It's Official: Even a Novice Baker Can Pull Off These Cake Decorations


The Kitchy Kitchen

The Kitchy Kitchen is the brainchild of food enthusiast and self-taught chef Claire Thomas. With new spins on classic meals, the site focuses on unfussy recipes. Thomas has amassed notoriety in the culinary world, as host of Food for Thought With Claire Thomas on ABC and author of The Kitchy Kitchen: New Classics for Living Deliciously. Here, Thomas will be providing original recipes every month for MyDomaine readers to experience their own Kitchy Kitchen at home.

I’m not great at cake decorating; however, I am pretty great at hiding this fact. I can’t roll out a decent fondant, I can’t make sugar roses, and forget piping “happy birthday” onto a cake. It’s not just my poor penmanship that gets in my way—I struggle with almost all things involving hand-eye coordination. This has made cakes especially intimidating to me, and I think plenty of novice cooks feel the same way. For years I’d stick to simple tricks, like covering cakes in chopped nuts, flaked coconut, or even just using the back of a spoon to create little wisps. All of these ideas work beautifully, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but I wanted to get at least a few simple cake-decorating ideas under my belt for a bit more oomph.

These four techniques are super simple, and if I can do them, you certainly can, too. A few tips before we get into the details:

  • No matter what the recipe, make 1 1/2 times the amount. I feel like every frosting recipe comes up short (or maybe I just have a terrible frosting habit). I’d rather have too much than too little.
  • Keep in mind that temperature matters. The ideal temperature for frosting is chilled but not cold. It should be a few degrees cooler than the room. If you’re piping frosting, the heat from your hands will cause it to warm and loosen, creating a messy effect. If the frosting warms in the room, it might separate and curdle a bit. The easiest fix for too-warm frosting is to pop it in the fridge for an hour and then beat in the mixer again to regain its texture.
  • Also, always do a crumb coat. If you don’t want crumbs in your frosting, do a crumb coat. Just put a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake, wiping down your spatula as you go. This will keep the crumbs from traveling into the main layers of frosting as you decorate.
  • Make sure to keep an offset spatula on hand. They’re cheap, and they make cake decorating much easier (although a spoon or butter knife will work in a pinch).
  • Lastly, work on a cake plate or an elevated position. It’s just much easier than a flat plate on a counter, giving your hands space to travel.

All right, now that we've gotten the basics out of the way, keep reading to learn four simple cake-decorating ideas that make baking a snap.

The Perfect Cake Recipe


1 1/4 cups sugar

5 large egg whites

Pinch of cream of tartar

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt


In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff, but not dry; do not over-beat.

With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla and salt. If frosting curdles, keep beating until smooth.

Looking for a simple dessert to make for the holidays? Try Kitchy Kitchen’s simple pineapple upside-down cake.