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 and the use of new techniques and materials has increased the cake decorators’ 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? (Yes – really!)
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 icing or royal icing, and applying additional decoration to personalise the cake. Both marzipan and icing are used to make decorations. Although flowers are still popular, there are some stunning 3D silicon moulds around, offering a range of intricate and detailed designs, the likes of which our cake making forebears could have only dreamed about; lace borders, Georgian-style swags and foliage to name but a very few.
You can buy moulds of just about any shape, including figures (human and animal), toys, cars, sewing machines, musical instruments and make-up brushes. For the less experienced decorators amongst us, fear not! Pre-made ‘cake toppers’ can be bought from good cook shops, some supermarkets and online retailers. There are no rules to what can be used, except that the decoration should be personal to the person, the occasion or both.
Chocolate has become very popular for both the cake itself and for the decoration. But be warned, working in chocolate is a skill in itself and can be a very unpredictable (and messy) medium in an untrained hand!
So why not try your hand at cake decorating and when the next big family occasion rears its head, perhaps you can let your creativity be the icing on the cake.