Strategies for Wedding Cake Decorating

The art of wedding cake decorating can seem a mysterious one to outsiders (such as an engaged couple) because the industry practically has its own language.

Phrases like fondant, gum paste and Cornelli piping are thrown around as the bride tries to explain that she just wants the cake to look like lace.

While almost all bakers who do wedding cakes will try to work with you in simple terms to realize your ideal cake, being familiar with the terms of the trade can make the process go a lot smoother (like buttercream)

Other than the obvious ingredient of icing it is a good idea to consider ahead of time whether you would like any piping (and what kind) or what material you would like your decorations crafted out of.

Types of Icing:

Buttercream: This is a favorite tool of wedding cake decorating. A creamy, rich icing made from butter and/or shortening combined with icing sugar. The texture is smooth and it can be easily colored or flavored. Buttercream’s uses other than icing include filling, piping, and rosettes.

NOTE: As the ingredients should suggest, this icing does not hold up well under heat or humidity.

Fondant: Also known as sugar paste, this sugar “dough” can be rolled out and draped over a cake for a glossy finish and a solid base for decorations and architecture. The taste isn’t as good as Buttercream but this will hold up better under heat.

Ganache: A medium density icing made with either white or dark chocolate melted with heavy cream. Ganache can also be used as a filling. NOTE: Again, as the ingredients should suggest, this icing does not hold up well under heat or humidity.

Marzipan: Often used as a layer between the cake and fondant, marzipan can also be rolled and draped as an icing of its own or molded into decorations. NOTE: The ingredients of marzipan include almonds so steer clear if you have nut allergies.

Royal icing: Sweet icing made of whipped egg whites and icing sugar. It preserves well under the right temperatures (read: not hot and humid) When it dries, it’s hard consistency lends well to intricate details such as writing, lacing and borders.

Piping Types:

Piping (general): If you’ve ever watched a baking show on television and seen someone gently guiding an icing-type material out of a metal-tipped bag, that was piping. From birthday cakes to wedding cake decorations, piping is a standard way to give your cake borders, patterns and rosettes.

Basketweave: Vertical and horizontal lines weave together like a basket, thus the name.

Cornelli: Elaborate technique that creates a lace-like pattern. This is the type of piping used when a bride asks for the cake to match the lacework of her dress or veil.

Dotted swiss: Random patterns of tiny dots that resemble a fine fabric.

Latticework: Criss-crossing pattern that resembles a garden lattice.

The Add-Ons

The most fun in wedding cake decorating can be had with the add-ons. Fresh flowers, sugar flowers, and fruit are just a few examples of what can be placed on a cake.

There are so many options that it is best to look at pictures of other cakes to give you some hints or ask your cake creator what their opinions are in regards to the theme of your wedding.

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