You’ve seen those mesmerizing viral videos in social media several times, and boy, do they make knowing how to write on a cake seem pretty easy. But, just like any artistic endeavor, learning how to write on a cake entails a bit of practice and some discipline.
Even a seasoned calligrapher needs to get used to the medium of cake writing because that piping bag produces icing with a density and consistency that’s a lot heavier than ink. It also has a different grip and tactile touch compared to that of a pen.
Learning how to write on a cake may prove to be trickier than it seems — it certainly ain’t a piece of cake! But don’t fret. All you need is to practice, practice, practice. You will eventually get the hang of it.
Practice Makes Perfect
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You don’t have to wait until the last minute to start practicing your piping skills. The earlier and longer you practice, the less pressure you’ll feel. Picture practicing how to write on a cake as similar to doing calligraphy exercises.
1. Pick the Font Type
The first thing you need to do is to find a good reference to work with. There are thousands of fonts you can choose from, but pick one that you are most comfortable and confident to execute.
If you’re making the cake, you probably already have a good idea of the dimensions of the cake as well as the other decorative elements that you will be putting in along with your cake writing. This will help you figure out the font size and other details like spacing or kerning (the space between letters).
As a beginner, it’s advisable that you pick a cursive font rather than a block one. Why? Because block letters require better control over the flow and stop of icing.
When you’ve chosen the font to use, it will become easier for you to visualize how to write on a cake — start imagining the strokes and how to go about them.
2. Make a Template
Make a sketch of the cake, as you visualize it, to include your writing and the other decorative elements that will go on the cake’s surface. This way, you will be able to apply the right size and proportion for your cake writing.
It’s even better if you know how to use graphics software (like Adobe Illustrator or other software with shapes and measurement units) because you’ll be able to lay out the exact circumference of your working surface and do an outline of all the decorative elements. You can also customize the font size accordingly — plus, you can print it out as your template!
Nothing can be more exact than a measured template. You can also use this template as your reference when you do the actual piping, so the chances of making mistakes will be lower.
For example, if you’re working on a round cake with a circumference of about 8 inches and you want the “Happy Birthday, (Name)!” at the center of the cake, you can probably work with a 73-point to an 84-point-sized cursive font. Proportions vary, especially if the name of the birthday celebrant is lengthy.
3. Start Piping
After you’ve printed out your template, take some parchment paper and cut it to the exact size of your template’s circumference and lay it on top of your printed template.
Imagine that this round piece of parchment paper is the top surface of your cake. You can now start piping and tracing the letters from the template. Try to trace the letters and the spacing between them as accurately as you can.
4. Experiment with Different-Sized Piping Tips
Don’t expect your first round of piping to be perfect right away. Experiment with various sizes of piping tips until you find the one with the right thickness. The right-sized piping tip will make spacing your letters a lot easier.
When you find the perfect-sized piping tip to use, do some more practicing with it in order to find the best techniques (such as correct angle, pressure, and flow) and to build your confidence.
5. Experiment with Different Kinds of Icing
You might have found the perfect piping tip, but you also need to take into consideration the kind of icing you will be using for your cake writing. Remember that texture and flow matter, too.
There are several types of icing you can experiment on — buttercream, royal icing, melted chocolate, and gels. Find out the best one that suits your purpose, as well as your skills set.
How to Write on a Cake with Less Hassle
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After doing a lot of practicing, you are now ready to do some actual piping on that cake. Follow these tips on how to write on a cake with less hassle.
As we’ve previously advised, it’s best to start with a cursive font as an amateur cake decorator. Cursive fonts are more manageable in terms of flow and stop control.
If you’re working with a buttercream-finished cake, make sure to chill it first before doing any writing. Doing so will allow you to scrape off your mistakes without compromising the cake’s surface.
Another tip: If you haven’t decorated the cake yet, it would be best to start with your writing first, then add the other decorative elements later. This way, you’ll have more room to do your piping without having to worry about messing up the other decorations.
Did you decide on doing your writing freehand? If so, it would still be good to use your printed template as a reference. It will give you a better idea of how to center your letters. Counting the letters for each line will help a lot.
If you’re a bit of a control freak, transferring the image of your letters onto the cake so you can trace them can give you better control.
Here are several techniques for transferring an image onto your cake that you can explore:
1. The Toothpick Method
Cut a piece of parchment paper to the exact size of your cake surface. You can trace the letters lightly from your printed template onto the parchment paper for reference.
After you’re done, lay the parchment paper with the outline on top of your cake. Using a toothpick poke an outline of the letters through the parchment paper onto the cake’s surface.
Remove the parchment and follow the visible outline of the letters made by the poked holes. Use the outline as your guide when you pipe.
2. The Reverse Method
Pipe your letters backwards on a piece of parchment paper then flip over and press lightly on the cake’s surface to create a template. Just press enough so that you will have a semblance of a guide to work with and pipe over completely.
Whichever method you prefer and choose, remember to pace yourself when you start piping. Always keep your bag at a 45-degree angle and avoid dragging the tip through the icing.
Round tips are the best for cake writing but avoid very small ones as they make squeezing difficult and might cause your piping bag to rupture. For easier handling, do not overload your piping bag with too much icing.
Mistakes can still occur but you can correct them by doing embellishments to cover up your errors. Squiggle, swirl, or do some other decorative maneuvering if you have to.
Additional Helpful Tips and Tricks
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If you’re still not confident about executing what you’ve practiced flawlessly, there are other effective alternatives that will help you achieve equally satisfying results.
1. Create a Plaque out of Gum Paste or Fondant and do Your Cake Writing on It
This will spare you from the nerve-wracking task of writing directly on the cake. It will also be easier to wipe off the letters in case you make a mistake and need to start over.
Once you’re satisfied with your lettering, you can position the plaque on top of the cake along with the other decorative elements.
2. Use Fondant to Cut Out Letters
Here’s another idea — using a stencil, a pizza cutter or a knife (for smaller areas), cut out letters from fondant. Smooth rough edges with your finger. Lay your fondant letters on a baking sheet until you’ve completed cutting all letters and you’re ready to set them on the top of your cake.
3. Use Letter-Shaped Fondant Molds to Make Your Letters
Instead of cutting fondant into letter shapes, you can also use fondant molds to form your letters.
Roll out a piece of fondant on a clean, flat surface. The fondant should be about the same thickness as the cavity in your letter-shaped mold.
Press the fondant firmly into the mold and work your way into filling the cavity and forming the letter you’re shaping. After you’re done, trim off the excess fondant using your finger and a spatula.
To remove your letters from the mold, turn your fondant mold and flex it until your fondant letters fall off the cavity.
Now that you have learned the basics and some additional tips on how to write on a cake without much hassle, you can keep applying them as needed. You might even come up with your own creative techniques as you go along.
It might take several attempts before you are fully satisfied with your cake writing. Just keep at it and you’ll be a master cake decorator in no time!