Want to decorate cupcakes or a cake for a special occasion but you’re a beginner and don’t know where to start? Wondering which cake decorating tools you need to make you well equipped to create a cake or cupcake masterpiece?
The truth is that if you have the basic cake decorating tools that I will show you here, you can get creative and look like a pro when you decorate that adorable cake for your loved one’s special event. I’m not saying you need to go out and purchase every single thing on this list right now. The cake decorating tools you will need will depend on the project you want to create. When I started decorating cakes, I didn’t go out to purchase all of this. I built up my supplies little by little.
TIP: As a money saving tip, check out Michaels, Joanne Fabrics, Hobby Lobby and other craft stores. These often have 40% or 50% off coupons for one item. I purchased a lot of my supplies at discounted prices using these coupons. Some of these stores will also let you use coupons from competing stores so you always get the best deal.
HOW MY LOVE OF CAKE DECORATING BEGAN
Growing up, my mother always decorated cakes. She’s just so gifted in the kitchen and she’s also fearless. I once helped her make an 11-tier wedding cake!
Prior to that 11-tier cake, in 2008, my sister got married and my mom was making her cake. She was just so nervous because she wanted it all to be perfect for my sister, that she and my aunts asked me to help her. THAT was the first time I helped decorate a cake. Later that year my cousin got married and my mom asked me to decorate two of the four tiers of his cake. I really started liking this whole cake decorating business!
I have a very large family, so when another cousin (she’s more of a sister really) told me to watch Ace of Cakes…Wow, I was so impressed! These weren’t the traditional wedding cakes my mom always made. These were cakes that looked like real-life items. After the first episode, I was determined to learn to make cakes like Duff. With the very little experience I had, I set out to learn as much as I could about cake decorating.
TIP: Download this handy baking and cake decorating tool that provides you with fondant and icing amounts, amongst other cake decorating conversions. You’ll never waste icing or fondant with this handy cheat sheet. I would’ve loved to have a handy tool like this one when I was learning.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE SOME BASIC CAKE DECORATING TOOLS
Here’s the deal, I had virtually no materials. My mother lives in the Dominican Republic, so she had traveled to Florida and New Jersey with the materials she needed for my sister’s and my cousin’s weddings. She took it all when she went back home as she has her own cake business there. The only cake decorating tools she left behind in Florida, where I lived at the moment, was a small KitchenAid mixer and small fondant roller that she left behind by mistake.
I waited for a couple of months, obsessively watching cake shows until my mother returned to Florida. I asked her to teach me how to roll fondant and decorate cakes. It was so much fun to decorate with my mom! I was stepping into a space that had been her passion for more than 30 years. It was fascinating!
When she went back home, she gave me a list of basic cake decorating tools that would be helpful to get started with my new cake art obsession. Now I get to share these tools with you!
Keep in mind that you may not need all of these. For example, if you only plan to decorate cupcakes, you may not need a revolving cake stand. If you’re only interested in decorating with icing, you may not need tools that are specifically for molding fondant. If you want to use fondant for cakes or cupcakes, then you may not need any piping tips. Regardless of the cake design, you have in mind, the necessary tools are here for you!
1. ROLLING PIN
In general, a rolling pin is great to have because you can use it in the kitchen for more than cake decorating. There are a lot of pastries, for example, that require the use of a rolling pin. If you are using fondant or gum-paste to decorate a cake or cupcake, a rolling pin is an essential tool. It will help you flatten the sugary clay into a smooth surface perfect for decorating.
I have two rolling pins, a large silicone rolling pin to flatten and smooth fondant used to cover a cake, and a small rolling pin to mold and flatten smaller pieces of fondant or gum-paste for decorative purposes. You can find both rolling pins on Amazon.
2. BASIC SHAPES COOKIE CUTTERS (CIRCLE, OVAL, AND SQUARE)
When decorating cakes, try to find the path of least resistance as often as possible. What I mean with that is that your decorations look cleaner when you use basic shapes to form a design. For example, to make a flat monkey face for a cake or cupcake, you only need to use a couple of oval and round cutters. I made this one for a friend who wanted me to match the cake to her baby shower invitation.
Using basic shapes makes you look like a pro because your decorations are clean, smooth and simple. I’ve used these Ateco cutters in circle, oval, and square shapes more than most other tools in my box.
3. FLOWER AND LEAF CUTTERS
Along the same lines as your basic shapes, you will find that these basic flower and leaf cutters will come in handy. I haven’t just used these for the intended shapes, I’ve also used these to make animal shapes. For example, use the flower cutter for the mane of a lion face and the leaf cutter to shape animal ears. Be creative with the way in which you use the few tools you have at your disposal!
4. X-ACTO KNIFE
With an X-Acto knife, you can make any shape possible. Before I had a butterfly cutter, I simply cut out some butterfly shapes out of paper and used them as stencils. The X-Acto knife made them look like I had used a cutter.
You can trim excess fondant with this tool, make edges more precise, cut out stencils to make other decorations for your cake. I’ve even cut cardboard with an X-Acto knife.
Caution: Be very careful with this tool, it is very sharp, and you can very easily cut yourself. Also remember to keep it in a safe place at all times, away from children. Scissors are nothing compared to how sharp an X-Acto knife is!
5. GUM-PASTE TOOLKIT
I use the Wilton gum-paste toolkit, but there are many others, including this Cake Boss Gum-Paste Decorating Tool Kit. This one is plastic and works very well with everything I’ve ever done. There are also some higher end ones made of metal. If you’re just starting out, go for the plastic ones.
All but one tool in this kit are double-sided. You’re actually getting 19 different tools with unlimited possibilities in terms of their use. Generally, they’re made to be used to shape flowers, but I’ve used these tools on many other designs.
6. POWDER POUCH
Now this one you don’t even have to buy, you can make it yourself! When you’re rolling fondant or gum-paste, it can stick to the surface you’re working on. This can be very annoying because you end up having to redo the entire process to get a smooth surface. The way of preventing this issue is to add cornstarch to the surface where you’re rolling the fondant. Some people mix cornstarch and confectioner’s sugar.
The powder pouch does two things: it helps contain the cornstarch and it helps you scatter it more evenly and lightly on the surface where you’re working.
Have you ever gone to an event where they give you a t-shirt that you’ve never worn? Well, you can bring it out now (or any other piece of fabric) to make your powder pouch:
- Cut out a circle (or square), about 6” in diameter
- Place about 4 tablespoons of cornstarch in the center
- Bring the fabric together around the cornstarch by tying a ribbon around it.
Before you set down the fondant or gum-paste on your work surface, lightly tap the surface with your powder pouch and done!
TIP: Don’t use cheesecloth for this because the threads are too widely spread to keep the powder contained inside.
7. ICING SPATULA
Whether you’re decorating a cake with fondant or with royal icing, you need icing spatulas. The name says it all. Use it to transfer icing from the mixer to a bowl, to ice the cake, to smooth the icing on the cake, or to fill piping bags. They come in different sizes and shapes, including flat and angled. A smaller spatula can serve to perfect the technique when you’re icing a cake.
8. PIZZA CUTTER
Have you ever noticed how perfectly cut the bottom edges of fondant cakes are? That’s because people use a pizza cutter that can glide smoothly and quickly on the fondant to cut through it. Use this cake decorating tool to cut the excess fondant around a cake, to make ribbons, or for anything that needs to be cut in a straight line.
9. REVOLVING CAKE STAND
Oh, life is so easy with a revolving cake stand! It really comes in handy when you’re covering a cake with fondant or with icing. For example, after you smooth out the surfaces and pick up the pizza cutter to cut off excess fondant around the bottom edges of the cake, the revolving cake stand is there to make the process of cutting the excess fondant easier, faster and seamless.
I also use the revolving cake stand when I’m airbrushing a cake. Being able to move the cake around without stopping the flow of the airbrush makes the job look more professional.
There are two types of smoothers and I consider each one to be an essential cake decorating tool.
Use the fondant smoother when you place fondant on a cake. The smoother sticks the fondant firmly to the icing layer that should already be on the cake. It also “smoothes” out air pockets caught between the fondant and icing, making the fondant surface look pristine.
Another handy use for the fondant smoother is to make a long noodle shape with fondant or gumpaste. Think of a thick spaghetti shape. The smoother helps roll and lengthen the fondant into the spaghetti shape in a more precise way than if you just used your hands.
The icing smoother is essential to make any cake covered in frosting look smooth. Generally, you see this cake decorating tool in aluminum, but it’s also sold in plastic. This can be a very inexpensive item, depending on the brand and material you choose.
11. PIPING TIPS
Piping tips are very important cake decorating tools for cakes and cupcakes. Use extra-large piping tips to ice cupcakes with pretty swirls. The smaller ones come in specific shapes and sizes for flowers, leaves, and very specific shapes on cakes.
I’ve used wide round piping tips to cut out circles in the past. Think about it, you have to be creative and use the few cake decorating tools at your disposal sometimes. The round tip #5 has been used for many eyeballs in my creations. 😊
12. PIPING BAGS
You can technically make piping bags out of ziplock bags or parchment paper if you need to. But I find that having some disposable piping bags is helpful when I have a large order of cupcakes or cake pops, or when I need to be quick.
When I started cake decorating, my mom gave me a small reusable piping bag. I later purchased an extra large one. If I ever ran out of the disposable bags, I always had those available. If you want to save money, but don’t want to use ziplock bags, these are great options because you can pipe, rinse, repeat.
13. FOOD COLORING
Having a set of primary color food gels helps give life to any cake decorating project you’re working on. Food coloring is used with fondant, gumpaste, and icing. I use the gels because they go much farther and last much longer than the liquid food colors. You can also get more intense colors out of the gels in fondant and icing.
Mixing the gel with alcohol (I normally use vodka) gives you edible paint. If you only use the gel, it doesn’t really dry up. If you add vodka or any clear alcohol to it, you can use it as diluted or concentrated as you wish (for color intensity) and it dries up in minutes.
14. PAINTBRUSH SET
A simple paint brush set serves several purposes. Use it along with food coloring to draw or paint different designs on fondant or gum-paste. Paint with icing on the surface of a fondant cake. Lightly wet the fondant surface when you want to stick a decoration to it.
Though I sometimes make and use edible “glue” to adhere decorations to a cake, water works perfectly well most of the time. Remember that sugar becomes sticky when it gets wet. You can be more precise when wetting the fondant with a small paintbrush. That’ll prevent it from being noticeable when you adhere the decoration.
Word of caution: Don’t wet the brush so much that it drips when you touch the surface of the cake. You will not be able to fully remove the wet mark.
WHICH CAKE DECORATING TOOLS DO YOU NEED FIRST?
Like I said earlier, you don’t need to purchase all of these cake decorating tools at once. Make an inventory of what you currently have. You never know, you might have a spatula lying around your kitchen drawer that will now come in handy. You might even have some paint brushes that you’ve never used or cookie cutters stored away.
I don’t only believe in physical health, I also believe in financial health. All the links I’ve provided here take you to the specific item I was referring to. But do your research! There are some sets of cake decorating tools that provide you with a combination of many of the items on this list. Overall, that will probably end up being much more affordable than buying each item separately. Also, don’t forget to use coupons at Michaels and other craft stores.
Decide what is the first cake project you are going to work on and purchase the materials you need for that specific project. If you need ideas, check out the 11 Must-Watch Video Tutorials to Decorate a Cake from Start to Finish and the 6 Easy Unicorn Cupcake Tutorials for Beginners posts. Purchase only the tools you need every time you have a new cake project and that’ll build up your store of cake decorating tools little by little.
Good luck decorating!
Comment below to show me your creations and to tell me what your favorite cake decorating tools are. Who knows, I might even update my list with your input!
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