Love baking but want to make your cakes a little more easy on the eye? We've got 20 cheap, quick and easy ideas for how to decorate your cake. From shop-bought fondant to melting chocolate, you can turn your cake into a masterpiece with these handy tips.
There are lots of easy ways to decorate a cake and give it that professional-looking finish. From shop-bought fondant to melting chocolate, here’s how to turn your cake into a masterpiece using simple techniques that won’t break the bank.
Perfect for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas, our cake decorating ideas are also a great way to practise some more baking skills.
Love baking? We’ve got loads more lovely cake recipes right here!
Scroll through to see our 20 easy ways to decorate your cake…
First up is decorating with marshmallows. Melted or whole, marshmallows are a simple way to turn your classic bake into a masterpiece. Pile them high or melt gently on a low heat on the hob and pour over the top of your cake - the choice is yours. Marshmallows are reasonably priced in most supermarkets, making them an easy option for kid's birthday cakes or food gifts.
Top tip: When it comes to melting marshmallows, you're best to use a non-stick pan. Warm the marshmallows slowly and gently, making sure you don't overcook them, otherwise you'll have a sticky mess on your hands.
Recipes to try using marshmallows:
Ready to roll fondant can be bought in most supermarkets in the cake decorating aisle. It's ideal for making your cake stand and is really easy to work with. You can buy all sorts of different colours or you can add a few drops of food colouring to white fondant for your own colour palette.
Top tip: Before working with fondant make sure you have a clean, dry surface to roll the fondant or sugarpaste onto. Dust with icing sugar to stop it from sticking and use a clean rolling pin.
Recipes to try using ready to roll fondant:
If you're looking for a simple yet effective technique, icing sugar is your best decorating choice. Dust it onto your cake freely, cut out a template using paper and dust over it to create shapes or add some water and flavoured extract to make an icing sugar paste which is perfect for drizzling over large cakes or cupcakes.
Top tip: When it comes to dusting your cake with icing sugar, make sure your cake is completely cool otherwise the icing sugar will melt.
Recipes to try using icing sugar:
It doesn't take much to make buttercream: butter, icing sugar, flavoured extract and a few drops of milk. Buttercream is one of the most popular cake toppings as it can be made into different flavours, different colours and can be presented in a variety of ways too, from piped swirls to a smooth palette-knife finish. You can also turn your buttercream into a frosting by swapping the butter for cream cheese instead.
Top tip: If your buttercream is too loose or runny, add some more icing sugar or pop it into the fridge to set a little before piping it onto your cake.
Recipes to try using buttercream:
With a little bit of practice, you can make some rather impressive fondant shapes to pop on top of your cake. Our cupcake queen Victoria Threader is a pro when it comes to making fondant shapes, and with her handy step-by-step picture recipes, you'll find making them much easier. They're perfect for personalising cakes for special occasions.
Top tip: Fondant shapes are perfect for making in advance as long as you keep them in an airtight container and handle with care when it comes to popping them on your cake.
Fondant shapes to make:
If you've been nominated chief birthday cake maker for your kids then never fear, chocolate and sweets are here! Whether you pile them up in the middle, cover the whole cake in them or make a pattern like spelling out their names, your kids are going to love a cake decorated with masses of sweets.
Top tip: If you're planning on decorating your cake with chocolates and sweets, we'd recommend covering it in a light buttercream or melted chocolate coating beforehand so the sweets have something to stick to, otherwise they'll be falling all over the place.
Recipes to try using chocolates and sweets:
Coconut can be baked in a cake or used to decorate it too. It's a healthier version than sugar sprinkles or sweets and looks just as effective. Cover your cake in a light buttercream and then press coconut into it. Coconut is so light it can be added to pretty much any cake, from lighter flavours like vanilla and lemon to richer cakes like chocolate and carrot cake.
Top tip: Desiccated coconut is best bought in bulk, a small packet here and there can really add up. It's worth having a look online too before heading to the supermarket to see if you can find any deals.
Recipes to try using coconut:
If you're looking for something light and refreshing to give your cake a taste of summer, fruit is the best choice. From fresh raspberries to dried raisins, there are many varied fruits that will be perfect for topping your cake. You can theme your cakes with seasonal fruit, use berries in the summer and clementines and dried fruit in the winter.
Top tip: If you're using fresh fruit, make sure you add it right at the last minute. If your fruit is wet it could make the buttercream or cream topping move or melt slightly.
Recipes to try using fruit:
Mixed nuts are perfect for giving your cake a new look. You can cover the whole thing, top to bottom or you can sprinkle some on top of your buttercream - whatever option you go for, your cake is going to look marvellous.
Top tip: Match your nuts with the cake that you're making - if you're making a carrot cake, walnuts would work a treat. If you're making a cake with peanut butter, peanuts would work well or if you're making a chocolate cake, sweet pecans are a good match.
Recipes to try using mixed nuts:
This is a great technique for covering up any flaws on your cake. If it's a little burnt around the edges and you've had to cut some bits off - or if it didn't rise as much as you'd like, get the chocolate fingers and cigarellos at the ready. Just cover your cake in buttercream, chocolate or royal icing and press them around the edges of the cake. They give you a great base for topping your cake with sweets, fruits or flowers too.
Top tip: The more chocolate fingers or cigarellos you've got, the better. There's nothing worse than getting half way around the cake and realising you haven't got enough to finish off your masterpiece.
Recipes to try:
Make someone feel extra special by writing them a personalised message on a cake. The easiest way to do this is with writing icing but you can also buy edible art pens or special cake decorating stamps to emboss words into fondant.
Top tip: If you can't find writing icing in your supermarket, you can use buttercream or icing sugar mixed with some water instead. It has to be thick though in order for you to pipe it through a thin nozzle to write messages.
Recipes to try:
From Nutella to marmalade, spreads are a great choice if you're short on time and money when it comes to decorating a cake. Just spread evenly over your cake with a palette knife or spoon. You can top with sprinkles, fondant shapes or fresh fruit - whatever tickles your fancy.
Top tip: If you're decorating with a thick spread like Nutella or peanut butter, make sure your cake is slightly warm, this will let the spread melt a little so it's easier to work with.
Recipes to try using spreads:
Whether you spread it on with a palette knife, pipe swirls or spoon on splodges, royal icing can really make your cake stand above the rest. Perfect for getting that snow white effect at Christmas time, covering your cake in this sweet, light substance is easy as pie... or cake in this case!
Top tip: When it comes to colouring your royal icing, use gel pastes instead of liquid food colouring. This will make sure the consistency of the mixture doesn't change. Make sure when using the gel pastes that you add a little at a time as they've got a strong colour.
Recipes to try using royal icing:
Make your cake even more indulgent by topping it with freshly whipped cream, which is the perfect base for chocolate or fruits. Cream is really easy to work with and can be spread or piped onto your cake depending on its thickness.
Top tip: Remember that cream is best kept cold in the fridge - the fresher, the better. So if you're planning on making your cake in advance, store it in the fridge or add the cream topping right at the last minute.
Recipes to try using cream:
If you're short on time, the cake decorating aisle at your local supermarket can be a life saver. From Hundreds and Thousands to readymade fondant roses, you can find plenty of wonderful treats to turn your cake into a work of art. One of our favourite ways is with multi-coloured sugar sprinkles - a little bit of buttercream and a generous sprinkling will turn your cake into a colourful treat.
Top tip: When it comes to decorating for certain events, theme your sprinkles - red and green for Christmas, yellow and pink for Mother's Day or you can get different shaped sprinkles like flowers, animals and even mini Christmas trees.
Recipes to try using sprinkles:
Whether you're cutting corners and opting for the readymade stuff or you're pushing your baking skills to the next level and making it from scratch, caramel is a very impressive way to finish your cake. You can drizzle it over the top, leave it to set for a crisp finish or add it to cream cheese to make a caramel frosting.
Top tip: If you decide to make caramel from scratch, make sure you cook it gradually on a low heat otherwise it'll burn and you'll have to start all over again.
Recipes to try using caramel:
Chocolate is another one of our favourites ways to decorate a cake. It can be melted, mixed with cream or you can simply use cocoa powder as a light dusting for your cake - the possibilities are endless! And it doesn't have to be a chocolate cake that you cover with chocolate either - you can cover whatever cake you'd like.
Top tip: When it comes to melting chocolate, you want to keep it on a low heat and melt it gradually otherwise it'll burn. White chocolate will melt much quicker than milk or dark as it contains more sugar.
Recipes to try using chocolate:
Decorating a cake with marzipan is a great way to add delicious, moist, almond flavour to your cake. Perfect for rich fruit cakes, marzipan is a great topper for Christmas and Simnel cakes.
Top tip: Make sure your work surfaces and hands are clean before attempting this technique. You’ll want to work quickly with the marzipan too to make sure it doesn’t crack or dry out.
Recipes to try using marzipan:
If you love meringue as much as we do, you should really give this cake decorating technique a go. Whip up some soft meringues with egg whites and sugar and gently spoon or pipe onto your cake. If you want that classic, crisp meringue finish you can brown the outside with a blow torch or a quick burst in the oven.
Top tip: If you've never made meringue before, you could cook it slowly in the oven on a low heat and add to your cake as a topping, instead of spreading it over.
Learn how to make meringue
Recipes to try using meringue:
From rose petals to sprigs of lavender, give your cake a spring feel by using flowers to decorate. They'll make your cake look very pretty and smell floral too. Tie bunches of flowers together and lie around the edge of your cake or sprinkle rose petals over your buttercream.
Top tip: We wouldn't recommend eating the flowers, unless you know that they are suitable for eating or they were shop-bought. Eating flowers from your garden could give you an upset stomach.
Recipes to try using flowers:
- Get the recipe: Beetroot chocolate cake (pictured)
- Get the recipe: Rose and raspberry cake
- Get the recipe: Lavender and lemon drizzle cake