Tips & Tricks

To transfer an image onto a cake: Trace image with royal icing onto regular paper or waxed paper (make sure if it needs to face a certain direction, to trace it in reverse); allow to dry. Once your cake is frosted and frosting has crusted, place your pattern on the cake, royal icing side down and press gently using your hand or fondant smoother. Carefully remove paper. Fill in image as desired. Vrege Stetson, CT

Keep a wet cloth next to where you are cutting fondant – wipe cutting utensils on it after every cut to keep blades clean and cuts sharp. Mary Jo Dowling, PA

Make a list of each pan shape and size you own, along with serving information, baking times temps and batter amounts – post it where you store your pans and also make a copy to carry with you to cake shops and shows to avoid buying duplicates. Mary Jo Dowling, PA

Keep a running list of items you run out of or need to purchase, so that when you go to a cake show or shop, you are more focused on the things you really need. Mary Jo Dowling, PA

I freeze my cakes as soon as they come out of the oven – makes moist cakes. Sandra Hartman-Neumann, CT

I bake at lower temperatures (325-330 degrees F.) for longer times, for moister cakes. Sandra Hartman-Neumann, CT

If my fondant cracks or tears, I use a bit of Crisco to seal the hole and repair the crack. Sandra Hartman-Neumann, CT

To clean the corners of straight-sided, square pans, use your small tip-cleaning brush or a toothpick to loosen the remaining cake crumbs. Diane Burke, CT

If your hands get stained with food colors, squirt with Windex before washing them; the color will come right off! Diane Burke, CT

When driving 400 miles to a cake show, double check to be sure you have not forgotten the flowers for your cake at home! Michelle Bourbeau, MA

Beat buttercream at a lower speed for a longer time to produce creamier buttercream with fewer air bubbles. Michelle Bourbeau, MA

Sift your box cake mixes – this produces a finer crumb in the finished cake. Michelle Bourbeau, MA 

I give my customers CD’s with cakes I’ve done. It is broken down by categories such as baby shower, bridal shower, toddler, girl, boy, men, women etc. Most of my customers are young mothers and it is sometimes difficult for them to stop by to pick out a cake with their kids in tow – this way she can put it in the DVD player or the computer and pick out a cake at her leisure. Several mothers have told me they use it when their kids are out of control – she gives them the CD and tells them to go pick out a cake for their next birthday party, Keeps them busy for quite a while. Joan Rizza, CT 
I have a roller that I use to smooth out my frosting once it has crusted over a bit. It’s also great to smooth fondant. The tool has a 4’ roller on one side that works perfectly on the cake sides and the smaller roller on the other end is great for making fondant ribbons, thinning flower petals and pressing fondant into molds. Joan Rizza, CT 

I started keeping thank you notes I get from customers along with a picture of the cake the note refers to in a binder. Some are emails that I print out and others are cards that were mailed. It is nice to look back and know your efforts were appreciated and you can also use them as testimonials if anyone requests them. I wish I had thought of keeping the notes from when I first started – I get some real cute ones from the young children that are just precious! Joan Rizza, CT

When working with royal icing items that are dry and you want to add edible glitter to them, use a spray bottle with water or vodka in it, spray lightly, and then sprinkle on the glitter. Wanda Ortiz, CT
When using lace molds, apply edible glitter to the inside of the mold before putting fondant into the mold. This will give the finished piece a beautiful sparkle! Wanda Ortiz, CT

When rolling out sugar or gingerbread cookies, put dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper, plastic wrap or parchment paper. If you use parchment paper on the bottom, this can be transferred directly to your cookie sheet for baking. JoAnne Beauvais, CT

Pull excess dough away from the cut-out sugar or gingerbread cookie, so the shape of the cookie is retained. JoAnne Beauvais, CT

When sugar or gingerbread cookies come out of the oven and have been put on a wire rack, go over the tops with a small angled spatula to flatten them and remove the air bubbles. JoAnne Beauvais, CT

Add edible glitter to the tops of your cake. This will help camouflage spatula lines. Elana Schondorf, NY

Cakes can be frosted while completely frozen. This avoids the crumb problem and is practically essential for flour-free cakes. Elana Schondorf, NY

If you sift flour and cocoa, buy a wire-mesh sieve, rather than a sifter. They are sturdier and less expensive. Elana Schondorf, NY

For a finer edible glitter, place in a blender or food processor for a few seconds. Kathy Farner, CT

When straining royal icing for fine string work, use a 1 ½” piece of nylon (stocking) over the coupler end after you have placed the coupler in a bag. Then screw on the coupler ring to hold the nylon in place, and squeeze royal icing into a bowl. This saves a lot of mess! Kathy Farner, CT

For a smooth finish for buttercream frosted cakes, using a buttercream that crusts, Smooth with plain white copy paper – using narrow strips for the sides of cake. If paper starts to stick, use a new piece of paper. (Before using paper, frosting must be dry to the touch.) Kathy Farner, CT

When those of us with hot hands are rolling truffles, keep a frozen ice pack nearby. Rest your hands on it before rolling the truffles, thus keeping your hands cool without water. Jody Gualano, NY

I bake my cakes at 300 degrees F – they bake evenly and flat. I never have to trim. Margaret Hoxie, CT

Always keep a roll of foam or rubber backing in your car for deliveries. You always know where it is! Margaret Hoxie, CT

When delivering cakes, especially wedding cakes, take along a bag of frosting with the tips that were used, just in case of accidents! Margaret Hoxie, CT

Use a product called “Sort Kwik”, sold at a stationers store to aid in making multiple parchment bags. No finger lickin’ necessary! I fold the entire package of parchment at one time to have the bags at-the- ready. Carolyn Mathewson, CT

A cheese shaker is handy to use to sprinkle edible glitter evenly onto your cakes. Carolyn Mathewson, CT

I find that a disposable bag without a tip, filled ¾ full with clear piping gel and closed with a zip-tie, comes in very handy for attaching cellophane or waxed paper to the foil (under the cake only) and for a edible “glue”. Cut a small opening on the end of the bag with scissors before use. Carolyn Mathewson, CT

Place birthday candles, a book of matches, (could be custom with your logo) and your business card in a small zip-type bag and tape it to the top or inside of the cake box. Be sure the customer knows the matches are there so they don’t go into the wrong hands. Carolyn Mathewson, CT

A metal seam gauge, used for sewing with an adjustable arrow, is handy for measuring the height dowels should be in tiered cakes. Place the gauge in the cake, bring the arrow down level with the icing, remove and place it next to dowel to mark it. Cut all dowels this same length. Carolyn Mathewson, CT

Thoroughly wash out a sports-top water bottle to use as a dispenser for clear vanilla or other flavoring. Just squirt directly into your icing. Mark the bottle clearly with contents. Carolyn Mathewson, CT

When working with many colors of buttercream on a detailed cake, here’s an idea that will make cleaning up a breeze and save you time while decorating. Fill disposable decorating bags with the different colors of buttercream. Cut the tip of the bag to no more than 1/4” opening. Cut one (or two) disposable bags with a ½” opening at the end and leave empty (do not fill). Using the piggy-back method, you can put your decorating tip on the outside end of any filled bag of frosting, and then stick them into the empty bag with the larger opening. This allows you: 1) quick changing of the same tip on different colored bags; no couplers to wash; saves you decorating time; saves you the number of tips to be washed; you do not have to wash decorating bags – simply throw them away! Beth Lee Spinner, CT

Pattern Transfer
: Use royal icing as a quick method of pattern transfer onto a buttercream cake. This works well with simple pictures without much defined detail. Place your picture (coloring book pictures work great) on a cookie sheet or board. Cover with waxed paper and tape the corners down. Pipe over the picture with tip #3 and royal icing. Let piped picture harden. Frost your cake with buttercream and let it crust for about 10-15 minutes. Carefully release the taped edges of your waxed paper, lift and flip design over onto your cake top. Press royal icing design into your crusted buttercream. Lift the waxed paper and your pattern is presses into your cake top. Once again, outline the design using colored buttercream. Leave as is with accents, or fill-in with buttercream for a completed picture. Beth Lee Spinner, CT

When decorating cake with floral designs, a simple filler is to use “coil vines”. With either brown or green buttercream and tip #1, place the end of the tip under a leaf or flower on your cake. Exert a lot of pressure on the bag of frosting, pulling away from the leaf or flower into the open area of the cake you want to fill. The frosting will be forced out of the bag quickly enough through the very thin opening causing a “coiling’ effect. Thus, your vines! Beth Lee Spinner, CT  

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Connecticut Chapter of ICES