Gone are the days of lopsided homemade cakes and subpar “Happy Birthday,” notes in smudged icing! Thanks to the rise and awareness of what’s possible when it comes to baking, there are incredible tricks and techniques you can try to make cakes that are immaculate.
The attention to professional cake decorating that goes above and beyond was heightened with television shows like Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, Cake Wars, Amazing Wedding Cakes, Fabulous Cakes and Cupcake Wars. Who knew there was so much to learn about the cake decorating business! The attention to detail, the creativity and the overall science behind constructing these fabulous cakes is fascinating. Professional cake decorating is an entire career path or passion that has endless avenues and unlimited creative possibilities.
How to Get A Professional Cake Decorating Job
While there is a necessity for creativity and passion if you’re going to pursue a career in cake decorating, there’s also skill and education that’s imperative for a successful career path. Due to the rise in popularity with cake decorating as a full time profession, it’s a tricky path to embark upon, so be prepared for long hard work and patience.
First things first, you’ll need to learn how to bake. I know, it seems like the obvious thing, but it’s imperative. You can be a great artist, but when you’re dealing with food art is taken to an entirely new level. When you are able to bake an amazing cake, that tastes good and you understand the fillings, flavors and different icing options it’s easier for you to stand alone as a cake decorator and have a successful business. By learning the proper science and recipes, the icing on the cake (no pun intended) is that much better. When you have perfected a trade like cake decorating the opportunity for success is boundless.
To School or Not to School
The question of formal training is usually the toughest one when starting a career in this field. There are several self-taught, successful cake decorators and there’s also a fantastic schooling options and culinary academies. There really is no “right or wrong” answer when it comes to this. Each person is different. You may want to consider an internship as well. While it may be for free, the experience of the trade and free knowledge is helpful in determining the next steps. Regardless of the path you choose to take, you’ll want to do a lot of home practice, which your family and neighbors will be grateful for…. cake for all!
If the best path for you is the academic path, a few schools worth researching are:
- The L’Art du Gateau French Pastry School in Chicago, Illinois offers a 16 week professional cake decorating and baking program. This is a hands-on program that offers a certificate upon completion. The instructors are master chefs that are well-known internationally
- The New York Cake Academy was opened by Joan and Lisa Mansour in 1989. This school teaches classic cake decoration and up-to-date techniques used by top chefs
- The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art, Woodridge, Illinois, offers cake decorating classes on-site and at other locations that you can find on their website.
- The CalJava International Academy of Cake Design and Sugar Art offers cake decorating classes in Northridge, California. Class instructors teach how to use different decorating tools and airbrush equipment.
For those who choose the self-taught route, there’s an abundance of resources online that are available to you, consider doing further research here:
- YouTube Video Tutorials
- Pinterest- there’s a surprising number of well laid out DIY cake decorating tips and ideas. Get to pinning!
- Websites like; Learn Cake Decorating Online, Craftysy Online Classes, My Cake School, Pretty Witty Cakes, Sharon Zambito’s online Sugar Art School, Cake Journal, Cake Central and more.
What Are Some Essential Skills To Focus On?
There are certain expectations that people often have when ordering a cake for a special occasion. Being able to say “Yes!” to an request helps business and also builds a happy base of customers. Cake decorating as a profession or as a hobby isn’t necessarily cheap, so focusing on a handful of specific common needs and expectations will help your time manage and your bank account. Common cake decorating skills are:
- Buttercream Vs. Fondant Techniques, in addition; Ganache vs. Gum paste
- Piping Skills
- How to use and choose the right decorating bags
- Leveling the cake
- Transferring patterns
- Adding color to fondant
- How to use baking decorations; pearl sugar, edible glitter, pearl sugar, etc.
- Cake painting/airbrushing
- How to make sugar flowers
- Molding techniques
You can have the passion and the idea, but you need the proper tools to get your passion off the ground. An idea can only go so far if you don’t have something to make it tangible! Below is a list of common tools and items used for cake decorating that you can invest in to feel better prepared:
- Featherweight pastry bags/Piping bags-plastic, silicone, polyurethane-coated nylon, polyester and other materials and are designed specifically to resist staining, absorbing flavours, or tearing
- Serrated Knife Set
- Turntable- the rotating option helps when applying the frosting!
- Gum paste cutters
- Rolling Pin
- Offset Spatula
- Pastry brushes
- Cardboard- Cut in the cardboard in cake pan sizes such as 6-inch, 8-inch, 9-inch when you’re practicing at home
- Icing Spatulas
- A variety of icing tips
- Fondant tools
- Parchment Triangles
- Icing Bag Ties
- Too Caddy
- Cake Dividing Chart
- Icing Comb Set
- Foodwriter Edible Markers
- Icing Smoother
Time To Bake Some Cakes!
You’ve put in the work, you’ve done all the self-study, watched the shows and the online tutorials, so now it’s time to turn your passion into a business. If you plan on pursing your own cake decorating venture you can often make 3 to 7 times more money than cake decorators working in commercial bakeries. Good news! It’s also a good way to start getting business immediately as opposed to going through an internship for a long period of time with no income. Consider the frequency of clientele and whether or not you have commerical kitchen needs, which may mean an investment upfront. Once you’re up and running, building a consistent base of returning clients and leveraging your relationships, networks and community will be a key aspect to your business plan.
No matter what type of business you plan on being a part of, the cake decorating profession requires passion and creativity above all. Make the search for inspiration just as important as the search for clients and you’ll be on the sure path to success. Do you have any tips or tricks for cake decorating enthusiasts?! Please comment below, we’d love to hear your insight.