What equipment do I need?
When you decide to start cake decorating it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the equipment available and the potential cost involved.
I have tried to keep my ‘easy’ tutorials to a few basic pieces of equipment (shown below) so even if you have no equipment at all, you can get started cheaply and easily. There are also suggestions for useful (but not essential) extras.
I have given links to all this equipment on Amazon.co.uk. This was because they have a good range of the basics at good prices. If you search online you may find these products (or equivalents) at better prices.
I’ve not included ingredients etc in this as they vary so much depending on what you get and where. There are lots of recipes on-line if you want to bake yourself and the cost of ingredients will vary with cake types.
I can buy cup cakes in my local supermarket, pre-made at £1.20 for 12. These are great for practice, or if you don’t have time/want to bake. The same applies to large celebration cakes, you can buy un-iced or plainly decorated cakes quite cheaply if you just want the fun of decorating.
There are sugar paste recipes on-line if you want to have a go at making your own. The quality of the paste is essential to a good finish on your work, so I opt for a branded product. I have always found Renshaws sugar paste to be the best, Dr Oetkar is good too and both are widely available in super markets. Super market own brands vary in quality. Most are ok for covering a cake, but some are next to useless for modelling.
For coloured sugar paste you can either buy pre-coloured or buy white/ivory and colour it up yourself. I would always suggest buying tubs of paste colouring if you are going to colour sugar paste yourself. The liquid colours from super markets make sugar paste sticky and bad to work with.
Tools of some kind are essential for sugar paste modelling. I do a lot of my modelling with my hands, but the tools make it easier to add fine details (mouths, eye sockets etc).
Years ago I’d advise newbies to buy a cheap set of tools designed for play doh (or other children’s materials) because the professional cake tools cost around £20 a set. Now that these are available for less than £2 for the whole set I’d say they are an essential part of any cake decorators tool kit!
A mini rolling pin is great for covering cup cakes in sugar paste, or making small cut out shapes.You can use a large pin if you have one already, but the small pin is ideal for detailed work.
Piping nozzles are brilliant for adding small detail, inscriptions etc. For beginners I would recommend getting 2 nozzles, in sizes 1.5 or 2 (get 2 so that you can use more than 1 colour at a time e.g black and white for eyes, purple and green for flowers and leaves etc).
You can buy sets of different size and style nozzles at really good prices, but if you are just starting out a couple of small nozzles will do just fine for now.
Plastic and disposable piping bags are available, but I prefer making my own greaseproof paper ‘cones’ for fine piping (tutorial coming soon).
I LOVE circle cutters. They are SO versatile! I use the for covering cup cakes and making frills and flowers. If you get these 2 sided ones (with a cookie cutter, frilled edge) they’re even better for flowers and frills. A must have for your tool-kit!
If you don’t have one already, a cup cake tin is essential (unless you’re only making large cakes). Shop around for your perfect size and price.
£4.14 for 100
Unless you’re using silicone cup cake cases you’ll need something to help your cupcakes hold their shape. There are hundreds of different styles, colours and materials available at all different prices.
Paste colour is great for colouring sugar paste. You only need a tiny bit to make quite vibrant colours and it keeps for ages, so it’s a good investment if you’re making a lot of cakes. There are lots of multi pack buys that can save you money if you’ll get the use out of them. Think about what colours you need and are likely to use.
I love grape violet (purple’s my favourite colour), I use lots of black and paprika is an excellent skin colour if you’re making people.
If you’re doing full size cakes (or covering loads of cup cakes) a big rolling pin is a good investment. Silicone ones are easy to clean and don’t get stained by paste colour, but I have always preferred wooden ones (personal preference, I think they feel nicer to work with).
Wooden rolling pin, my preferred tool for covering large cakes.
Smoothers are essential for covering large cakes. They give a far more professional finish to your project. Use the rounded edge to smooth out the icing on the top and sides, and use the straight bottom to push the edges into the board and get a nice finish to the bottom of your cake. If you are making large or square/rectangle cakes I would suggest getting 2 smoothers and using one in each hand (hold the cake steady with one and smooth across with the other).
These are by no means essential, but plunger cutters are brilliant for making small decorations for cakes or cup cakes. Buy them as small sets (usually 3 sizes) or as a bargain pack like this. The assortment of flowers, leaves and butterflies can make an almost endless number of designs. I prefer plunger cutters because your icing is pushed out of the cutter (saves getting your newly made flowers and butterflies stuck!) and many leave a nice vein/pattern on too.
If you struggle to roll even sugar paste you could try rolling pin rings. Use rings of your desired thickness to prevent you getting thinner,uneven finishes.