Cake Decorating How To for Beginners

cake decorating how to

In honor of my 26th birthday, I present to you this cake decorating how to for beginners. Think of it as an amateur’s guide to Birthday Cake Decorating.

I made my first cake when I was 6 years old. I bought a cookbook for kids from a Scholastic book order. It wasn’t the best cake. Over the past 20 years, I’ve picked up a few tips here and there.

I am all for the whimsical, non-traditional birthday cakes. I’ve been turned off lately by perfectly shaped flowers ala grocery store bakery cakes. (Maybe this is because I have no clue how to make one?) I love the idea of a cake looking somewhat “rough” and homemade.

When I decided one day to make my own wedding cake, I realized that I needed to do a little research on cake decorating. I went to my local library and checked out every book I could on cake decorating. Then my step-mother graciously gave me her set of Wilton tips and gel icing colors. It wasn’t perfect, but I did it. And it was very special.

Since then I have done a number of commissioned cakes for friends, family, and neighbors. Each time I learn what to do differently the next time and get a little better.

cake decorating how to

Here is where I would start:

-Buy some decorator tips—not a whole set, just a few basic ones to start. Wilton is a great source for that. Find them online or in any craft of party supply store.

-Don’t worry about buying expensive pastry bags. I often use freezer Ziploc bags (because they are a little heavier). It makes for very easy clean-up.

-Find a picture of a cake you like and copy it.

cake decorating how to

-Practice! Make some icing and practice piping on a piece of parchment paper. Get a feel for which tips you like and the pressure you need to have on a bag and the consistency of icing.

-Experiment with different kinds of icings—it’s not all about piping. Not all icing is meant to be piped.

-Look for these icing recipes:
Cream cheese
Chocolate Fudge

-Play around with different types of cakes, too. Experiment with different fillings.

-Be creative! Explore! Personalize your cakes according to your own tastes and interests!

If I can do it, you can TOTALLY do it. It’s fun — like art class. Only you can lick your fingers! And this cake decorating how-to is only the beginning. Pretty soon it will be a “piece of cake.”


Credits: Written by Lindsey Rose Johnson. Photos too! Don’t miss Lindsey’s full birthday cake tutorial with lots of photos.

15 thoughts on “Cake Decorating How To for Beginners”

  1. Happy Birthday, Lindsey!!

    I said the same thing over at your amazing cake tutorial, but it deserves saying again:

    It’s so great to see 4 of your talents (baking, cake decorating, writing and photography) showcased in one place.

    You’re amazing, Lindsey.

  2. Lindsey, the cake is gorgeous,love the color I really thought you got those pics out of a magazine at first, you are amazing. Wish I could pop over and say Happy Birthday to you in person today.

  3. An amateur’s guide – my foot! Your cakes are delectable AND beautiful! You are SO talented. I don’t know where you got it all from – I can’t take any credit unfortunately. Good going Linds!! For those reading this, my bday cake by Lindsey last September was the best thing EVER! Carrot, dried crans, nuts, etc., etc. cream cheese icing! MMM

  4. That cake is gorgeous! What I want to know is how do you get the base icing to be so smooth? I can never make a cake look like that. Is it a certain icing recipe? Or a technique for applying it? Thanks for sharing all your great tips this week!

  5. Happy Birthday… this is great! I have done variations of this w/ flowers and stars and once a crown… it is a great way to decorate and the best part is that you can do the decorations WAY in advance and not sweat it when you have to make the cake for the big day..

    Once I made a lilly from frosting using stuff I found at walmart—and made a cake covered with was AWESOME!!! check out the Wilton site for details….

  6. lindsey…ummmm this wasnt at your house THIS MORNING when I stopped in to visit…WAS IT??!!!:) hee hee LOOKS SO FABULOUS! Happy Birthday to you!!

  7. I’ve just started getting into cake decorating and it’s loads of fun. Yeah, I love “rough” and homemade-looking cakes too, but what are you talking about?!? I’ve seen pictures of your cakes and they are exquisite!

  8. Micaela–
    I use a large, very thin, metal spatula and a smaller, offset, metal spatula that tapers at the end. I also frequently remove the excess icing from the spatula and warm it up in hot water–wiping it off after.

    And the buttercream just goes on easier and smoother than other recipes. Check out the link to the How-To for the recipe.


    I’m totally interested in your Lily cake! My Lilly would love that for her birthday!

    I have never actually made an ice cream cake, but I have eaten a few in my life. (Love them!) I would go with a stabilized whipped cream, or even a classic buttercream would probably work just fine. I say whipped cream because it would have a nice texture and not get too hard to cut. A buttercream might…

    Also, since I usually freeze my cakes to make them easier to ice, I can tell you that the icings with higher fat contents spread easier and you can use a hot knife to smooth them out and sort of melt the top layer as it goes on the cake. Hope that helps! I’ll have to try an ice cream cake next.

  9. Oh my gosh Linds that picture at the beginning of the post is gorgeous. I am breath taken away right now. You’re amazing. Will you make my wedding cake?? I really do want you to.

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