Help

New to using our website? Click here to view New User FAQs.

Our Frequently Asked Questions About Cake Making & Decoration:


Q. I am interested in learning how to decorate cakes and make sugar flowers, where can I get help doing this?

A. Many sugarcraft retailers run beginners courses that teach you the basic cake decorating and sugarcrafting skills.  You can also try contacting your local school or college as night school classes are available in many areas.

Back To Top

Q. How can I get an even finish on my sugarpasted cake without cracks at the edges?

A. Sugarpaste should be kneaded gently before using as the heat from your hands warms the ingredients of the sugarpaste and allows the sugarpaste to become more stretchy and pliable. Avoid using excessive amounts of sieved icing sugar for rolling out as this can dry the paste out. When covering the cake, excess paste hanging over the sides of the cake can cause the icing to pull away from the top edges causing it to split and crack. Therefore only roll out as much sugarpaste as you need to cover the cake. Smooth the top edges of your cake with the palm of your hand if you have minor imperfections. Invest in a pair of cake smoothers.*

Back To Top

Q. I need to colour my sugarpaste Ivory for a Wedding cake. What should I use?

A. Use ready coloured sugarpaste especially for large amounts of icing, as you can be sure of a uniform colour. If a very specific colour is needed, use paste colouring sparingly to obtain the colour you need. Once well mixed leave overnight before use to allow the paste to rest and any air bubbles to dissipate. Remember if you colour your own paste to make up enough as matching a colour later on can be difficult.*

Back To Top

Q. What is the best way to obtain a dark coloured sugarpaste such as blue, black, orange or red?

A. By far the best way is to use ready coloured paste. Trying to obtain a strong colour by adding large amounts of colouring can change the consistency of the paste making it difficult to handle.*

Back To Top

Q. No matter how careful I am, when I roll out my dark red sugarpaste, I end up with white marks on the surface which spoils the finish. How can I stop this happening?

A. Instead of using icing sugar, roll out on a surface lightly greased with white fat (White Flora etc,). The same applies to any dark coloured paste as it is almost impossible to remove the white marks without leaving some trace.*

Back To Top

Q. Can I use Cornflour (cornstarch) for rolling out as it seems much smoother than icing sugar?

A. Only use sieved icing sugar. Cornflour contains a protein that can cause a reaction with the sugarpaste and cause serious problems after the cake is iced. The same reaction can occur with ordinary baking flour. This is particularly important with cakes which are decorated and/or kept some time before being cut as the reaction has time to build up.*

Back To Top

Q. Is it possible to use a sponge cake rather than a rich fruit cake?

A. Almost certainly. The only thing to be aware of is if the sponge is very light e.g. fatless sponge, the combined weight of sugarpaste and marzipan, can compress the cake resulting in a misshapen finish. Replace the marzipan with buttercream. If the cake is to be tiered remember to dowel the cake properly.*

Back To Top

Q. My chocolate sponge celebration cake started to bulge at the sides after icing. What am I doing wrong?

A. It sounds as if the filling you are using is too soft and the weight of the icing is forcing it to bulge out at the sides. This can also happen if too much filling is used. Check the recipe and make the filling firmer. Consider splitting the sponge into three using two thinner (and firmer) layers of filling. Invest in a pair of cake smoothers.*

Back To Top

Q. After baking my sponge cake how long can I leave it until it has to be decorated and eaten?

A. A fresh sponge cake tastes superb! I allow only three days between baking and eating as this maximises the flavour, texture and taste.*

Back To Top

Q. Can I freeze a sponge cake and if so how long for?

A. Sponge cakes freeze very well provided they are wrapped properly and frozen as soon as they are cold. Remember though, the cake cannot be re-frozen after defrosting. If you are making the cake for someone else, be certain to advise them not to re-freeze the cake. Freeze for up to a month.*

Back To Top

Q. How do I decorate a frozen sponge cake?

A. Bring the cake to room temperature before decorating then decorate as normal.*

Back To Top

Q. Can I freeze a rich fruit cake?

A. Yes, although after baking, a rich fruit cake can be stored (wrapped and boxed) in a cool, dry, dust free environment without the need for freezing. Store for up to 2-3 months. It is vitally important that the conditions for storage are excellent and the cake is properly cooked.*

Back To Top

Q. I stored my undecorated sponge cake in an airtight plastic container for a few days, but when opened, I found mould growth on the cake itself. Why?

A. Plastic containers can create humid conditions especially when the weather is hot or the storing conditions are unsuitable. After baking allow the cake to cool completely and wrap in good quality greaseproof paper (or even better, baking parchment). Store in a cool, dry, dust free environment and decorate without delay.*

Back To Top

Q. My rich fruit cakes never seem to be moist even though I use the best quality dried fruits from the supermarkets. Is there something I can do?

A. Many dried fruits from supermarkets are covered in preservative. This keeps the fruit looking plump and juicy and assists the shelf life of the product. However, oil also acts as a barrier stopping moisture getting through. Before use, quickly rinse the dried fruits in cool water and dry on a clean cloth. (Do not rinse the dried fruits in hot water as the sugar contained in the fruits will dissolve resulting in a tasteless cake) Place the dried fruits into a bowl, add the juices of the citrus fruits and the brandy (if used) and soak for at least 24 hours before using. The dried fruits will soak up the juices giving a moist, plump fruit ideal for cake making.*

Back To Top

Q. How can I bake my cakes to achieve a level top?

A. Be certain your oven is level. Use a spirit level to check. For rich fruit cakes, make a slight hollow in the centre before baking as this then compensates for the rise. For sponge cakes, level in the tin before baking. Most sponge cakes will rise in the centre to some degree so trim them before icing. You can buy a cake leveller specifically for this purpose, taking away the guesswork. They are readily available from kitchen/sugarcraft shops and mail order.*

Back To Top

Q. Why do my sponge cakes sink in the middle?

A. This can be caused by a number of reasons. Check your oven temperature is accurate. Use only the freshest ingredients. Measure out the ingredients accurately and follow the specific recipe method. A mixture that is too soft is liable to sink in the middle. Be certain to bake the cake until properly cooked. Taking it out of the oven before this time will result in a sunken top. Avoid opening the oven door until the last 10 minutes of baking to allow the cake to set. A sudden drop in temperature can cause disastrous results.

Back To Top

Q. Once my cake is marzipanned how long do I leave it until covering with sugarpaste icing?

A. For Madeira/Sponge type cakes you can ice it straight away. Avoid leaving for more than 24 hours or, when cutting, you may find the icing separates from the marzipan. For Royal Iced cakes, leave 24 hours but not much longer as, again, when cut, the icing may separate.*

Back To Top

Q. Where can I find shaped cake tins?

A. Ask at your local sugarcraft suppliers as they often hire them out.*

Back To Top

Q. I want to make a more contemporary style tiered cake but not with traditional pillars. Are there any alternatives you can suggest?

A. Consider using clear Perspex separators. They are easy to use, can be filled with almond dragees, ribbons, fruits, matching coloured tissue/ metallic paper, or left completely clear. They are stylish and contemporary. They are also available in different sizes and shapes to suit virtually all requirements.*

Back To Top

Q. I want to make a chocolate cake but do not feel able to make some chocolate roses. Can I buy these ready made and if so, is there a choice?

A. Chocolate cakes are always popular especially as there is now a wide choice of readymade chocolate decorations. Chocolate roses, which can be purchased in different sizes, are available in dark, milk and white. The white roses can be over dusted with edible food dusting powders. Also available are chocolate curls and chocolate cigarellos, making the decoration of a chocolate cake as easy as pie!*

Back To Top

Q. What is the difference between cake boards, cake cards and cake drums?

A. Cake cards are thinnest and used for lightweight gateaux or cakes. Cake boards are slightly thicker and stronger and will take more weight. These boards can be made from cardboard or hardboard for extra strength. Cake drums are approximately 12mm thick and are more often used for celebration cakes. They are strong and will take the weight of larger cakes.*

Back To Top

Q. Having made some sugar flowers and stored them for a week, I was disappointed to find that they had become misshapen and were slightly soft to the touch. Is it the paste I am using?

A. Once sugar flowers have been made and dried thoroughly, they can be kept/stored successfully for long periods of time. It sounds as if your flowers were either stored where the conditions were humid or damp which will soften the paste, or they were not completely dry before storing. Allow them to dry thoroughly, carefully place into a strong cardboard box, protecting the flowers with bubble wrap, and close the box. Store in a cool, dry, dust free environment. Avoid storing them in plastic containers.*

Back To Top

Q. I have quite a large spray of flowers to attach to the top of my cake. What is the best way to secure them?

A. Use a flower pic to act as a holder for your flower spray. The flower pic should be inserted into the cake leaving 3 or 4mm above the cake. Tape the stems of the spray securely and insert into the pic. This secures the spray and stops any wires coming into contact with the cake. Flower pics are readily available from sugarcraft stockists and come in different sizes to suit.*

Back To Top

Q. What is the best way to cover a cake board?

A. The best way is to only cover the board edges. If the whole of the cake board is covered, and the cake then placed on top, there is a risk that the moisture from the cake softens the icing beneath. This can then become wet and given the right conditions, causing fermentation, which may only be evident when the cake is cut. Place the iced cake on the board. Roll a strip of paste to fit around the edges. Cut a straight line down one long edge. Brush the board edge with cooled boiled water and place the strip around neatly. Alternatively, moisten the edges of the board only. Cover the board with the sugarpaste. (It will only stick at the edges so is easy to remove). Mark the size of your cake and cut away this excess paste. Place the iced cake onto the board.*

Back To Top

Q. I have been trying to make small modelled cats and pigs but the sugarpaste does not seem to hold its shape. What is the best product to model small figures with please?

A. Sugarpaste will be too soft to support the modelled figures you are making and you need to use a modelling paste. Modelling paste is specifically formulated to hold its shape, but still retain softer eating qualities. Ask at your local sugarcraft stockist or check out online. (Alternatively you can make your own simply mixing approximately 50% sugarpaste with 50% flower paste). The ready made modelling pastes come in various colours for ease of use.*

Back To Top

Q. I am not very proficient at lettering for my cakes. Is there an easier way to produce letters and numbers which give a good result?

A. Yes, there are a number of alternatives that will produce excellent results. There are cutters to make both letters and numerals as well as embossing stamps that are impressed into the soft icing. These come in a choice of wordings.*

Back To Top

Q. Can I freeze a cake which has been covered with sugarpaste?

A. It is possible to freeze a sugarpasted cake, but when defrosting, condensation will appear on the sugarpaste which will nearly always leave marks on the cake afterwards.*

Back To Top

Q. When baking a cake, can I leave out some of the ingredients such as currants or candied peel from the recipe?

A. The recipes are carefully balanced to give good results. Altering it to any great extent would not be recommended. Try replacing the ingredients you dislike with preferred ones of a similar kind e.g. more raisins and less currants or more glacé cherries and less candied peel. This keeps the balance more or less correct although the taste will be slightly different.*

Back To Top

Q. Would I be better making my own marzipan or buying it? I am rather concerned about the finished taste.

A. There are some excellent commercially made marzipans on the market and I would recommend you buy it. Not only is the product consistent, it is smooth, easy to work with and has excellent taste and eating qualities. Most commercially made marzipans use types of sugars not readily available to the home purchaser. These particular sugars give a much smoother finish. Compare the different brands of marzipan and look for a marzipan with a high almond content. More specialist marzipans can often be found at your local sugarcraft stockist.*

Back To Top

Q. Can you suggest something different for a decorated sponge cake . We are arranging a special summer celebration and the overall colours are pink and white.

A. Why not try making a three-layered sponge cake of different flavours? Strawberry, pistachio and vanilla (pink, green and white). These flavours marry well and look superb when cut and taste delicious with a glass of Champagne. You could also try rose, vanilla and mint. The icing could be white or marbled with pink and decorated flamboyantly using butterflies and sugar rose petals. Place the cake on a clear Perspex tubular separator which can be filled with exotic orchids.*

Back To Top

Q. What is the best way to attach my ribbon to the cake drum?

A. Try using a solid non-toxic glue stick. It is easy to use and gives a smooth finish.*

Back To Top

Q. My daughter is getting married abroad. I want to make her wedding cake and take it on the plane with me. How can I be as certain as possible of it arriving safely?

A. Firstly check to see whether you will be allowed to take a cake into the visiting country. Some countries will not allow this. Check also that you will be allowed to take it out of this country. Check that your own airline will accept it. If all is well so far, ask if you can take it as hand luggage. The possibility of it arriving in one piece as hold baggage is very unlikely! Pack in a heavy duty, well marked cake box with a non slip mat at the bottom. You may be asked to open the box more than once for security and other safety reasons.*

Back To Top

Q. Is it alright to use fresh egg white as edible glue?

A. There are many alternatives to fresh egg white. Edible sugar glues are made by many companies and available from virtually all sugarcraft stockists. You can make your own glue using 1 part Gum Tragacanth (or CMC which is a synthetic form of Gum Tragacanth) - and 30 parts water. Mix and leave overnight. Store hygienically in the refrigerator in an airtight container.* 

Back To Top

Q. I am making a stacked cake but the cake boxes are not deep enough to transport it. Is there something else I can use which is food grade?

A. I am pleased to say that you can now buy heavy duty cake boxes specifically designed for stacked cakes. Ask at your local sugarcraft stockist.*

Back To Top

Q. Is there an official body for Sugarcrafting in the UK?  

A. Yes, the British Sugarcraft Guild. For more information try looking at their website: www.bsguk.org

Back To Top