Set includes 55 stainless steel tips, two flower nails, two couplers, and a sturdy storage box. Tips, flower nails, and couples are all dishwasher-safe. Impressive quality.
Couplers do not accommodate largest piping tips. Some customer complaints about storage box latch.
A great 10-piece that includes essential cake and cupcake decorating tips. Icing bags included. Tips are made of stainless steel and are dishwasher-safe. Incredible value.
Plastic couplers must be purchased separately. Instruction pamphlet is very basic.
Comes with a three-speed compressor for easy control and a set of starter colors. Air filter in device is washable. Compatible colors are vegan-friendly. Well-made storage case.
A bit too involved for those just getting their feet wet with cake decorating.
Set includes BPA-free spatulas and scrapers. Comes with a convenient tip decoration design chart for quick reference. Tip variety lends itself to plenty of experimentation.
Quality isn't as good as other kits, but it's certainly good enough for occasional cake artists.
Includes 12 common decorating tips made from stainless steel. Cake turntable is a major bonus and makes the kit a true value buy. Many pieces are dishwasher-safe.
Spatulas are on the smaller side. A few reports that kit arrived with missing pieces.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
If you have a flair for creativity, reasonably steady hands, and a love of all things dessert, why not try decorating a cake? Whether you’re looking for a new hobby, a masterpiece for one special occasion, or a source of part-time income, cake decorating is one of the few creative pursuits where your results taste as good as they look.
But purchasing the needed tools for turning that plain cake into a stunner can get confusing. There are so many different frosting tips, icing smoothers, piping bags, and other decorating must-haves and really-wants that choosing the right ones can get overwhelming.
That’s why BestReviews has whipped up this handy shopping guide. We’ll give you the info you need to choose and use the right tools for that special cake.
Before you can decorate your cake, you need to make it. Chocolate, lemon, vanilla, red velvet: go ahead and choose your favorite. You’ll find cake mixes in just about any flavor you might desire, although you might prefer to make your cake entirely from scratch. No judgment from us, whichever way you go.
While the shape of the cake is up to you – along with the classic square, circle, and rectangle, you’ll find cake pans shaped as hearts, animals, cartoon characters, stars, and anything else you can imagine – for the most professional-looking cakes, use a pan with straight, vertical sides rather than sloped.
Cut a piece of parchment paper (not wax paper) to fit in the bottom of your cake pan before pouring in the batter, and the baked cake will slip out much more easily. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake before releasing it from the pan, and you’ll have a perfectly finished cake just waiting to be adorned.
Before getting into the tools you need to decorate a cake, it helps to know the differences between icing, frosting, and fondant. All have their uses when decorating baked goods. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they aren’t exactly the same (although “icing” is often used as a general term for decorating a cake).
Icing is a fairly thin mixture of a liquid – egg whites, milk, and water are all possible ingredients – and confectioners sugar, along with food coloring to tint the mixture as desired. Icing “runs” along the surface of the cake, so is very useful for creating free-form lines and stripes. It’s also very good for writing on cakes. Icing isn’t usually flavored, so it has a simple, sugary taste. Once dry, it remains glossy.
Frosting is thick and fluffy, so it easily forms into peaks or swirls on a cake. It often has a butter base – that’s buttercream – but the base can also be heavy cream, egg whites, or cream cheese. The base is mixed with confectioners sugar, along with any desired food coloring and flavor. The most basic way to decorate a cake is to cover the surface with frosting.
You’ve baked your cake and let it cool. Now it’s time to decorate! There are many different tools to accomplish the task. The ones you need depend on what you hope to create, as well as the type of frosting you’re using.
Cake board or drum: Most often made of heavy cardboard, and sometimes covered with foil, every cake sits on a cake board. It gives the dessert a firm support so you can pick up and transport the cake without it falling apart. A cake drum is a sturdier cake board used to support heavy or multi-tiered cakes.
Cake turntable: Unless you want to walk around and around your cake while decorating it, you’ll need a cake turntable to make the process smooth and easy. It’s basically a lazy Susan on a stand.
Off-set spatula: A long, thin spatula with an angled shape, this tool is a must for smoothing frosting over the top and sides of your cake.
Fondant smoother: A flat paddle with a small handle, the fondant smoother evenly spreads the fondant over a cake’s top and sides for a smooth and perfect finish.
Fondant rollers: Available in large and small sizes, bakers use these to roll the fondant out into a thin sheet prior to laying it over the cake or cutting out shapes.
Piping bags: Disposable bags are plastic; reusable bags are generally cloth. Either way, icing fills the bag, which has a small opening at the pointed end covered by an icing tip.
Icing tips: Available in a huge range of shapes and sizes, these metal cones attach to the end of the icing bag. As the baker slowly squeezes the icing through the tip, it shapes the icing or frosting into the desired shape to decorate the cake. Some of the most popular icing tips include the following:
Most cake decorating kits include a variety of piping tips and icing bags. Kits geared toward beginners can include many other essentials, too, including a cake turntable and various icing smoothers and spatulas. If you only plan to decorate cakes occasionally for birthday parties or other special occasions, you’ll probably be happy with a simple kit that includes the most basic icing tips. If you plan to create elaborate designs, or you really enjoy baking cakes, choose an advanced kit with a wider range of icing tips. Most cake decorating kits include a storage box to neatly organize your supplies.
As cake decorating supplies are fairly simple, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on a kit, particularly if you’ll only use it a few times. You can expect to pay between about $10 and $30 for a kit.
A basic beginner’s kit with a few common icing tips shouldn’t cost more than $10 to $20, but if you’d like more variety in the tips or a comprehensive kit, expect to pay $20 to $30.
Let the cake cool before decorating. Don’t try to decorate a cake that’s fresh from the oven or it will fall apart. Let your cake cool for 15 minutes before releasing it from the pan, and then let it continue to cool to room temperature.
Practice your design. If you’re new to cake decorating, first sketch your design on paper, and then practice using the piping bag and tips on the paper before starting on the cake.
Don’t overfill the piping bag. Two-thirds full is ideal for the best control.
Use a toothpick to trace out words. Once your cake is frosted, use a toothpick to write any desired words on the top. Then pipe icing over the lines with a round icing tip.
Try cookie cutters. You can also gently press cookie cutters into the frosting to lay out a design before squeezing on the icing.
Try stencils for more elaborate designs. Want to create an elaborate design but don’t trust your freehand skills? A plastic cake stencil makes decorating a breeze. Instead of paint, you fill in the design with icing.
Try a spoon. Create swirls and scallops in the frosting with the back of a spoon.
Q. Is it better to buy a cake decorating kit or buy my supplies separately?
A. For most beginners, a kit is the easiest and most economical way to gather up the basic cake decorating supplies. As you gain skill, you’ll probably want to buy specialty supplies to meet your specific design needs.
Q. How do I cover a cake with fondant?
A. Once you’ve mastered frosting and decorating a basic cake, you might want to try the more advanced skill of covering your cake with fondant.
Lightly cover the entire cake with buttercream frosting. This gives the fondant a surface to grip.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to stiffen the buttercream.
While the cake cools, spread powdered sugar over your work area, and use a fondant roller to press out a fondant circle sized to fit over the top and sides of your cake.
Powder the fondant roller, and very gently fold the edges of the fondant over the roller to lift it up without breaking it.
Center the fondant disk over your cake and lay it in place.
Smooth the fondant around the cake with your fingers. Start at the top of the cake and work down the sides, smoothing away any creases, air bubbles, or folds as you work.
Use a sharp knife to cut away any excess fondant.
Use a fondant smoother to finish the cake, gently buffing away any imperfections.
Decorate the cake with fondant cutouts or icing designs, if desired.
Q. What’s the best way to choose and care for icing tips?
A. The best icing tips are made of stainless steel or nickel-plated brass. Keep them in good condition by washing them right away after every use in warm, soapy water. Use a small brush to remove any stuck bits of icing, and let the tips air-dry. Store your icing tips upright to protect them from dents or scratches.
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