I seem to be constantly asking questions on here lately, but I really would like to know how people get their cakes looking so clean and perfect. Is it just a case of practice or is it a skill you either have or not? I have only been decorating cakes since the end of march so I'm not that experienced, but when I cut things out (i just use a knife to cut out shapes) they rarely have a perfect straight edge I have to press it with a knife blade to get rid of the excess bits. People keep commenting on how good my cakes are, but on here when I look in comparison they look very amateur. Shall I keep practising and hope the cleanliness improves or am I doing something wrong?
There are different definitions of neat and different things on a cake that are considered neat and by no means am I one of the super neat cake decorators on this site but hopefully I can give you some help. First I looked at your pics and I would not consider your cakes sloppy. One thing you might want to do is put borders around your cakes. That will make them look more finished. Your borders can be buttercream or fondant or even candy.
If you are cutting out shapes with a knife make sure the knife is very sharp and you may want to try an exacto knife instead of a dinner knife. I think most of us use cutters. I have square, round and diamond cutters I use for shapes on the sides of cakes. I also use a pizza cutter for trimming the edges around cake when I apply fondant
I just discovered that the surface you cut on also impacts how neat of a cut you get. I was using a silicon mat and always had ragged edges on my fondant cutouts. I would take a slightly damp paintbrush and clean up all the edges. It took forever. The wonderful people on CC suggested I cut on a vinyl mat or directly on a counter surface dusted in powdered sugar.
To get the buttercream on the cake really neat, check out Sugar Shacks DVD Perfecting the Art of Buttercream. It will really improved the cleanliness of my buttercream lines, tops, edges and sides. She uses a bench scraper along the sides which makes it very easy to get nice clean sides.
Like I said, I'm not expert but hopefully that gives you a few things to try.
I'd say practice. A lot of the folks on here with these ridiculously wonderful cakes have been doing it for years. It takes practice and patience.
Like the poster above said, there are tuts here for you to view on how some of the "pros" do it. But even if you learn their techniques, it will take practice and time.
I just want to encourage you to keep practicing and keep reading posts on CC to learn new tips. I started cake decorating about a year ago, and I am amazed how much my cakes have gotten better in only a year. I am excited to see how much better my cakes will be in the years to come!
Along with practice, one thing that I try to do is at least one new technique with every cake. It keeps me growing while practing my other skills. Good luck!
Thanks for all the suggestions
Cakegirl1973 that's a great idea, iv tended to stick with what I know I can do rather than practice the stuff I can't lol. I need to make some practice cakes I think.
I may try the vinyl mat and see if that improves. Thanks people, I hope I do improve but then I wonder if I will ever be satisfied anyway seeing as a lot of people see more imperfections in their work themselves I think!
I have been decorating just over a year now and here are a few tips that I have found have helped improve the neatness of my cakes tremendously:
As far as cutting out shapes, whether you cut them out free hand or with a cutter, you will almost always have little ragged bits around the edges. As soon as you're done cutting it out, with a little shortening on clean fingers, use your finger tips to smooth and soften the edges before leaving to dry or applying to your cake. It really makes a big difference!
Also, it's important to not only properly smooth your fondant once it's on with cake smoothers but I also recommend buffing and polishing the fondant with a method I learned by accident Take some of your left over fondant in the same color and roll into a smooth ball big enough to spread across your fingers, and using a circular motion, polish the fondant until silky smooth and perfectly finished. It really gives it a lovely look.
Hope that helps, and keep practicing!
Wow 3littleblackbirds, I will have to try that too! (cuz you're cakes rock)
I have 2 words for you "sugarshack's DVDs" www.sugaredproductions.com They will give you step by step instructions for smoothing BC, applying fondant, sheet cakes, etc. They are wonderful for beginners or anyone wanting to learn a new technique.
When I first took my very first lesson I would put my infant son to bed for his nap and hit the kitchen. I had an old, beat up kitchen table and I made "decorator" icing (just shortening powdered sugar and water to consistency). I decorated the table, piped borders, flowers and writing, scraped it off and started again. You can use a plastic covered cake pan, just turn it over and decorate the top like a cake. Back then everything was buttercream, now my teen daughter and I "play" with the playdough fondant and practice that way. It's a lot like pottery class but you can eat when you are done.
I am so excited! I just ordered the Buttercream dvd. I wish it was here already. Someday I, too, shall have smooth buttercream on my cakes!!
Can't wait to try these!!!
I will definitely try the fondant polishing idea! And will have a look at the dvds also. I just love decorating cakes and want to do them brilliantly like many of you other cc'rs!
Another tip is to make sure you're starting with a really good cake surface: trim it to make sure it's even on the top and sides! When I started, I was worried about "wasting cake" so I didn't trim the tops flat enough. Also- crumb coats are your friend! The dvd you ordered will help with this piece!