Learn How To Make Custom Cakes At Home

Football Helmet Birthday Cake
Football Helmet Birthday Cake

Are You Inspired?

Are you thinking about making your own beautiful cakes at home? Do you hate spending a lot of money for a bakery-made custom cake? Do you love watching cake decorating shows and reading custom cake blogs? If you find yourself answering "yes" to any of these questions, then you're in the right place. There is no better time to get started on your at-home custom cake decorating education than right now.

My First Custom Cake

My Story

I was not an artist or a baker. I'm not particularly fond of sweets and desserts in general. In spite of that, I decided to make my firstborn child's first birthday cake. It was a simple and sweet Elmo face cake. I borrowed the cake pan from a friend. I did some research online as to how best decorate the face. My guests were impressed with the cake, and I felt proud of my creation. I fell in love with cake decorating and decided then to make every birthday cake for my children going forward. I found cake decorating blogs and poured through forums and pictures. I became inspired by search engine images of custom cakes. I recorded all of the cake decorating shows on TV. I watched videos online of custom cake "teachers". After a few years of caking at home, I decided to enroll in the Wilton cake decorating courses at my local craft store to reaffirm what I had taught myself. I started a blog and facebook fan page. And then, I started getting requests from friends and family.

Storybook cake, no special cake pan required!
Storybook cake, no special cake pan required!

What NOT To Do

You want to jump right into custom cake decorating. But before you do...

  • Don't buy anything. Resist the urge to splurge on every cake decorating tool and baking pan in the store. Admittedly you will need to purchase tools and pans eventually, but you will not be sure of what you need until you need it. For example, I own many different sizes of cake pans, but I will not purchase "custom" pans, including character faces or shapes different from the standard round, square and rectangular pans. I just don't want to spend money on something that may only use once. As for decorating tools, you can't know what you'll need until you need it. It's best to space those purchases out until you learn a new technique or have a cake that requires use of that tool.
  • Don't get frustrated. Custom cake decorating is a skill that requires time and a commitment to learning the craft. Don't expect perfection, rarely do cakes and decorations come out right the first time you attempt them. By starting small and simple, you are giving yourself time to learn at a good pace, and therefore lessening the inevitable frustration that occurs when something doesn't turn out the way you pictured.
  • Don't take orders, yet. Start with your own cakes. Invite others to share in your custom creations. Your skill level will increase with each cake you decorate. Before you know it, you will be getting requests from friends and family. It's a good idea to get a few cakes under your belt before committing to making a cake for someone else.

Educate Yourself

Now that you know you want to start, what is the best way to learn how?

  1. Look for local classes. I realize this hub is about cake decorating at home, but a local class, usually anywhere from one day to weekly lessons spread out over several weeks, can be a good way to introduce yourself to everything involved with cake decorating. Check your local adult education course offerings. Also, Wilton offers cake decorating classes at craft stores.
  2. Read. There are hundreds of cake decorating blogs, many with "how to" posts. They can be a great source of information. There are several cake decorating forums, my favorite being Cake Central. The great thing about blogs and sites is that the information is free. You need patience to sort through forum messages and postings, but the information that you get for specific techniques, cake ideas, and general support is priceless.
  3. Watch. Many bakers and cake decorators take to the internet to share their knowledge with anyone who wants to watch. Youtube is a great resource for instructional videos. Also free, look for the videos with the highest number of views to save time searching for the best videos.
  4. Start small. Make a cake at home. A small cake. Use whatever pans you have on hand (you can make a cake in any cookware that is oven safe, even a coffee mug!). Notice how many steps are involved, from prepping, baking, cooling, decorating, and clean up.

How do you bake cakes?

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One of my earlier, simpler cakes.  (car, cones, trophy, and flag are not edible)
One of my earlier, simpler cakes. (car, cones, trophy, and flag are not edible)
One of my more complex cakes, a few years after I started. (everything, but princesses and flag, are edible)
One of my more complex cakes, a few years after I started. (everything, but princesses and flag, are edible)

Custom Cake Decorating At Home

It's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information out there about custom cake decorating. Try to start with small and simple cakes. Visit different websites to find a picture of a cake that inspires you, and try to make it. How did you feel when making it? Did it look like you pictured it? What would you do differently next time? Was it more work than you thought?

Remember to take a lot of pictures. It's fun to post photos of your creations, or even start your own blog, but it's also a great way to keep track of your progress.

As you progress further into cake decorating and wish to start building your collection of pans and tools, you may be able to save money by purchasing second hand items from garage sales or craigslist.

Remember to have fun with it. It's a cake after all! Your family and friends will see the effort you put into your creations as a reflection of the love you feel for them. Happy decorating!

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