Trending Cake Decorating Techniques & Tips

Learn all about modern cake decorating styles

TikTok, the home of viral food videos, is awash with pastry art. Creators, with millions of views, design realistic cakes disguised as shoes, phones, everyday devices, and even other foods. Meanwhile, other netizen bakers showcase eye-catching methods of piping, layering, designing, and decorating desserts.

It turns out it’s not too hard to create a head-turning, modern dessert, but you do need the right equipment to get started. Here are some trending dessert decorating styles and how you can recreate them in your home or commercial kitchen.

The Edible Canvas

To get started with decorating a dessert, you will need two main essentials — the cake, and the things to decorate it with. You can make your own cake, using whatever flavors your diners prefer, or you can save time by going with a cake mix and adding additional flavors.

Before putting the cake in the oven, make sure you know exactly how you want the final product to look so you can choose the appropriate cake baking pan. Baking pans come in all sorts of shapes, including rectangular, square, loaf, and round. If you are catering for a large event you might want to use a large sheet pan. Another popular and trendy option is a bundt pan. If you bake in a bundt pan, you can expect a ridged, donut-shaped final product, which is typically decorated in a fairly simple manner, but can be dressed up more elaborately. For a mini-dessert or cupcake, you’ll need to put your mix into a muffin pan.

Before popping the cake into the oven, also think about how you plan to remove the cake from the pan when it’s finished baking. If your batter sticks to the pan, then you might find yourself hacking the delicate sponge out of the pan, ruining its pristine and moldable shape. A good rule of thumb is to both grease the pan and also line it with parchment paper or baking liners. Another baking “cheat,” if you plan on making round and layered cakes, is to use a springform pan that comes apart after coming out of the oven for easy pastry removal. It still a good idea to line a springform pan with parchment paper, and to line the outside with heavy duty aluminum foil to prevent leakage. However, if your batter is particularly runny, for example, you’re making a custard or cheesecake, you’ll need to use a traditional, non-springform pan.

After the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool completely and then level it off with a cake leveler. This will ensure a smooth canvas for you to when decorating. A cake leveler is essentially a thin wire blade that takes off the dome of the cake, leaving the surface flat and smooth. It can also separate a dessert into layers.

…Things to Decorate it With

Once the canvas is ready, it’s time to apply the paint, textures, and features. There are a number of edible bases that you can apply to the outside of the cake to provide color and shine.

Buttercream frosting is the most popular and easiest type to master.

These are the most common types of frosting:

  • Buttercream frosting: Essentially made frofat (most commonly butter), sugar (usually confectioners sugar for a smooth consistency, and sometimes eggs (the egg whites make the frosting light and airy), buttercream comes in a number of varieties include simple buttercream and the stiffer, hardier, decorator’s buttercream. You can buy premade buttercream frosting, but it’s pretty simple to make at home using only a mixer, and then you have more flexibility to customize the frosting by adding colors and flavors. Buttercream is ideal for both spreading and piping, but if you want a shelf stable frosting, you’ll need to use shortening instead of butter, since butter melts at room temperature.
  • Cooked frosting : These are more elaborate than buttercreams, because in addition to mixing you also need to boil the confection. Start by heating sugar, water, corn syrup, milk, flour, or whatever your recipe calls for in a pot and then slowly stir it into egg whites that have been whipped into meringues. This allows for a sturdier and denser frosting.
  • Icing: Icing is famously harder and more solid than frosting and it gets this quality from being whisked with flour. Another option is to use meringue powder for an icing that dries hard and won’t smear. You can also make a simple glaze icing that will also harden from powdered sugar and water (or another liquid). Don’t forget to add flavors and colors as needed.
  • Ganache: Ganache is a popular item for frosting and decorating. It’s essentially made from melted chocolate mixed with heavy cream. Ganache can also be spread or piped or used as a glaze.
  • Adding Details

    These frostings – icings, ganaches, and buttercreams are great for covering the surface of a cake, piping between layers of a cake, and using to add detail like marbling, peaks, scales, and other details.

    The showiest cakes aren’t just frosted and layered but also graced with delicate edible flowers, fruits, sprinkles, candies, pearls, and drips. Edible cake flowers can be purchased in finished form. Or, you can make them yourself using simple buttercream, along with a pastry bag, for filling the frosting into decorating tips that come in a variety of shapes and sizes for adding different details.

    : From buttercream frosting to hard icing: Trending methods of cake decorating.

    How to Make Buttercream Peonies

    Start by piping a cone of thick frosting onto a piece of parchment paper. This will be the base for your flower and give it some body. Next, use a curved decorating tip to pipe out overlapping petals around the cone. You can press the petals gently with your finger to keep them in place and connected to the base. Keep adding petals until you are satisfied with your peony.

    To make it two tones, you can fill the pastry bag with darker frosting close to the tip and lighter frosting near the back of the bag so that when you pipe it out, the darker frosting is near the flower’s base, and the petals get lighter as they curve upwards. This makes for a realistic and elegant flower.

    After you finish your peonies, let them chill and harden and then slide them off the parchment paper and glue them on the cake using a little more buttercream. There are many buttercream flower varieties and designs so it’s worthwhile to experiment and find what works best for you.


    Other edible cake elements can be made from fondant. Fondant is very popular among those in the dessert business because it’s essentially edible playdough. It’s quite easy to mold and it will hold its shape. You can buy fondant, or you can make it yourself. After mixing the fondant ingredients, you’ll need to play with it and knead it. When you are ready to use it, you will need to roll it out with a rolling pin (for extra-large projects, like wedding cakes, you’ll need an extra-long rolling pin). Another alternative to fondant is to pour melted chocolate into a mold and let it set.

    Vintage Cakes

    Once you have all the edible ingredients, it’s time to start decorating. One trend that’s a few decades old, but making a comeback today, is vintage, formal cakes. Also called Lambeth cakes, the vintage style dates back to the 19th century in Europe, epitomizing the “let them eat cake” era, but was also popular in the revolving cake stands in the United States. These cakes feature delicate piping, symmetry, ruffles, sugar flowers, elaborate over-the-top designs, icing pearls, and even bows.

    To make a Lambeth cake you typically start with a stacked, layered round cake base with a smooth top. Place the cake on a and start spreading the frosting, turning the wheel and using a spatula to get a nice, even covering. Then, fill a pastry bag and use a delicate, contoured tip to add flowers, piping details and garlands. Make sure these details are symmetrical. Then, you can go ahead and add bows, flowers, pearls, edible glitter, fruit, words, or any other details that you want.

    Modern Cakes

    Of course, beyond the vintage, the TikTok era has inspired a number of modern, contemporary cake styles.

    Comic Cakes

    Comic cakes are a trending style that you'll enjoy making.

    One style that’s particularly popular is the comic style. Here, the baker endeavors to create a cake that looks like a cartoon drawing of a cake. To make a comic cake, start with only one slice of cake, triangular-shaped and layered. Then, using fondant or buttercream to decorate the cake’s exterior with a base color (the base color should be a “doughy” color) and strips, or layers of another color. The goal is to make the top layer of frosting look like a layered cake slice. Add more fondant or frosting for the top layer. Then, go over all the lines of the decor with edible thin strips of chocolate. That makes it look as if everything is sketched and outlined. You can also add little chocolate circles to the base frosting layer so it looks like a sketched sponge cake. To make a comic cake, you’ll need frosting, fondant, chocolate (or fondant) strips, a revolving cake stand, a spatula, and a rolling pin.

    Stencil Cakes

    Another popular, trendy, and relatively simple to follow modern cake decor technique is the stencil. Take a plastic sheet and cut out the shapes or patterns you want (you can also purchase premade stencils in a variety of designs). Wrap the stencil around a frosted cake and paint with buttercream. Remove the stencil and the buttercream details or shapes will appear on the cake itself. These stencils can be used for elaborate patterns, marbling, shapes, and text.

    Burn Away Cakes

    Burn away cakes are another modern style, making the rounds at all types of birthday parties. These cakes contain a false top, a layer of decorated, edible wafer paper, with buttercream frosting underneath, and underneath the frosting the “real top” of the cake. Set the false top on fire and it burns dramatically to reveal the true layer underneath.

    Fault Line Cakes

    In contrast to the vintage style, fault line cakes are a trending cake style that is deliberately asymmetrical. In a traditional wedding cake, the cake is layered with the largest cake on the bottom and the smallest on top. Fault line cakes are layered with a large cake, a small cake, and then another large cake on top. The gap between the two sides of the larger cake, the one on top and the one on the bottom are filled with cream, strawberries, sprinkles, and designs haphazardly and non-linearly packed in.

    Naked Tall Cakes

    Another non-standard style that’s gaining in popularity are naked tall cakes. As the name suggests, these cakes consist of several layers stacked up high and very lightly iced, so they are “naked.” Typically flowers are added to give these cakes an air of elegance and they are served atop a formal raised cake stand.

    Mini Cakes

    In addition to the vintage and modern styles, small decorated desserts are quickly becoming a trend as well. Mini cakes, referred to as lunchbox cakes or bento box cakes, like many trending foods, came from South Korea. These cute little pastries are individual layered, piped, and decorated.

    Mini cakes are popular, trending cakes that can't be beat.

    To make a lunchbox cake, it’s easiest to start out with a sheet pan cake and then cut it into shapes, circles, hearts, and stars. You’ll also want classy, plastic takeaway containers that are compartmentalized to put the finished product.

    Also in the mini-desert space are cake shooters. These gorgeous layered desserts are basically “cakes in a cup.” Start with a shot glass or champagne flute. Bake your cakes in cupcake or mini cupcake tins, and then slice the finished product to fit the size of the glass. Layer the frosting and cake inside the cup, and you will get these beautiful, clear layers that look incredibly appetizing from the outside. Serve alongside a long handled spoon. If you have any leftover scraps after cutting the cakes, they can easily be repurposed into cake pops or their popsicle-shaped cousin, cakesicles.

    Just for Show Cakes

    All the desserts mentioned above are cakes that are intended for consumption. But, cakes are quickly straddling the space between food and art, and there are some cakes just meant for show. If you are looking for a showcase product for an event, but don’t actually need much of the dessert itself, you can make a dummy cake. To make a dummy case, start out with a tiered styrofoam base, cut out a triangle from the base, where you will put the “real cake” slice, coat the whole thing in frosting and decorations. Also, definitely in the category of “art form” cakes for show are the hyper realistic cakes that make for incredible, mind-bending videos and rely heavily on fondant and gum paste for shaping and molding.

    Summing It All Up

    In the world of dessert decorating, the possibilities are as endless as your imagination. From vintage-inspired Lambeth cakes to modern marvels like comic cakes and fault line designs, the art of dessert decoration has evolved into a vibrant tapestry of creativity. Whether you’re a seasoned pastry chef or a budding baking enthusiast, there’s a technique to suit every taste and occasion. Armed with the right tools, from basic bakeware to specialty decorating products, you can bring your dessert dreams to life in your own kitchen.

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