Cake decorating is one of the sugar arts that uses icing or frosting and other edible decorative elements to make plain cakes more visually interesting. Alternatively, cakes can be molded and sculpted to resemble three-dimensional persons, places and things.
Cakes are decorated to mark a special celebration (such as a birthday or wedding). They can also mark national or religious holidays, or be used to promote commercial enterprises. However, cakes may be baked and decorated for almost any social occasion.
Cake decorating was rumoured to start by a French bakery in the 1840s where a French baker wanted to increase the prices of the cakes and hence thought to decorate it.
Even though baking from scratch decreased during the latter part of the 20th century in the United States, decorated cakes have remained an important part of celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, showers and other special occasions. Recently, cakes decorated with fondant have become extremely popular and resulted in several reality based TV shows across the country.
The rise in popularity could be due to fondant providing a smooth and elegant finish to a cake, as well fondant's versatility when it comes to texturizing it.
Cake decorating as an art
Decorating a cake usually involves covering it with some form of icing and then using decorative sugar, candy, chocolate or icing decorations to embellish the cake. But it can also be as simple as sprinkling a fine coat of icing sugar or drizzling a glossy blanket of glaze over the top of a cake. Icing decorations can be made by either piping icing flowers and decorative borders or by molding sugar paste, fondant, or marzipan flowers and figures.
This has become a form of unique artistry. A person's imagination can create anything. From a single layered cake, decorated simply, to a multi-layered 3 dimensional creation, that is decorated with edible ribbons made of sugar. What was once a fun way to make a child's birthday cake, by cutting shapes out of cake and piecing them together to create a shape, has gone into preformed character pans, and now has become shaping creations out of fondant and different forms of marzipan.
Using this new form of fondant artistry should be used on a heavy cake consistency. It can, however, be used on the traditional cake mix purchased in a store. Fondant is heavier than traditional knife spread frosting. Pre-made fondant that is available in the cake decorating section in stores has little flavoring. A homemade fondant can be made quickly for very little cost. Homemade fondant tends to have a better flavor than the pre-made store bought version.
Fondant exists in many different colors, and its initial form is soft and easy to handle. In this form, cake decorators are able to mold fondant into many different artistic expressions. Many of these expressions are also taught in professional cake decorating classes. Fondant is primarily used to cover cakes, but it is also used to create individual show pieces for cakes.
Royal icing is a sweet white icing made by whipping fresh egg whites (or powdered egg whites, meringue powder) with icing sugar. Royal icing produces well-defined icing edges and is ideal for piping intricate writing, borders, scrollwork and lacework on cakes. It dries very hard and preserves indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place, but is susceptible to soften and wilt in high humidity.
Sugar paste is a substance used in cake decorating to create flower decorations. Marzipan is often used for modeling cake decorations and as a base covering underneath fondant.
In popular culture
- Food Network's Ace of Cakes features baker and former street-artist, Duff Goldman, and his shop, Charm City Cakes.
- WE's Amazing Wedding Cakes is a television series featuring several cake decorating companies across America and focuses on the crafting and design of the cakes.
- Cake Wrecks is an entertainment photoblog featuring user-submitted images of "unintentionally silly, sad, creepy or inappropriate" cakes.
- TLC's Cake Boss features baker Buddy Valastro and his shop called Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Media related to Cake decoration at Wikimedia Commons