I can make a delicious tasting cake but — when it comes to decorating — I am an episode of Nailed It! come to life. I suspect my problems lie mostly in my lack of patience, but it’s worth noting that I am incapable of drawing most stick figures, and it may be an issue of a complete lack of artistic talent.
Turning out a cake, only to have it fall apart, is one of the most frustrating experiences one can have in the kitchen. But ugly cake is still cake, and there's no reason you shouldn't eat it.
Luckily, there are ways you can make a cake look pretty without a ton of work, patience, or (lucky for me) skills of an artist.
Forget frosting and use powdered sugar
Frosting is overrated. Not only is it difficult (for me) to work with, there’s always too much of it, and it obscures the taste of the cake. You know what’s very easy to use, doesn’t taste like much, and just happens to look like fairy dust? Powdered sugar.
You can either sprinkle it all over a cake with a pleasing shape (as pictured all the way at the top), or you can steal a move from baking GOAT Stella Parks and get some stencils. Just search for “cake stencils” to find a veritable butt load to choose from. I have a bat stencil from Michael’s I like to use year-round.
Pour glaze on it
I’m not talking about mirror glazing — a technique so beautiful and (in my mind) unattainable that it makes me want to weep — I am talking about a plain ol’ chocolate or vanilla or glaze, poured over a bundt or loaf. Maybe you grate on some zest. Maybe you add some fancy sprinkles.
Distraction from your subpar skills is the goal. (You can also cheat your way to a shiny finish by blow drying some store-bought buttercream.)
Cover it in sprinkles
Speaking of decorative redirection, you could always completely obscure any frosting work with a whole mess of coloured candied bits. Unfortunately, this technique requires some buttercream work (chill the cake first to make this easier), but it’s just a single layer, and that layer does not have to look good. Once you’ve applied your frosting, ignoring any crumbs, wipe any smudges off your cake board or stand, then gently press handfuls of colourful sprinkles into the side and top of your cake.
Blame the kids
If you have children, you’re in luck—you can let them “help.” Give them squeeze bottles of icing, lots of candy and sprinkles, and let them go wild. Heck, let them top it with (clean) toys. Only a monster would criticise the creative cake endeavours of a child.