What is Behind Cake Decorating

On television, you’ll see cake decorators piping, rolling, and molding different sugary concoctions over a cake to create the finished look of the item. When you step into a bakery, you may wonder what has been used to decorate a cake, but you’re not certain if you ask the question if the answer will really answer your question. If your experience at cake decorating involves canned frosting, these terms will help explain what you are getting when you order a cake for a party or a wedding. Try using a cake decorating kit!

What is Fondant?

Fondant is made from sugar, water, corn syrup, and gelatin. When it is cooked, it doesn’t crystallize, creating a flexible and sweet substance that can be rolled with a rolling pin or pasta machine. When draped over a cake, fondant creates a clean and seamless backdrop for the decorations.

Identifying Buttercream Icing

Walk into your supermarket bakery and chances are you’ll be looking at buttercream icing. The base is butter and powdered sugar although milk (or cream) and egg yolks may also be in the recipe. The icing is smooth and creamy and can be colored or flavored in numerous ways. Buttercream is versatile in that you’ll find it used to cover, fill, and decorate a cake.

Defining Ganache

This heavy icing is made from melted chocolate and heavy cream. It is sweet and dense. Ganache is thicker than mousse but not as dense as fudge. You’ll find ganache as a cake filling but also covering a cake.

What is Marzipan?

Marzipan is a paste prepared from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites. When rolled into sheets it can cover a cake with a smooth finish. It can also be used, almost like clay, to form realistic-looking garnishes. Marzipan can be colored or painted with food coloring to add to the convincing appearance of objects molded from this paste.

What is Royal Icing?

Another icing that is sweet and thick, it dries to a hard finish. Royal icing is egg whites and confectionary sugar; it is the protein in the egg whites that gives strength to even the most delicate piping or object formed from this icing. You’ll find royal icing in piping, flowers, and borders; display cakes are often decorated in royal icing because it seems to last forever.

Uses for Gum Paste

While fondant may give a cake its smooth finish, gum paste is the sugar dough or candy clay used to decorate it. Gum paste is sugar, cornstarch, and gelatin. Like marzipan, it can be used to form realistic-looking fruits and flowers.

Defining Molded Chocolate

Okay this is an easy one, because it is what it sounds like. It is a chocolate or white chocolate edible “clay” that is supple enough to cover a cake. It can be melted and shaped into garnishes.

Whipped Cream

Take heavy cream and whip it so that it forms stiff peaks. That’s it. Whipped cream won’t give a cake a smooth finish like some of the other icings. You may find whipped cream more often inside the cake as a filling. It can be tinted and piped to form flowers and other garnishes.

The above terms can help you navigate through a bakery’s offerings the next time you order a decorated cake for a wedding, birthday or wedding shower. Of course, you can always investigate how to make and work these icings on your own.

While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!