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What Does a Cake Decorator Do?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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A cake decorator is a skilled professional who can turn an ordinary cake into a fantasy of color and design. Able to create anything from realistic flowers to giant animal cakes, cake decorators are the artists of the cake world. For many, becoming a cake decorator combines two fantastic passions: a love of sweets and a love of art.

Training for cake decorators can be quite serious and strict, or casual and self-determined. Cake decorating is often an important part of pastry chef training programs found at cooking schools and culinary institutes. Many formal pastry chef programs take years to complete and result in degrees and certificates of completion. For the home baker, craft shops, cooking stores, and community colleges often offer cake decorating classes for all skill levels. Whether learning to make flower petals or embarking on a wedding cake for 200, there is sure to be classes, books, and even websites that can be of great assistance to a decorator.

A cake decorator may or may not also work as a baker. While most can certainly follow a recipe, decorators often specialize in frosting and decorating cakes rather than putting them together. Whether the decorator bakes the cake or not, flavor is obviously as important as fancy design. If the cake doesn't taste wonderful, it probably will not matter how great it works. For this reason, many decorators partner with talented bakers or pastry chefs if they do not bake their goods themselves.

The first step in most cake decorating is laying down a base level of frosting or icing. This can be done with soft icing such as buttercream, or firm icing like fondant. Buttercreams tend to give a more uneven but textured finish, while fondant or rolled chocolate can give a cake decorator a perfectly smooth, seamless canvas on which to work.

After laying down the initial coat of icing or frosting, decor may be added. A cake decorator can pipe icing into designs and create figures and forms out of frosting, chocolate, fondant, or even candies and fruits. Tiered cakes can be created by stacking layers of cakes or balancing cakes on separate levels and supports. Cakes in the shapes of items and animals can be cemented together with supports, cut down into correct shapes, and built up with extra layers. Part construction worker, part artist, a decorator's ability may be limited only by his or her imagination.

A cake decorator may choose to specialize in a type or signature style of cake decorating. Some choose to focus exclusively on wedding cakes, which can be immensely elaborate and enormous in size. Others advertise their ability to make whimsical and fantastical cakes to fit any theme or need. An established decorator can choose to accept orders based on what she herself desires to work on, much like an artist making commissioned works. If you are a home baker who has proved his or her decorating skill, however, prepare to be bombarded by friends and relatives begging for special requests.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By cupcake15 — On May 16, 2011

@Crispety - I have to say that I love the cake decorating ideas that I get from those cake design shows. I love how they use different cake decorating products to make the most beautiful cakes.

I especially love when they burn sugar and make colorful icicles or use chocolate sculptures in addition to the fondant in order to make a complete themed cake. I am always afraid that they will drop the cake.

By Crispety — On May 14, 2011

@SurfNTurf - I always wanted to learn birthday cake decorating, but my problem is that although it is fun to decorate cakes, I have a sweet tooth and worry that I will gain weight.

I know that some people that work in a bakery tell me that since they are surrounded by sweets every day, they no longer have any cravings for sweets. In fact a lot of times they are sick of sweets.

I just don’t know if that would happen to me because I can’t imagine not loving sweets. So for now I will just buy the cakes.

By surfNturf — On May 12, 2011

@Anon134114 - I understand that you would want more information, but I do think that the article was comprehensive enough to introduce major aspects of cake decorating designs.

It is a fun subject that I enjoy learning about. I also wanted to add that the writer was on point when discussing the taste of the icing. I think that when you are dealing with food coloring the various dyes they do alter the taste of the icing so you have to know which colors blend well and which don’t.

For example, I ordered purple icing for my daughter’s cup cakes and they tasted terrible. The icing tasted a little like paint, so that was a great tip that the writer mentioned because I would not have thought that the color of the icing would have made a difference, but it did to me.

By anon134114 — On Dec 13, 2010

I think you should put a little more info about cake decorators. this was a little helpful but i would like to see more.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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