Planning an Inspired Cake Design

Having trouble planning your next cake? Between client requests and your own creative vision, there is a lot to juggle when coming up with a cake concept. Check out these 5 steps for defining your inspired design.

1. Define the theme. No matter the occasion, it is important to have a strong conception of the design before starting out. For our purposes, let’s say a bride has come to you for the cake for her autumn wedding, and wants the design to fit the season.

2. Any special requests? While some customers may give you free reign, many (especially brides) will likely have several specific elements they would like incorporated in the design. Use their ideas as a starting point.

3. Make an inspiration board. Now that you have your theme and requests in mind, it’s time to make an inspiration board. Do whatever works for you, whether it’s cutting out pictures from magazines, finding fabric or paper swatches or making a board on Pinterest. Incorporate color palettes, patterns, textures, etc., keeping in mind anything the customer has provided, such as an invitation or color swatch.

Although it may be tempting to draw inspiration from other cake designs, try to avoid adding actual cakes to your inspiration board. Looking at how other decorators have incorporated a similar theme can get the ideas flowing, but your goal is to be inspired by the world around you.

gold branches warp
Gold Branches Cake bRosehips in Gumpasteautumn leaves, fallGrape Cluster NecklaAntique gold bead clbead clusters mixedTwig cake borderCream Roses with rosPerfect PlushFall Leaf InvitationBeautiful Fall Color

4. Create a sketch. Start with a blank canvas of cake tiers. Use colored pencils and/or watercolor paints and sketch out how you see your inspiration translating into sugar. Use notes to describe each element.

Our inspiration board has inspired an ivory cake with hand-painted, watercolor leaves cascading down the front, along with sprays of cream and dusty beige roses, branches of rose-hips and clusters of beads in fall colors.  Antique gold branches wrap each tier as a border for a touch of elegance on an otherwise shabby-chic-esque cake.


 sketch fall cake


5. Decorate your cake. Display your inspiration board and sketch near your workstation so they can be easily referred to while you work. While you are decorating, your plan may evolve and stray from your sketch. You might decide to add or take away from your original design once you see it on the cake. This is the fun and flexibility in being an artist!

Using inspiration boards to plan and sketch cake designs can help you focus on a concept and stay true to a theme, while still  allowing for creativity and originality. Give it a try for your next cake design!

Comments (3)


Excellent advise. The most difficult wedding cake I've designed so far has been for my dear friend who insisted the wedding had no theme and I should do whatever I want, because "it will be beautiful no matter what". I'm sorry dear, but that's not helpful. Every wedding has a theme/feeling, even if its more casual without a lot of "matchy matchy" elements or a specific colour palette.

I started by showing her a variety of cakes from the internet to guide our discussion, but I feel now that wasn't the right approach because it didn't really tell me much about what she liked about the example she chose. It took a lot more prodding about her dress, flowers, invitation, etc for a theme to coalesce.

My biggest problem was colours - all she told was "colourful" - not helpful! Primary colours? Slighly pale colours? Muted colours? There are many definitions of colourful. What saved me in the end was I asked her about her flowers and she showed me a photo of beautiful bright autumn flowers, slightly muted - sunflower yellow, burgundy, soft green and dark purple.

All this to say, it was a huge learning curve and I'd be interested to hear what other types of questions cake designers ask when the couple don't know what they want.



You sound like a great friend! I would love to see pictures of the Autumn wedding cake you made her.


If the client has shown me pictures of cakes they like, my first question to them is "what is it you like about this cake?" And then point out cake shape, colors, piping, etc. if they have trouble defining what it is they like. If there are several photos I do an "overall" look at them to find what's common about them. That's usually the key element the client likes and my starting point.