Cakes and cupcakes are all candidates for decorating; there are a host of different techniques that bakers employ. The more popular ways of decorating are piping directly to the icing, rolling and cutting decorations from a color fondant or decorations made with gumpaste supplies that are available. There are also pre-made decorations but most bakers avoid them as the sugar concoctions are rock hard, most pre-made decorations that are used are silk or plastic.
There are no fixed rules for decorating cakes and cupcakes unless they are produced in a commercial bakery where the decorators will work to a plan or a model. For the home baker, decorating their cake creation can be a lot of fun as there is such a variety of techniques, colors and flavors available. When it comes to cupcakes, many bakers will use a common color icing and by using gumpaste tools and supplies, create different types of flowers. A nice touch when doing cupcakes is to bake the batches in different baking cups; even the use of foil or printed cups can add a delightful difference to the cupcakes.
When the decorating technique is piping, the colored icing has to be made thin enough so it can easily be pushed through the piping bag tip but thick enough that it holds its shape. This is a skill that gradually comes to the home baker but once acquired, extremely intricate designs can be made using different tips.
Fondant is a common material used in cake and cupcake decorating. In the case of a cake, often the entire outer surface is covered in fondant rather than traditional icing, when it comes to cupcakes, fondant is used to prepare little flowers and other objects which are set on the top of the iced cupcake. Normally the designs are cut from the rolled fondant with cutters but the experienced decorator can free hand many interesting designs.
Gumpaste supplies are used similar to fondant; the material is rolled out and then cut into any desired shape. Gumpaste designs can be very elaborate; it is one of the favorite materials of cake decorators. The designs that are made from gumpaste can take into account the variances of a flower for example, with delicate individual petals and leaves.
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