HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Help me 'cheat' with a good cake decorating idea

  • m

This weekend we're taking lunch and a mobile mini 'pre-party' to the home of our super-cool aunt and uncle who will soon be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They're not foodies and don't like a fuss, but I'm going to make a lemon layer cake w/creme cheese frosting to make lunch more festive.

I'm a decent baker, but I flunked 'cake decorating.' I'm no good w/a pastry bag or fashioning any sort of flower out of gum paste!

Any ideas for ways to decorate my cake that are idiot proof? Obviously I'm thinking gold and I have some gold dragees, but they won't make enough of an impact on their own I don't think. Or I could instead get some small yellow gerber daisies to put in the middle of the cake....

Any ideas welcome. Thanks so much!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. How sweet of you to do this! I opt for nice geometric designs because I'm no artist either. Just simple squeezes of frosting (little pointed mounds) in concentric circles or stripes, that sort of thing. The candies within the pattern. (Will your aunt and uncle's teeth hold up to dragees?!) Paper thin slices of lemon would be pretty too, stood on edge. But fresh flowers can't be beat, daisies! Small marigolds?

    1. Can you pipe lines? If so, pipe even parallel lines across the top. Gently drag a toothpick perpendicular though the lines. You can use lemon curd. Along the side, pat on nuts or crushed cookies. Or, pick up a cake decorating comb and draw lines in the frosting.

      Or, really simple--just cut a slice of lemon, Cut it up to the center, twist and add to middle of cake. You could make candied lemon slices and use them on the side of the cake along the base. But then gerbera daisies would be pretty, too (if it's a concern, you might check that they aren't poisonous or grown with pesticides that were toxic).

      1. Candy some spring flowers by dipping them in beaten egg whites and sprinkling them with sugar. Let them dry on a rack overnight. Use these to decorate your cake with the option of piping the outline of green leaves. Alternatively you could candy flower petals and then place them around the gold dragees which would come to resemble the stamen of the flower.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JungMann

          even better to use are dried egg whites than fresh ones. Reconstitute, dDip a paintbrush in and thoroughly paint the petals then gently sprinkle superfine sugar over top, let dry. Pansies and violets, cut early morning close to the calyx (you can hold the mini-stem left over with tweezers) hold up best. And lighter to mid-tone flowers work better than very dark ones, such as deep purple pansies.

        2. 1. White chocolate leaves. Melt white chocolate and paint the underside of edible leaves with it. Let cool. Use as top border.

          2. Marzipan roses?

          3. Raspberries and candied mint. The latter is painted with egg whites and then dipped in sugar (ala Jung Mann's method with flowers abobe). Arrange raspberries and mint to resemble flowers and leaves on top. This will require smoothing out the icing on top.

          1. Press chopped "something" (nuts, coconut, even finely crumbled cake crumbs) into the sides of your frosted cake. It dresses up the presentation and, if you made a mess of the icing job like I frequently do, it hides the evidence.

            I sympathize with you. I always say my cakes taste great but look like someone sat in them.

            1. Make a polka-dot cake by placing chocolate (white (my choice), dark or white) callets or chips upside down into the frosting (flat side out) I'd go for the largest rounds you can find. No pastry bag and a very professional look.

              Another idea would be to cover the top in jordan almonds in a flower pattern and maybe put one circle of them as a border at the base.

              If you do want an iced look, a spider web is almost fool-proof. With another color of frosting, melted chocolate, or strained raspberry or strawberry jam, pipe concentric circles on top of the cake and don't worry about how neat they are. Then take a skewer and draw a line from the center to the edge. Do it again in a spoke pattern around the cake. Looks cool and any wobbles won't show.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                You don't even have to pipe concentric circles. Just pipe a spiral and then do as Stuffed_Monkey suggests.

              2. Candied lemon slices (thinly cut then cooked into sugar water) should be nearly translucent after drying.
                Or slice strawberries in four with cutting through the stem, pipe them full with cream cheese/sugar (or your frosting), and invert them stem down. Place around the edge of the cake ( one for each slice) and then each person gets a stuffed berry with their slice

                1. If you are near an Asian market, take a look at canned jackfruit in syrup. It is golden yellow and easy to cut into longitudinal strips (it wants to tear that way) which you could lay out in any kind of floral or geometric pattern you want. It is tender and sweet. You could also create patterns from canned pineapple rings or chunks.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious

                    You guys are amazing!! Thank you so much. I'm saving these ideas for the future and will decide which one(s) to come up w/for this cake. Definitely coconut around the sides which is brilliant. I think I'll look for some spring flowers to candy which sounds doable. I'm headed out right now to a cake deorating supply house near my home to try to pick up a gold '50.' Thanks again for all the great ideas.

                    1. re: mocro

                      Good cake shops have luster dust in aerosol cans now. Super pearl will give you a neat subtle sheen, but you can also go dramatic and get metallic gold. Gold disco/pixie dust (edible glitter, real edible glitter, not the wilton stuff you can get at Michael's) will also look very impressive and festivly golden.

                      1. re: modthyrth

                        I didn't see any dust in an aerosol cans which sounds neat, but I did buy some edible gold glitter that's an elegant soft gold.

                        Thanks to all your help I think I'm going w/coconut on the sides, a small grouping of white gerbers candied in the center and some gold glitter/dragees sprinkled around. I'll experiment. I didn't buy a gold '50' as hoped as it was plastic and really tacky @ $1.00!

                        My aunt and uncle are the kind of people that everything you do for them is the best thing they've ever received so it'll be so much fun and a much nicer end result w/everyone's wonderful advice. Thanks again.

                        1. re: mocro

                          Please don't candy the gerbera daisies for eating! They are not on any of the lists of edible flowers. You can still use them fresh as decorations if you take a little care that the cut stems don't ooze onto the cake. (They're not on the lists of poisonous plants either, but lilies of the valley are, and people use them on cakes all the time.) If you really want edible flowers, you could consider chrysanthemums (a different daisy-type flower), calendula, nasturtiums, roses, and others. Although I wouldn't eat any flowers that came from a florist -- too much pesticide residue, including systemics that are taken up in the plant. Got any friends who are organic gardeners?

                          Here's a link to someone asking about using gerberas as cake decor and the answers she got. I agree that using the fresh flowers as decoration is fine, as long as you wrap the stems in plastic or use a flower spike, them remove them before serving.

                          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                            Oh yes, candied flowers are one occasion where you must use organic flowers. Whole Foods and many grocery stores have packages of untreated flowers (which often contain daisies, I think).

                            1. re: JungMann

                              Will look for organics, thanks for the tip. I was planning on putting a circle of foamcore under the flowers for safety/easy removal for cutting but we have a farmer's market w/organic flowers so that's what I'll get. Thanks so much.

                  2. Frost the cake.

                    Lightly lay a paper "lace" doily on the top.

                    Dust with cocoa powder (for light frosting) or powdered sugar (for dark frosting).

                    CAREFULLY lift off the doily and get it away from the cake to avoid spilling any excess on the beautifully intricate design.

                    1. Place raspberries or strawberries around the top edge as a border, and maybe a cluster of them in the middle. Or top with lemon curd (build a small dam of frosting on the edge to hold it in), pipe consecutive lines of gently heated raspberry jam across, then run a toothpick perpendicularly through them. Or place a pile of white chocolate curls on top or pressed to the sides.