Common Cake Decorating Terms For Beginners!

Cake Decorating Terms
To Help You Understand The Basics!

Terminology relating to cake decorating can be confusing to the beginner, but there is no need to be intimidated. Take a few minutes to become familiar with them, so you may approach your cake decorating with confidence.

These terms will provide you with a basic understanding of the cake decorating lingo. Once you master these, move on to more advanced terminology and expand your design skills. In order to not overwhelm, we have only included the basic cake decorating terms that you are most likely to encounter.


AIRBRUSH - An artist's paint gun using a compression air pump, sprays a fine mist of food coloring over a cake's surface. Perfect for creating a background or scene on a cake.

BAG STRIPING - A method for piping out two-tone decorations. Apply stripes of color using color paste or icing into a pastry bag before putting in the tinted icing. Perfect for piping out flowers with light and dark tones.

BORDER - A continuous decoration or thread of icing that is placed around the top, sides, and/or bottom of a cake.

BUTTERCREAM ICING - Buttercream icing is an all-purpose icing, perfect for spreading or decorating. In other words, you can cover the whole cake with it or just use it for an embellishment. A thin consistency is best for icing a cake, making leaves, or writing. Borders and flat flowers should be made from a medium consistency. A stiff consistency works great for upright decorations like a flower with raised petals.

CAKE BOARD - Comes in various sizes and shapes and it provides a base for the cakes to rest upon. They are available in single or double thicknesses of corrugated cardboard.

DECORATING BAG - Also called icing bags, pastry bags, or frosting bags. They are triangular in shape and come in various sizes and materials like plastic, parchment paper, polyester, canvas, and polyethylene, to name a few. A decorative tip is placed on the end and the bag is filled with icing. They are used to pipe out decorative flowers, edges, fillings, borders, scroll work, etc.

DECORATING TIPS - Used to create decorations from icing. The size and shape of the opening on the tip will determine the decoration produced when icing is placed in a decorating bag and piped out through the tip. Common decorations are flowers, edges, borders, scroll work, as well as being used to fill things like deviled eggs.

FLOWER NAIL - It is shaped like a carpenter's nail. It has a round, flat surface on a stem. You hold it between your fingers and rotate it while piping buttercream or royal icing out into flower shapes. After they dry, you transfer them to a cake.

FONDANT - Is extremely versatile and also known as sugar paste. It is an icing that has is somewhat like pie dough. It can be rolled out and draped over a cake, which creates a smooth, porcelain-like professional finish. It can also be used to hand-mold decorative items like flowers, bows, animals, and borders. It can be twisted, imprinted, cut out with cookie cutters, and used to cover a cake board.

GANACHE - A sweet, rich chocolate frosting that is velvety smooth. It is made by melting chocolate and beating hot, heavy cream into the mixture. white chocolate may be substituted for dark chocolate.

GUM PASTE - Is an edible, sugar paste dough with a clay-like feel. It is most often used to hand-mold flowers; however, it can also be rolled very thin to make ribbons, lace and lattice work. Properly stored, gum paste decorations will last for years. Yes, it is edible but it is not the most flavorful or best-tasting item on the cake.

ICING - Used to cover a cake and create decorative designs.

MARZIPAN - Is an almond paste that is used to mold edible cake decorations. It can also be rolled out to cover a cake in a sheet-like fashion or molded to create various designs, animals, etc.

PIPING - A decorating technique used to create flowers, leaves, borders, basket weave, ribbons, and lattice work. Decorating bags or tubes are filled with icing and outfitted with various decorating tips to create the designs. Gently squeeze the bag and the icing is piped out of the tip to create the design.

ROYAL ICING - This is a sweet icing that dries very hard. It works well as a "cement" to fasten various decorations together. Can be piped out of decorating bag to create flowers, bows, latticework, and beading.

Anyone can master this art. Continue to build upon your basic cake decorating terms knowledge and practice decorating cakes. Take advantage of every opportunity to create a masterpiece, and soon you'll experience the joy of making others happy with your lovely creations!

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