If you missed my kick-off last week, I'm doing a series on cake decorating tips and tricks. These ideas are things I have learned to help save time and money. One thing I quickly found when I started decorating is that you can spend a lot of money on the hobby! I do make and sell some cakes, but I'm definitely not in it for the money. I enjoy being able to use profits from the cake to help offset the costs of my tools and supplies, and maybe expand my collection some. But, I also like finding ways to utilize items I already have to help me with decorating.
Last week, I showed you how I saved a ton of money by using Play-Doh tools to create some fondant pieces, instead of buying an expensive clay tool. This week I've got some everyday household items that you can use to aid in cake decorating. Some of these help save money, some save time, and some just help you take your cake to the next level! You may already be using some of these 5 items, but some might surprise you as well.
1. Rubber bands (or twist ties)
These are great for sealing up pastry bags with icing. I usually just twist the bag a few times and use it, but they work so much better when you have a bit of a seal on them! Rubber bands obviously work great to help get that seal on the bag. They actually sell bands for this sole purpose, but a rubber band does the job. No rubber band? you can also just twist one of the trash bag twist ties around the bag, it helps to seal it up as well.
2. Paper Towels
Paper towels are a lifesaver when it comes to smoothing out a cake! I use the non-design paper towels (like Viva) to get a smooth buttercream. These paper towels are a bit pricier, so it is known around the house that these aren't for spills and clean-up! My "fancy" paper towels work like magic, though, when it comes to buttercream. You simply place the paper towel on the cake and then use a fondant smoother, or any flat object (I may or may not have used a cell phone in a pinch), to "iron" the icing.
Some people also use paper towels that have patterns punched in to add detail to the side of the cake. You would use the same method of rubbing on the design to the buttercream. I should mention, this only works for icing, such as buttercream, that crusts. Always test a small piece of the icing with the paper towel to see if it stays in place, or pulls off the cake.
3. Tooth Picks
I go through tons of tooth picks whenever I am baking and cake decorating, there are just so many uses for them. For the baking portion, they are of course great cake/cupcake testers. I have an actual cake tester, but half the time it is dirty, or I'm not sure where it is.
These picks come in handy, though, for the actual decorating portion. They are great for adding food coloring gels into icing. I try to use food gels instead of liquid food coloring in my icing when possible. Sometimes I have trouble with certain colors, such as red. But, for the most part, I try to use the gels. I find that they don't affect the taste or consistency of icing as much as the liquid coloring does. To mix the gels in, though, you need something to get the gel out with and put into the icing. Most of the time you are using a small amount of gel, so just sticking a tooth pick down in it, and then swirling it around in the buttercream works great. I've also found that if you need a larger amount of gel, the flat tooth picks work as a great "shovel."
The use for tooth picks still isn't over! I actually use them to help me with decorating as well. When piping on thin details or letters, tooth picks can help me correct mistakes. Sometimes I don't like a letter, or want to move something. You can take a tooth pick and gently pick up the letter or detail. Trying to do it with your hand, or something larger, usually smashes some of the icing. But the small point of the tooth pick is perfect for moving and removing piped details!
Disposable, sealable bags, such as Ziplocs, are great for piping. I usually use piping bags, as they work a little better, but I have used these bags many times. I've been known to be in the middle of decorating and realize I'm going to run out of bags. Instead of making a frantic trip to the store, I just use one of these Ziplocs. Also, if I'm just needing a thin tip, sometimes I will use a Ziploc instead, with the corner just barely cut out. This saves me from having to use/clean the tip (anyone else have trouble losing those occasionally?!).
Piping on antennae using a Ziploc bag with no tip
5. Pizza Cutter and Exacto Knife
There are specific tools out there for cutting fondant. But, sometimes I still have trouble with them being a little dull for what I need. For tracing items, I find that an Exacto knife works great. It's best, though, to have one that is just for fondant. In order to be food safe, you don't want to be cutting other things with the knife.
For long thin strips of fondant, or a large piece with a flat side, I find a pizza cutter works great. It is sharper than some of the similar fondant tools, allowing you to get a clean, sharp edge.
Bonus item - Vodka
Ok...so maybe you don't have this laying around the house. That's why I added it on as a bonus one. My husband and I actually don't drink, so we never have Vodka on hand. I just had to include this one, though, because I think it is pretty crazy. Believe it or not, Vodka actually does have a use in fondant work! It's common to paint or draw on fondant with edible ink. Vodka actually works as a great eraser. You can "erase" ink off fondant by painting a small bit of Vodka over the ink. It will dry clear and takes off the unwanted design. I wouldn't use it to erase large sections, but for smudges and small mistakes it works great. I used this technique in a cake decorating group I belonged to in my old town. I was a little skeptical at first, but it works well. It would be a bit pricey to buy just for that, but if you have some laying around it could be used for fondant!
Hope you enjoyed these tips and tricks! Check back Wednesday as I am sharing a refreshing (and delicious) key lime pie recipe. As always, make sure and follow me on social media (or follow my blog) to keep up with all my latest recipes and projects.