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The Great American Baker (well Cake Decorator)

(Gif courtesy of

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."- Theodore Roosevelt

(Gif courtesy of

I always think of this quote anytime I try something new. When I was home, my mom asked me, " Rachel, what do you do?" I answered, " I have school and work." She said, " What else do you do?" I said, " I hang out with dog owners, and we walk the dogs." At that moment, I realize that since COVID-19, my entire life has been centered around Oliver (my dog) and graduate school. In college, I was very active on the UCF campus. In graduate school, I am active on the Zoom app. For those of you who do not know me, I am a person who loves to be busy. I call myself a shark because I have to be in constant motion; otherwise, I would drown.

(Gif courtesy of

The first of these activities was a cake decorating class at Wynton's World Cooking School in Cary, NC with my friend Hannah.

Our instructor was the head baker and owner of Confectionate Cake Laura Elgaard gave us our tools and a plain unfrosted vanilla cake. The class adhered to social distancing regulations as the class totaled nine people and there were three people per table. Hannah and I worked across from Blake (who turned out to be Rembrandt of frosting). Unfortunately, I did not get any of Blake's information so at most you will see his blue frosting.

Each participant was given the following

1. One Small Vanilla Cake

2. One large Icing Knife

3. One container of American Butter Cream

4. Three icing tips: star tip, round/circle tip, and a tear drop tip (more information about what each can do later)

5. One icing bag and plastic icing tip holder

6. One carving knife

7. One decorating turntable which rotates 360 degrees

8. One pair of cooking scissors

(What each work station looked like before we started)

Step 1: Level the cake

It is entirely normal for your cake to crack (Cericola, 2017). The main reason why a cake crack is overheating in the oven (Cericola, 2017). When decorating a cake, you need to have an even bottom and top layer. To achieve this, pick up your cake and turn it upside down. You do this to see how much of the top you need to take off. You need to keep your knife parallel to the top of the cake while holding your cake to make sure it won't slide. Use the decorating turntable as you keep the knife still and rotate the cake as you cute. Don't worry; I was scared to do this.

Step 2: Crumb Layer

Wilton Icing defines a crumb layer as, "crumb coat is a very thin layer of icing used to "glue" crumbs down, seal in the cake's moisture (super useful when you need to store the cake before decorating it) and provide an even base for additional frosting. It's basically a delicious primer for your cake masterpiece that keeps the cake on the cake side and the icing on the icing side." To make a successful crumb layer, one must follow the wise words of Mr. Miyagi, "Wax on, Wax off." You must rotate the cake as you use your icing knife at a 45-degree angle. You must maintain a clean icing knife. You do not dirty icing for your base layer. To cover the top, you put the icing on the cake and work towards you.

(gif courtesy of

Step 3: Base Layer

In the wise words of Meghan Trainor, " all about the bass, no treble.' To have a great base layer, you need to go over our crumb coat and not add more crumbs to your icing. I had a rough time with this step. For the sides of the cake, a person needs to do a "wax on, wax off" motion. For the top of the cake, you make a wave motion as you cover the cake. I found this part of the class the hardest. You can think of the base layer of frosting as nail polish. You need to add some layers to the color solid.

(Hannah's base coat).

(Gif courtesy of

Step 4: Icing Techniques

When you create icing decoration, you need the proper tools (as seen above items 3-5). We practiced on parchment paper before we decorated the cakes. We used three different tips: star, round, and teardrop (or petal) tips. To make your frosting add color, you only need to add a small amount of food coloring. I added two drops of food coloring to make my little yellow. Hannah added four drops of food color to make her Barbie Pink. Blake added three drops of food coloring to make his Carolina Blue. It's quite the arm workout to mix the colors. As the colors oxygenate, the colors become darker and vivid. Make sure you have your icing bag turned tightly, so you don't get icing on your arms. When you refill your icing, squeeze the bag until you hear an air "burp" and then continue frosting.

(Our food colored icings)

Here is a great video from Everyday food to show you how to do different icing decorating techniques.

(Video courtesy of YouTube)

(some of the icing decoration we practiced. Mine are yellow and Hannah's are pink)

Step 5: Decorate

Chef said the only thing that was required was a shell border. I have some good news: It is so much easier to decorate on a cake than it is to decorate on parchment paper. Once I got over my initial fear, I decorated the bottom with a shell border and added stars to the top. Here is my "master piece" (insert chef kiss)

(I'm on the left in the green shirt and Hannah is on the right)

(Top of my cake)

This class was so much fun to do. I ordered a set of icing and pipping bags to practice my technique. I can't wait to go to Cake Decorating II to learn how to basket weave. Thank you Chef Laura for your great tips!


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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