How to Decorate a Wedding Cake

Three Parts:Planning Your DecoratingFrosting the Wedding CakeAdding Other Decorations

A wedding cake is the centerpiece of most conventional weddings. It is involved in many important wedding traditions, like the cutting of the cake and the bride and groom feeding each other the first bite.[1] With so much attention, you'll want the wedding cake you decorate to be second to none! To this end, you'll need a decorating plan before you begin frosting and embellishing your cake, but with a little effort and dedication, you'll soon have a cake that won't soon be forgotten.

Part 1
Planning Your Decorating

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    Interview the bride and groom. The lucky couple may have some very specific features they expect in their wedding cake, so you should ask about color preferences, wedding theme, floral arrangements, and venue. All of these tidbits can help you imagine the ideal cake for their wedding and decorate it to perfection.
    • Consider including flowers the bride and groom plan on using in their floral arrangements as decorations for your cake.[2]
    • Remember to ask how many guests will be attending the wedding; this will influence many of your cake decorating decisions, including the number and size of its layers.[3]
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    Estimate a budget. This is especially important if the bride and groom are paying you for your services. Investigate the cost of the kind of decorations and ingredients you plan on using and then convey this information to the bride and groom, or ask them directly what your budget is and plan on staying under that limit.
    • If money's tight, you might suggest a square design for the wedding cake, which generally feed more guests.[4]
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    Tour the venue location. This will give you a sense for the kind of wedding that will be held, along with other important information, like whether the location will be temperature controlled. Summer weddings that are held outdoors are not the ideal place for cream based frosting, like buttercream, which can spoil easily in the sun.
    • You might try coating your buttercream frosting with a layer of fondant to help preserve it from spoiling.[5]
    • Buttercream under your fondant has the added bonus of providing a buffer layer between any bumps in your cake and the outer frosting. This means your frosting will look smooth and even.[6]
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    Accentuate your cake with seasonal touches. Take into account the time of year the wedding will be held. From your interview with the bride and groom, you should know roughly the features that will be on display at the wedding. If these coordinate with the season, your cake might benefit from matching that motif.
    • For example, if the wedding will be held in winter and the bride desires a "Winter Wonderland" theme, you might include glitter and snowflake patters in blue and white icing on your cake.
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    Check the levelness of your cake. An uneven cake will become obvious when on display in the center of attention. Many cake experts keep a small carpenter's level in their cake-making kit for just this purpose.[7] When your cake is firm and cooled:
    • Lay a clean piece of cardboard atop the cake and check its flatness with your level.
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    Decide between supports or a stand. This also might depend on the bride and groom's preference, but if you are planning on a multi-tier cake you'll need to support the tires somehow. Typically, this is either done either with dowels/drinking straws that have been cut to size as supports, or on a tiered cake stand.
    • A cake stand might be the best option for beginning decorators, as it will be more stable and not in danger of collapsing on itself.[8]

Part 2
Frosting the Wedding Cake

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    Prevent unsightly drips with parchment paper. When frosting your cake, even experts lose drips here and there. To keep these drips from making it to the main stage, professionals tear four square of parchment paper and then place the corners of these under the cake.
    • When finished icing, pull the corners of your frosting drop cloth free to remove unsightly drips.
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    Make or buy your frosting. As aforementioned, you might want to avoid buttercream, cream cheese frosting, or any frosting that might spoil easily if the venue cannot ensure temperature control. Fondant and marzipan are excellent options, though you should inform the bride and groom whenever you use nut products, like marzipan, as this is a common allergy.
    • A simple vanilla buttercream frosting recipe could be made by beating together in a mixing bowl:
      Softened butter (½ cup)
      Confectioners' sugar (4½ cups)
      Vanilla extract (1½ teaspoons)
      2% milk (5 to 6 tablespoons)[9]
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    Reinforce your cake before frosting. The base of your cake should be supported by a clean cakeboard that is cut to fit the size of your cake. Glue your cakeboards into place underneath each level of your tiered cake by spreading a thing layer of your frosting between cake and cakeboard.[10]
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    Contain crumbs with a crumb coat. A crumb coat is the first layer of icing that you apply to a cake to lock in any crumbs that might ruin the finished design. Take your offset spatula or frosting tool and glob a reasonable amount of frosting to the top of the tier you are applying the coat to. Then smooth it down to a thin layer, applying more frosting as necessary.
    • You should always apply icing when the cake is cool. Otherwise, the heat form the cake may cause melting.
    • To test your frosting for consistency, scoop some up with a spoon/spatula and hold it upside down. If it stays on the utensil without sliding or falling, it is the correct consistency.
    • Refrigerate your crumb coat for 20 - 30 minutes to firm up the crumb coat and prepare it for the actual outer layer of frosting.[11]
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    Frost your cake. Your external layer doesn't need to be thick and pillowy, but it should be even and smooth. Begin at the top and using small applications of frosting, smooth your frosting over your crumb coat evenly.[12]
    • Allow your frosting to rest and firm up after you have finishing by putting it in a refrigerator for about 20 - 30 minutes.
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    Stack your cake. Now that your cakeboards are in place and your frosting application completed, you can move on to stacking your cake. If you are using a cake stand, all the easier - simply put each tier in place on the stand and your cake is stacked. If using supports, you'll need to:
    • Cut clean wooden dowels to the same length for your supports.
    • Arrange your dowels in each layer of your cake excluding the top layer.
    • Leave an inch between the border of each cakeboard and your supports.
    • Stack one layer atop the next.
    • Consider running a long, thin, sharpened dowel through the center of each tier to stabilize your cake.[13]
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    Use fondant to give your cake a smooth, finished look. Fondant is a sugar based paste that can be compared to play dough in consistency. Due to its pliability, its uniform texture, and its ability to be dyed any color, fondant is frequently used by cake masters to finish cakes or fashion decorative shapes, like flowers, figures, and ruffles.[14]
    • You can mix your own fondant, though it may be easier for you to buy a pre-made batch. Then you can drape it over your cake or shape it into designs.
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    Write on or monogram the cake. If you're new to using a pastry bag, you should practice writing your message several times on a scrap piece of paper or a plate first. You might also simulate the contour of a cake by practicing writing with your pastry bag on a piece of fruit, like an apple. Once you're comfortable, distribute your message across the surface of your cake.[15]
    • A fine tip on your pastry bag is ideal for writing messages.
    • You might plot out your message or the letter of your monogram with toothpicks first. Then you can trace the holes left by the toothpicks with your icing.[16]
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    Create borders and designs. This can be difficult for beginners, but using your pastry bag you can create borders, pearls, or flowers out of the frosting. You may even want to try a Cornelli pattern, which is where a very thin layer of frosting is applied to the surface of the frosting in squiggly lines that thread throughout the exterior without touching or crossing any lines. You might try:[17]

Part 3
Adding Other Decorations

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    Wait for the morning of the wedding for cake toppers. To protect your decorations from damage during transport or from causing unnecessary strain on your frosting/fondant, you should wait to place the most of your decorations until the morning the wedding. Don't forget all of your cake decorating tools; you may have to touch up some spots in addition to adding finishing touches.[18]
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    Hide imperfections with edible glitter. Edible glitter is relatively inexpensive and can create a magical glow in your cake. This glow can camouflage small imperfections, like bumps that may have formed in your icing.
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    Arrange time sensitive features as late as possible. A good example of this would be flowers, which can wilt if left out for too long. Place the clean, fresh flowers in a nice arrangement on the cake right before it is displayed to guests. This touch creates a simple but elegant wedding cake decoration.[19]
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    Decorate with flowers. You'll want to be sure that the flowers you use for decorating your cake are pesticide-free and non-toxic flower. You can find these at a local florist or an organic garden, though you may want to inform the florist your purposes for the flowers.[20]
    • Inspect your flowers carefully before adding any to your cake. Small bugs will likely be attracted to the sugar in your frosting and can ruin its appearance.[21]
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    Remember to decorate the cake platter. A barren platter can leave your cake looking unfinished. You might scatter flower petals at its base, or lace an elaborate ribbon around it. Fruit that matches the color theme of the wedding can also be heaped delicately around the bottom to good effect.[22]
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    Cap the cake with a wedding topper. This will depend on the bride and groom. They may want a traditional miniature man and woman in formal wear atop their cake, or they might want Han Solo and princess Leia. Place your cake topper and your cake is ready to be admired![23]


  • Avoid using car ribbon (plastic papery ribbon) on your cake, as this can look less elegant in photos.
  • Two other common wedding cake decorations include sugared fruit and marzipan, which can also serve as wedding cake topper alternatives.


  • Be sure guests know if you use marzipan in your cake. Marzipan contains nuts and could cause an allergic reaction.[24]
  • Be strategic with your cake placement. Putting your cake too close to speakers can cause vibrations that create issues with the cake.[25]

Things You'll Need

  • Cake stand (optional)
  • Cakeboards
  • Decorating or pastry bag
  • Dowels (if stacking; optional)
  • Edible glitter (optional)
  • Fresh, clean flowers
  • Frosting
  • Frosting tips for bag
  • Marzipan (optional)
  • Mixed berries (optional)
  • Offset spatula (for frosting)
  • Parchment paper
  • Plate
  • Sugared fruit (optional)
  • Wedding cake

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Dress Flowers and Accessories | Cake Decorating