Decorating Wedding Cakes

Decorating your own wedding cake takes practice, but you'll have the satisfaction of making your cake your own.

By Cynthia Myers

White Wedding Cake, Four-Tier
Photo by iStockphoto.comBookmark and Share

The wedding cake is the star attraction at your wedding reception, and is part of the decor as well as dessert. Though multi-tiered, traditional white cakes remain popular, wedding cakes may be any color and almost any shape imaginable. You can save money and personalize your cake by decorating it yourself. Choose decorations that reflect your wedding theme.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Professional quality pans, pastry bag and tips will make your job easier.
  • Collect pictures of cakes you like, choose one and refer to it as you work.
  • You can make your own frosting or purchase it from a professional bakery.
  • Supplies you'll need include: icing colors and flavors, filling, turntable, icing bags and tips, finished cake layers of your choice, decorations, cake topper, fresh flowers, food-safe water tubes for flowers, food-safe plastic wrap, sturdy board covered with foil or parchment paper (or a professional cake board), rolling pin, fondant cutting tools, mixer and attachments, pattern presses or stencils, layer separators, pillars and supports.

Step 1:

Frost the cooled cake layers with your choice of buttercream, fondant or royal icing. Buttercream is rich, flavorful and easy to work with. Buttercream-frosted cakes should be made as close to the wedding as possible, to remain fresh for the reception. Buttercream will melt in the heat, so it isn't the best choice for an outdoor reception in the summer. Professional bakers often use fondant for wedding cakes. The smooth, sculpted surface of fondant will make your cake appear as if it's carved of marble. Fondant holds up well in all weather conditions, and cakes covered in fondant will stay fresh for several days. Fondant is more expensive than buttercream, difficult to work with and often doesn't taste very good. Royal icing is a very stiff egg white-based icing that is sometimes used for decorative cookies and gingerbread houses. Royal icing starts out rather thin, but hardens to a sugary shell. It too, holds up well in the heat, but isn't as tasty as buttercream or as elegant as fondant.

Step 2:

Assemble the tiers. While you can stack the layers on top of each other, the cake will be more secure if you use pillars or cake supports. You can purchase special cake supports, or, for a smaller cake, use drinking straws cut inch taller than the cake tier. Insert the drinking straws into the bottom cake tier. Use five or six straws, arranged to rest underneath the tier that will go on top. Balance the next cake tier on top of the straws (each cake tier should be on a circle of cardboard cut to size). Make sure the cake tier is level. Repeat this process for the top layer.

Step 3:

Pipe frosting around the edge of each tier of cake. The piping hides the cardboard and supports and gives the cake a finished look. You can use a round or fluted piping, a leaf pattern or a series of rosebuds. Experiment on a piece of cardboard to see what looks best.

Step 4:

Add embellishments such as sugar or real flowers, fruit, candies or other trim. You can adhere the embellishments with a dab of royal icing. This is also the time to add frosting embellishments, such as basketweaving or ribbon, to the sides of the cake.

Step 5:

Place the wedding topper on the cake. Support a heavier topper as you did the cake layers. Check to make sure it's level. You may want to add another row of piping around the topper.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Make a practice cake a few weeks before the wedding to try decorating techniques.
  • Use a large cardboard box to cover your finished cake until it's time to serve.
  • Cake decorating is a specialized, time-consuming skill. Consider your schedule carefully before taking on cake-decorating duties on top of everything else you have to do just before your wedding.
  • Arrange with a friend or family member to transport and set up your cake at your venue. Pack your cake knife and server the night before so they don't get left behind.
  • Bakeries and craft stores offer cake decorating classes. If you don't have any experience decorating cakes, consider taking a class and practicing a few months before your wedding day.

About the Author

Cynthia James is a regular contributor to DexKnows.

Related Guides

How to Choose Your Wedding Cake

VIDEO: How to Choose Your Wedding Cake

When choosing a wedding cake, it is important to know how many servings are desired as well as the general feel and look of the final design... Watch Video

Planning Reminder:

wedding cake with brown ribbon and blue flowers

Order a wedding cake

Wedding cakes may date back to the Roman Empire, but it doesn't mean your cake has to be trapped in tradition. Carrot cake is a great choice for health-conscious brides. If you're getting married outside, think twice about mousse-filled cakes that need cooling. Or how about a chocolate cake?

View your wedding checklist!


Wedding Glossary


A secondary cake to the traditional wedding cake. Often masculine in design, reflective of the groom's interests or hobbies, and traditionally chocolate.

View the Full Weddings Glossary
Sign Up

Already have an account? Log In

Log In with your Facebook account.
We’ll never post without your permission.

Create a DexKnows account:

At least 6 characters
By clicking Sign Up, you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. You'll receive the DexKnows Tips email newsletter as well as email updates about your account.

Please share the issue you encountered with our search

I am a(n):


Please check at least one issue checkbox.