There has been a long standing tradition, especially in Europe, to celebrate special occasions and religious festivals with decorated cakes. Traditionally, cake decorating has been associated with sugar craft and the use of icing sugar to create edible, decorative embellishments and has long been acknowledged as a unique art form. Whilst designs and fashions may have changed over the years, the art of creating patterns and 3D cake decorations from sugar continues to thrive, the use of new techniques and materials has increased the cake decorator’s repertoire.
Multi-layered, stacked and bespoke wedding cakes are becoming more popular than the familiar three-tiered variety and often there’s not a fruitcake layer in sight. More often than not the tiered cakes use hidden bespoke supports to keep the tiers in place, with some of the more eye-catching designs seeming to defy gravity. The old traditional classical style pillars are a definite thing of the past. A tiered cake is not just for weddings either; how about a divorce cake or a funeral cake?
All shapes and sizes
Gone are the days when we had to bake a cake and then cut it to the right shape. There are some amazing cake tins around today that allow you to create very realistically shaped cakes, ranging from the ever popular Disney characters to formula one racing cars and everything in between. Some good cookware shops have these types of cake tins available to hire so you don’t need to buy an expensive tin if you fancy trying something a bit different. Remember that novelty cakes are no longer the preserve of kids’ birthday parties.
Decorating a cake usually involves covering it with some form of icing, such as fondant or royal icing and then applying additional decoration. This tends to include piped decorative borders and moulded flowers or figures. Both marzipan and icing are used to make moulded decorations and there are a wide variety of commercially produced moulds that can help add that all-important extra detail with the more experienced cake decorators often making their own.
Allow us to elaborate
To match the variety of cake shapes and the occasions celebrated, cake decorations have become more and more elaborate. Flowers are still very popular and the use of fresh flowers is on the rise. There are some stunning 3D silicon moulds around that allow the cake decorator to produce some truly intricate and detailed designs that our forebears would have only dreamed about; lace borders, Georgian-style swags and foliage to name but a few. There are very realistic moulds for making just about anything, including figures (human and animal), toys, cars, sewing machines, musical instruments and make-up brushes. Chocolate has become very popular for both the cake itself and for the decoration. Working in chocolate is a skill in itself and can be an unpredictable medium in an untrained hand. There are no rules to what can be used except that the decoration should be bespoke and personal to the person, the occasion or both.
I’m sure that the Great British Bake-off’s Showstoppers have played their part in encouraging us would-be cake decorators to be experimental and creative in all things cake related. So when the next big family occasion rears its head, why not let your creativity be the icing on the cake.