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Basic Cake Decorating



Cake Supplies Needed to Make a Basic Cake
How to Pan Prep, Setup Your Racks and Preheat Your Oven
How to Make a Cake, Fill Your Pans and Oven Tips
How to Bake Your Cake to Perfection
How to Remove the Cakes from the Pans
How to Level a Cake, Remove Crumbs and Trim Excess
How to Assemble a Layer Cake
How to Apply a Crumb Coat to Your Cake
How to Apply Icing to Your Cake
How to Smooth Buttercream Icing on any Cake
How to Prepare Your Decorating Bag with Icing
How to Make a Star and Shell Border

Tired of having to pay someone else to make your child's birthday cake? Or maybe you want to learn how to make your own cake so you can show it off to your family and friends. Either way, we can help! Learn how to make your own cakes with these step-by-step instructional videos and tutorials that will show you everything you need to know in order to make your own cakes.

Birthday Supply Depot has teamed up with Martha Kluge, who is a local cake decorator in the Shreveport/Bossier City area with over 30 years of experience.

Cake Supplies Needed to Make a Basic Cake


The first step in getting started with making your cake, is to make sure you have all the supplies needed. The list below may look intimidating, but it's not. Most of the supplies listed below are going to be supplies you already have. You will need to buy a few extra items to decorate your cake, but overall a lot of kitchens will already have the supplies.

Items needed to make a basic cake:

  1. Cake Mix
  2. Water
  3. Oil
  4. Eggs
  5. Butter Knife
  6. Paper Towel
  7. Large Bowl
  8. Spatula
  9. Hand Mixer with Beaters
  10. (2) 8 inch Round Cake Pans
  11. (2) Cooling racks
  12. Bake Even Strips
  13. Cake Release
  14. Pastry Brush
  15. 6 Cups of Buttercream Icing
  16. Small Bowl
  17. Viva Paper Towels
  1. Cake Lifter
  2. 10 inch Round Board or Plate
  3. Turn-table
  4. Rubber Grip Shelf-Liner
  5. Kitchen Scissors
  6. Decorating Bag
  7. 2-piece Coupler
  8. #3 Writing Tip
  9. #18 Star Tip
  10. Cake Leveler
  11. Fondant Smoother
  12. Pastry Scraper
  13. Long Serrated Knife
  14. 8 inch or 9 inch Angled Spatula
  15. Flat Spatula
  16. Wooden Skewer or Long Tooth-pick
These are supplies that you'll need to do a cake from start to finish. As we go through each step with baking the cake, icing, and decorating, we will go through the tools and supplies in more detail and you'll understand how to use every single item that we have listed.
How to Pan Prep, Setup Your Racks and Preheat Your Oven


To get started, the first thing we need to do is prepare our cake pans.

Two Eight Inch Round Cake Pans You're going to want (2) eight inch round cake pans. In the video we used Magic Line Cake Pans because they have the most straight sides and squared corners.
Cake Release Next you need to have some form of cake release. Martha is using her own recipe in the video, but you can use other forms of cake release like Wilton Cake Release, Watkins Cooking Spray or Baker's Joy. Be careful though as over time some of the cake releases have a tendency to start burning your pans, which is another reason Martha uses her own.
Pour a Cake Release in the Pan To get started with the cake release, all you're going to do is pour in a small amount (the size of a 50 cent coin) in your pan. You will need a pastry brush at this point to spread it around inside the pan.
Spread Your Cake Release Around the Sides of Pan Make sure you spread the cake release around the sides of the pan as well. This process is very easy to do and quick.
Set Your Racks Next you'll want to setup your cooling racks to make sure they are ready for when your cakes are through baking. Make sure you have two racks, one for each cake pan.
Setting Your Oven Now we're going to set the oven. A good temperature to set your oven to is 350 degrees. You'll want to bake your cake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or as directed on your cake mix box. Every oven is different, so you may have to adjust yours a little bit, and over time you will learn what you need to adjust it to. It's very important that your oven pre-heats before you put your cake in because your cake will not bake properly if you put it in a cold oven.

How to Make a Cake, Fill Your Pans and Oven Tips


Next we're going to get started making our cake. You will want to follow the instructions on your cake mix box. In this demonstration, we used the Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix, so your ingredients may be slightly different then what we used in this tutorial and video.

Putting Cake Mix in the Bowl First, we're going to put our cake mix in a large bowl.
Seperating Egg Whites The next step is to put in three egg whites (The cake mix that is used in the video calls for egg whites only, not all cake mixes will do that). Crack the egg and let all the white go into the mix. Just go back and forth transferring the yoke from one egg shell to the other until all the white is in the bowl. It's ok if you do get yoke in it, but if you want a pure white cake then it's best to only use the egg whites. This part can get a little messy sometimes, but that's ok.
Pour Water in the Bowl The next step is to add your water.
Pour Oil in the Bowl Then add your oil. Any brand of cooking oil will work.
Mix ingredients with Spatula Next is to use your spatula to mix the ingredients around to get it blended. This makes it easier to mix with a hand mixer.
Mix ingredients with Blender Next is to whip up the ingredients with a hand mixer. Make sure you mix it up until all the lumps come out, because you want it smooth and lump free. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to less than a minute, every mix is different. As you mix the ingredients, it will get thicker which is what you want. You can also add more volume by adding an extra egg white or two. Make sure the mix is thoroughly blended, paying special attention to getting all the lumps out. Once the ingredients are well blended, you can move on to the next step.
Mix ingredients with Spatula Again In this step we're going to use the spatula again just to be sure all the ingredients are mixed together and to check the thickness.
Fill Pans with Cake Batter Now it's time to put the mix in the pans. One cake mix will fill two 8 inch round pans. As you pour the cake batter in the pans, try your best to get an equal amount in both pans. If you don't get an equal amount in each pan, it's not a problem. It just cooks more evenly if you can get equal amounts in both pans.
Mix the Cake Batter around the Pans Once the cake batter is in the pans, you can take your spatula and spread it around, level it and smooth it out.
Tap the Cake Pans Then you tap the pans a little bit to simply get the air bubbles to come up to the top, so you don't have air bubbles in your cake. Then your cake pans will be prepared with batter.
Putting the Cake Pans in the Oven Next you are going to put the cake pans in the oven. When you place them in the oven, its best that the oven rack is as centered as possible in your oven. You also want to make sure that the heat can circulate all around your pans so that they bake evenly. Set your timer for 25 minutes, or as directed on your cake mix box. If they are not done in 25 minutes when you check them, then simply let them bake for a few more minutes.

How to Bake Your Cake to Perfection


At this point, your cakes will have been baking for about 25 minutes or as directed on your cake mix box.

Cooling Racks on the Counter Make sure you have your cooling racks on the counter to put your cakes onto.
Testing the Cakes The next step is to test the cakes to make sure they are actually done. To do this, you're going to need a toothpick or wooden skewer. Push the toothpick or skewer inside the center of the cake and pull it out. If the toothpick or skewer remains dry, then your cake is done. Another way to see if your cake is through baking is if you see the sides of the cake pull away from the cake pan. If your cake is not done, just put the timer back on for about 5 minutes and check it again.
Remove Cakes and Place on Cooling Racks Once your cakes are through baking, you will remove them from the oven and place them onto the cooling racks. It's important to remember that you want to keep your cakes in the pans and on a rack to allow them to cool. By placing them on a cooling rack, it will allow even cooling since air can flow underneath the cake pans as well as all the way around. You're going to leave the cakes in the pans for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. If you leave them in longer for that, the cakes will continue to bake and stick to the pans.

How to Remove the Cakes from the Pans


After 15 to 20 minutes your 8 inch round cakes will have cooled enough in the pan to remove them.

Turning the Cake Over onto Your Hand Next you're going to remove the cakes from the pans and put them onto the racks to finish cooling. Usually if you can handle the cake pans comfortably with your hands, then it's time to turn them out onto the cooling racks. In order to do that, simply turn it over onto your hand and then turn it over onto the rack. Next you're going to let the cakes cool on the racks for at least two hours.
Cakes Cooling on Racks Next you're going to let the cakes cool on the racks for at least two hours. You can let them sit on the racks longer than two hours if needed, but the minimum is two hours so they are cooled down enough for the next step.

How to Level a Cake, Remove Crumbs and Trim Excess


In this section you are going to learn different ways to level a cake and other tips.

Find the Lowest Point on the Layer You'll want to look at your cake layer and basically see where the lowest point is so you'll know where to start leveling your cake.
Put Leveler Next to Cake In our first example, we will use a cake leveler to level our cake. To do this, put your cake leveler next to your first layer to see where the wire is. You may need to adjust the wire if it's too high or too low at this point.
Adjusting the Leveler To adjust the leveler, you're going to start by standing it on one end. Then you're going to press down on the top foot to release the pressure of the wire. That will enable you to move the wire up or down however many notches needed, and make sure it locks in place on your desired notch. Also make sure to count up your notches so both sides match, otherwise your leveler will be uneven.
Check Leveler by Placing Next to Cake Place the cake leveler up to the cake again to see if the wire is at the lowest point. If not, adjust the leveler accordingly until it is. Once your leveler is at the lowest point on your cake layer, you can start to zigzag the leveler back and forth to start cutting into the layer.
Cut a Slit with Your Knife If you're having a hard time getting the leveler to start cutting into the cake on its own, you can use a knife to cut a slit across your cake so the wire can get started. Proceed to use the leveler by zigzagging it back and forth all the way through the cake, turning the cake if needed.
Lift Up Your Cake Scrap Once you have gone all the way across your cake layer with the leveler, simply lift up the cake scrap and put it in your bowl. This layer is now leveled.
Turn Your Cake on its Side Next you're going to turn the cake on its side to brush off any loose crumbs. To do this, simply hold the cake with one hand, and use your other hand to brush off any crumbs by going back and forth along the sides of the cake.
Leveling with a Knife For our second layer, we are going to use a knife to level the cake. Make sure your knife is a serrated knife before you start, because it will be easier to cut into your cake. Make sure your knife is as level as you can get it, and slowly zigzag the knife across the cake. After you remove the cake scrap, you may have to go back and make some adjustments.
Turn Your Cake on its Side You're going to brush off any excess crumbs again with this layer.
Putting Your Cake on the Board Next you're going to put the layer upside down on your 10 inch cake board. To do that, you're going to have the layer of cake in one hand, and the cake board in the other hand. Simply turn the cake board upside down on top of the cake layer, then flip them both over. This will turn your cake layer upside down on the board, which is what you want.
Trimming the Cake The next step is going to be trimming the cake. Sometimes your cake might have little ridges that bake out over the edge, or some imperfections. Simply take your kitchen scissors and go around the cake trimming off anything that might be sticking out.

How to Assemble a Layer Cake


Now you are going to learn how to assemble a layer cake.

Spreading Icing on Cake Board To get started, we are going to take the 8 inch layer that is on your 10 inch round cake board and place it on your turntable.
Spreading Icing on Cake Board Next you're going to add a little bit of icing underneath the layer, directly on the board to act as a glue to hold the layer in place. It's very important to make sure your layer is centered on the cake board. It's also important to make sure your cake board is centered on your turntable. Once everything is centered, simply press down on your layer so the icing will hold it in place.
Whip Icing Again with Spatula Now you're going to take your spatula and whip up your icing again since it spreads easier when it's freshly whipped.
Place Icing on Cake as Filling Next you're going to put icing on your bottom layer which will be the filling. You can fill a cake with any type of filling you choose, but for our purposes we are using buttercream icing. Make sure you put enough to form a nice layer, but not too much since buttercream icing is sweet.
Spread Icing on Cake as Filling Now you're going to take your 8 inch angled spatula and spread your icing on the layer using back and forward motions. You're going to spread the icing almost to the outer edge of the cake. If you have excess amount around the outside edge of your cake, it has a tendency to push out and will leave a ridge of icing sticking out between your two layers. You don't need to worry about this layer of icing being smooth, although you do want it fairly level.
Turning Over Top Layer Now you're going to put the top layer of cake on top of your bottom layer. Simply use your cake lifter to turn the layer over onto your hand (bottom of layer facing up), then position the layer on top of the bottom layer.
Center Top Layer Since you have made two separate cakes, they won't fit perfectly together. So the goal is to try and center the top layer as much as possible onto the bottom layer. You can check it by turning the turntable around as you eye up the cake to make sure it's as centered as possible. Then simply press down on your top layer so it will adhere to the bottom layer.

How to Apply a Crumb Coat to Your Cake


In this section you are going to learn how to crumb coat a cake. Crumb coating is simply a very thin layer of icing that covers the whole cake. One of the main purposes of doing a crumb coat is to seal in the crumbs so they don't come out when it's time to ice your cake. Another purpose is to fill in the sides to make the cake perfectly straight up and down.

Crumb Coat with Right Hand To start, you are going to use your 8 inch angled spatula. If you're right handed, you are going to bring the spatula across to the left hand side of the cake so you can ice the cake down the left hand side. This gives you a visual line as you turn the turn table while icing your cake. This will help you see if your sides are straight up and down.
Crumb Coat with Left Hand If you're left handed, you are going to bring the spatula across to the right hand side of the cake and this allows you to see down the right hand side.
Crumb Coat in Front Do not try to go in front of the cake because you won't be able to see if it's straight or level.
Applying a Crumb Coat to Sides Now we are going to put on our crumb coat of icing. You don't need a lot, as we're going to be using a little bit at a time. Start smoothing the icing on the side of the cake, and pushing the icing into any crevices that are noticeable. The goal is to seal up your crumbs, so make sure you go from top to bottom covering the sides with a thin layer of icing, pushing the icing into the center and bottom. It will be easier if you work in small sections, and as you have more practice, you'll be able to do this very quickly. In order to keep your sides straight, keep your spatula as straight up and down as possible.
Scrape Off Any Excess When you're through applying the icing around the sides, go back and scrape off any excess. Remember that you just want a thin layer of icing around the cake to seal in the crumbs.
Scrape Any Icing Off the Plate Next you are going to go back and scrape off any excess icing around the bottom of your cake plate.
Applying a Crumb Coat to Top Now we are going to work on the top. Simply smooth the icing on the top in small sections. You can either start from the outer edge and work your way around the cake, then fill in the center, or start from the center and work your way out, whichever is easiest for you. Remember that this is just a thin layer, so don't use too much icing.
Scrape Off Any Excess on Top Now to define and clean up the top edge, use the spatula again by going around the sides of the cake.
Blend Any Remaining Icing Hanging over Edge Then if there is still any icing that may be sticking up, you can simply use your spatula to blend it into the top.
Finished Crumb Coat Once finished, your crumb coat should sit for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the type of icing you used. Then your icing will have crusted over enough that you can put your icing layer on and it will manage much easier for you.

How to Apply Icing to Your Cake


Now you are going to learn how to apply the icing to your cake. You will apply the icing basically the same way you did the crumb coat, except we are going to use more icing this time.

Ice Side of Cake Using a little bit more icing than you did with your crumb coat, start applying the icing on the side of the cake with your angled spatula. Just like with the crumb coat, you are going to apply the icing in small sections. You do not want to see any cake through this layer of icing.
Use Bench Scraper on Icing Once you have finished icing the cake on the sides, you can use the pastry scraper to scrape off any excess icing. Simply hold the pastry scraper up to the side of the cake and rotate your turn table around.
Apply Icing on Top Next you are going to apply icing to the top, just like you did with the crumb coat, except this time the icing will be thicker.
Use Bench Scraper on Icing Again Once you have finished icing the top of the cake, you are going to use your pastry scraper again to remove excess icing that might be hanging over the top.
Blend Icing from Top Edge to Center If you have excess icing sticking up, simply use your spatula and blend it into the center on top.
Finished Icing on Cake Now you are going to let the buttercream icing crust over, which a good buttercream icing will do fairly quickly in about 15 to 20 minutes.

How to Smooth Buttercream Icing on any Cake


Now we are ready to start smoothing the buttercream icing on the cake.

Tap Icing to See if it's Ready At this point your buttercream icing should have crusted over and is ready to be smoothed. A way to tell if your icing is ready to be smoothed is to gently tap your finger across the top of the cake. If it doesn't stick, then your icing is ready.
Viva Paper Towel In order to start smoothing your buttercream icing, you are going to need Viva Paper Towels. The Viva Paper Towels have a very smooth surface, they stretch and are also absorbent. If you use the viva paper towel too much, a lot of times it will absorb too much grease from the shortening in the icing and you will have to switch out to a new viva paper towel. This is not a big deal though, if it starts to get too greasy for you to handle, just grab another one. Now if you start working on your cake and you find that the icing is getting sticky, then you need to wait a little longer for your icing to crust back over, then you can continue working on it.
Smooth Top with Hand Next you are going to lay the paper towel on top of the cake. Start by using your hand, and gently use swirling motions to blend the icing on top of the cake. You will be able feel all the bumps, nooks and crannies in the icing that need to be smoothed out. When you are smoothing the icing on top, make sure you don't push any icing over the edge of the cake. You'll want to just go up to the edge of the cake. Turn the turn table as you need to in order to keep going around.
Smooth Top with Fondant Smoother Once you have the top pretty smooth, take the fondant smoother and go back over it. Simply press down on the fondant smoother and go to the edge, don't go past the edge as that will just push your icing out. Equal pressure all the way around should give you a nice finish.
Smooth Sides with Fondant Smoother The next step is the sides. Make sure you have your turn table in the locked position so it doesn't move on you while you're smoothing the sides. You are going to start on the right hand side if you're right handed, and left hand side if you're left handed. Take your paper towel and drape it over the side, and use your fondant smoother in a straight up and down position right next to the cake. Gently go back and forth in small sections until you get the icing smoothed.
Smooth Sides with Hand If you find that you are having a lot of problem areas, and you think you might have difficulty smoothing them out with the fondant smoother, you can simply use your hand first. Simply smooth the icing by going in an up and down motion with your hand. Once you have smoothed out the nooks and crannies with your hand, go back and finish it off with the fondant smoother.
Blend Icing from the Edge after Smoothing Lastly you are going to smooth the top again to blend any icing that may be sticking up from the edges. Simply place the paper towel on top and use your finger to blend the edge of icing towards the center of the cake. To finish it off, you want to take your fondant smoother and quickly go over the top again, and the sides. If you have any imperfections around the top or bottom edge of your cake, you don't need to worry about that too much because your border will cover that up.

How to Prepare Your Decorating Bag with Icing


In this section you are going to learn how to prepare your decorating bag with icing.

Push Coupler Inside Deco Bag To get started, you're going to open your decorating bag and separate your two-piece coupler. Take the long piece of the coupler, and push it down inside the bag as far as it will go.
Cut Decorating Bag Tip Next you are going to either take a pen to mark your bag at the top of the coupler, or simply use scissors and snip the bag right at the top of the coupler. Then push the coupler down a little bit, and use the scissors to cut straight across your decorating bag. Then push the coupler back down and it should match up to where you cut the slit.
Screw Round Piece onto Tip Next you choose which tip you are going to use. In our video we used a #18 star tip. Place your tip over the top of the coupler, then take your little round circle and place it over the tip and screw it in place. This will hold your tip onto your bag, just make sure it's snug and doesn't move.
Fold Decorating Bag Over Your Hand Next you are going to fill your decorating bag with icing. Take the top of the bag, fold it out and put your left hand underneath it. Then finish folding the bag down over your hand. Another trick you can do is to use a water glass. Simply put the decorating bag in the water glass and fold it out over the glass. That will free up both of your hands for the icing.
Scoop Icing in Decorating Bag Now you are going to place some icing in your decorating bag. You'll want to fill the bag a third of the way with icing, otherwise it might be too difficult to handle. Make sure as you fill the bag that you push the icing down as you go.
Push Icing Down into the Decorating Bag Now you are going to pull the top portion of your decorating bag back up and straighten the bag out. Next you are simply going to use two fingers and push the icing down as far as it will go. Make sure the icing is all the way down at the bottom of your bag.
Twist the Decorating Bag to Keep Icing In Next you are going to take the top of the bag, and twist it around over the top edge of the icing in the bag. Twist it around enough so you can hold the bag between your thumb and your forefinger. Your icing bag is going to be held in the palm of your hand. This will stop any icing from coming up out of the top of the bag when you squeeze it.

How to Make a Star and Shell Border


In this section you're going to learn how to make a star and shell border for your cake.

How to Make a Star The first thing that we're going to learn is how to make stars with a #18 star tip. To make a star, hold your decorating bag straight up and down and your tip will almost touch the surface. You're going to squeeze the icing out, making your star, release the pressure and lift up. The bigger the star tip, the bigger the star will come out. Also, the more pressure you use will also make your star bigger.
How to Make a Shell Next we are going to learn how to make shells. A shell is simply a puff of icing, and is commonly used as a border around your cakes. Using the same tip that you made the stars with, hold your bag at a 45 degree angle and with the tip almost touching the surface, squeeze out the icing until you get a puff, release the pressure and pull away.