Fiona Cairns' Cake Decorating Tips
Baking expert Fiona Cairns has been selected to make the Royal Wedding cake for Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding - a multi-tiered fruit cake with edible flowers! The author of Bake & Decorate has given our sister site, goodtoknow, her tops tips for decorating cakes.
Sculpting and Shaping
If cutting up a cake, a short spell (1 hour) in the refrigerator or freezer makes it easier to shape.
Icing: Be Generous
You'll always need more marzipan or sugarpaste; start with the amounts specified. Always make sure the cake is absolutely cold, or it will be soggy and the icing will not stick.
Get the Foundations Right
Turn the cake upside down so the base becomes a flat top. Cracks or blemishes can be filled in with buttercream, sugarpaste or marzipan.
Use food colour paste, not liquid, where you can. In either case, food colours can be a little unsubtle, so mix them up for a more interesting palette. A pinprick of brown, even black, works wonders. They are intense, so you'll only need a very small amount.
Stick ribbons with a dab of icing at the back only, as it will dry to leave a mark which should be hidden.
Many of my cake designs are very forgiving. Any blemishes can be covered with a decoration.
Transporting Decorated Cakes
Cakes are more robust than you may think and most transport easily. When taking a cake to a venue, err on the side of caution and take a repair kit - a bag of royal icing and a few spare decorations - in the rare event that something has fallen off or broken. It is really important that cakes are stored in dry conditions at room temperature.
Cutting a Fruit Cake
There's an art to cutting fruit cake, as it can crumble. Use a very sharp or serrated knife. Place the knife right across the cake and, with a gentle sawing action, cut into slices. Wipe the blade between each cut with kitchen towel. The knife won't become sticky and the icing will remain clean.
As a rule, a cake is at its best freshly baked, although many will keep well for a few days and fruit cakes need time to mature.