with a selection of eight or 10 tips and frosting bags will cover the needs of most home bakers.

If the baker is nervous about doing a cake for the first time, he or she can practice with wax paper and a recipe of instant mashed potatoes. These have about the same consistency as frosting, and will allow the baker to try some ideas and suggestions, perfecting them before the frosting ever goes on the cake.

When armed with a good buttercream frosting recipe, appealing flavorings and a basic frosting tip collection, a baker can produce a cake elegant in its simplicity and delicious in its taste.

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