Cake decorating ideas

We’ve got lots of inspirational ways to decorate a cake at home. We’ve included how to decorate a cake with icing sugar, marzipan, marshmallows, and more.

If you’re looking for cake decorating ideas and toppings, we’re here to help. From royal icing to buttercream, from desiccated coconut to fruit, we've got plenty to choose from.

This collection includes simple, easy methods and techniques. Most of them are budget-friendly and ideal for decorating a variety of different cakes including traditional Victoria sponge (opens in new tab) cake, chocolate cake (opens in new tab), classic lemon drizzle (opens in new tab) cake and moist chocolate brownies (opens in new tab) to name a few.

Decorating a cake doesn’t have to take hours on end. Our Kids Kitchen vlogger, Sarah demonstrates, in the video above, three simple cake decorating designs for kids (opens in new tab). Simply by using cookie cutters and sprinkles, writing icing, and marshmallows, she transforms them into showstopping cakes (opens in new tab).

So whether you’re looking for kids birthday cakes (opens in new tab) or just want to jazz up your usual cake decorating techniques, see more of our easy cake decorating inspiration below…

How to decorate a cake: Easy cake decorating ideas

Melted chocolate and ganache

Cake decorating ideas: Melted chocolate and ganache

Chocolate is one of our favourite ways to decorate a cake. It can be melted, mixed with cream to make ganache (opens in new tab) or you can simply use cocoa powder as a light dusting for your cake. And it doesn't have to be a chocolate cake that you cover with chocolate either - you can cover whichever cake you prefer.

Top tip: When it comes to melting chocolate, you want to keep it on a low heat and melt it gradually otherwise it'll burn. White chocolate will melt much quicker than milk or dark as it contains more sugar. For more advice on how to melt chocolate (opens in new tab) see our handy guide.

Recipes to try using melted chocolate:

Get the recipe: Triple chocolate cake

Get the recipe: Chocolate truffle cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Chocolate dipped cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Annabel Langbein's ultimate chocolate cake (opens in new tab)

Fruit

Cake decorating ideas: Fruit

If you're looking for something light and refreshing to give your cake a taste of summer, fruit is the best choice. From fresh raspberries to dried raisins, there are many varied fruits that will be perfect for topping your cake. You can theme your cakes with seasonal fruit, use berries in the summer and clementines and dried fruit in the winter.

Top tip: If you're using fresh fruit, make sure you add it right at the last minute. If your fruit is wet it could make the buttercream or cream topping move or melt slightly.

Recipes to try using fruit:

Get the recipe: Lorraine Pascale's raspberry, vanilla and white chocolate cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Hummingbird Bakery blueberry cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Mary Berry's strawberry cake (opens in new tab)

Buttercream and frosting

Buttercream and frosting

It doesn't take much to make buttercream (opens in new tab): butter, icing sugar, flavoured extract and a few drops of milk. Buttercream is one of the most popular cake toppings as it can be made into different flavours, different colours and can be presented in a variety of ways too, from piped swirls to a smooth palette-knife finish. You can also turn your buttercream into a cream cheese frosting (opens in new tab) by substituting the butter.

Top tip: If your buttercream is too loose or runny, add some more icing sugar or pop it into the fridge to set a little before piping it onto your cake.

Recipes to try using buttercream:

Get the recipe: Coconut and chocolate stripey cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Primrose Bakery cupcakes with lemon buttercream (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Sticky toffee cupcakes with salted caramel (opens in new tab)

Edible flowers

Cake decorating ideas: Edible flowers

From rose petals to sprigs of lavender, give your cake a spring feel by using flowers to decorate. They'll make your cake look very pretty and smell floral too. Tie bunches of flowers together and lie around the edge of your cake or sprinkle rose petals over your buttercream.

Top tip: We wouldn't recommend eating the flowers, unless you know that they are suitable for eating, are marked as edible or they were shop-bought. Eating flowers from your garden could give you an upset stomach.

Recipes to try using flowers:

Get the recipe: Fiona Cairns almond apricot rose petal cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Beetroot chocolate cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Rose and raspberry cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Lavender and lemon drizzle cake (opens in new tab)

Chocolates

Cake decorating ideas: Chocolates

Whether you pile them up in the middle, cover the whole cake in them or make a pattern like spelling out their names, your kids are going to love a cake decorated with masses of shop-bought chocolates. Think Maltesers, Milky bars, Smarties, Mars bars and more.

Top tip: If you're planning on decorating your cake with chocolates, we'd recommend covering it in a light buttercream or melted chocolate coating beforehand so the chocolates have something to stick to, otherwise they'll be falling all over the place.

Recipes to try using chocolates:

Get the recipe: Maltesers chocolate cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Smartie chocolate cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Chocolate explosion drip cake (opens in new tab)

Ready to roll fondant or Sugarpaste

Ready to roll fondant or Sugarpaste

(Image credit: Food and Drink/REX/Shutterstock)

Ready to roll fondant can be bought in most supermarkets in the cake decorating aisle. It's ideal for making your cake stand and is really easy to work with. You can buy all sorts of different colours or you can add a few drops of food colouring to white fondant for your own colour palette.

Top tip: Before working with fondant make sure you have a clean, dry surface to roll the fondant or sugarpaste onto. Dust with icing sugar to stop it from sticking and use a clean rolling pin.

Recipes to try using ready to roll fondant:

Get the recipe: Polka dot fancies (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: The Princess and the Pea kids' birthday cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Large Madeira cupcake (opens in new tab)

Marshmallows

Marshmallows

(Image credit: TI Media Ltd)

Melted or whole, marshmallows are a simple way to turn your classic bake into a masterpiece. Pile them high or melt gently on a low heat on the hob and pour over the top of your cake - the choice is yours. Marshmallows are reasonably priced in most supermarkets, making them an easy option for kid's birthday cakes or food gifts.

Top tip: When it comes to melting marshmallows, you're best to use a non-stick pan. Warm the marshmallows slowly and gently, making sure you don't overcook them, otherwise you'll have a sticky mess on your hands.

Recipes to try using marshmallows:

Get the recipe: Chocolate and marshmallow birthday cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Hummingbird Bakery marshmallow cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Marshmallow flower cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Icing sugar

Icing sugar

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

If you're looking for a simple yet effective technique, icing sugar is your best decorating choice. Dust it onto your cake freely, cut out a template using paper and dust over it to create shapes or add some water and flavoured extract to make an icing sugar paste which is perfect for drizzling over large cakes or cupcakes.

Top tip: When it comes to dusting your cake with icing sugar, make sure your cake is completely cool otherwise the icing sugar will melt.

Recipes to try using icing sugar:

Get the recipe: Mary Berry's Victoria sandwich cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Mary Berry's iced fairy cakes (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Lavender fairy cakes (opens in new tab)

Chocolate fingers and cigarellos

Cake decorating ideas: Chocolate fingers and cigarellos

This is a great technique for covering up any flaws on your cake. If it's a little burnt around the edges and you've had to cut some bits off - or if it didn't rise as much as you'd like, get the chocolate fingers and cigarellos at the ready. Just cover your cake in buttercream, chocolate or royal icing and press them around the edges of the cake. They give you a great base for topping your cake with sweets, fruits or flowers too.

Top tip: The more chocolate fingers or cigarellos you've got, the better. There's nothing worse than getting halfway around the cake and realising you haven't got enough to finish off your masterpiece.

Recipes to try chocolate fingers and cigarellos:

Get the recipe: Digger cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Chocolate fingers cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Cigarellos cake with a chocolate mousse filling (opens in new tab)

Sprinkles and shop-bought decorations

Cake decorating ideas: Sprinkles and shop-bought decorations

If you're short on time, the cake decorating aisle at your local supermarket can be a life saver. From Hundreds and Thousands to readymade fondant roses, you can find plenty of wonderful treats to turn your cake into a work of art. One of our favourite ways is with multi-coloured sugar sprinkles - a little bit of buttercream and a generous sprinkling will turn your cake into a colourful treat.

Top tip: When it comes to decorating for certain events, theme your sprinkles - red and green for Christmas, yellow and pink for Mother's Day or you can get different shaped sprinkles like flowers, animals and even mini Christmas trees.

Recipes to try using sprinkles:

Get the recipe: Dairy-free cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Sprinkle fairy cakes (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Christmas cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Desiccated coconut

Cake decorating ideas: Desiccated coconut

Coconut can be baked in a cake or used to decorate it too. It's a healthier version than sugar sprinkles or sweets and looks just as effective. Cover your cake in a light buttercream and then press coconut into it. Coconut is so light it can be added to pretty much any cake, from lighter flavours like vanilla and lemon to richer cakes like chocolate and carrot cake.

Top tip: Desiccated coconut is best bought in bulk, a small packet here and there can really add up. It's worth having a look online too before heading to the supermarket to see if you can find any deals.

Recipes to try using coconut:

Get the recipe: Coconut cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Jammy coconut squares (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Coconut and lime cake (opens in new tab)

Sweets

Cake decoratig ideas: Sweets

It really doesn't take much to transform your cake with this easy cake decorating idea. A couple of bags of sweets go a long way and are perfect sprinkled on top of your favourite cake.

Top tip: If you're making this for a specific person you could choose their favourite sweets instead of using the ones in our recipe. If you're making it for Christmas - swap the sweets for festive treats instead.

Recipes to try using sweets:

Get the recipe: Pick & Mix cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Sweetie tray bake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Chocolate smash cake (opens in new tab)

Nuts

Cake decorating ideas: Nuts

Mixed nuts are perfect for giving your cake a new look. You can cover the whole thing, top to bottom or you can sprinkle some on top of your buttercream - whatever option you go for, your cake is going to look marvellous.

Top tip: Match your nuts with the cake that you're making - if you're making a carrot cake, walnuts would work a treat. If you're making a cake with peanut butter, peanuts would work well or if you're making a chocolate cake, sweet pecans are a good match.

Recipes to try using mixed nuts:

Get the recipe: Gluten-free carrot and walnut cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Red velvet cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Easy carrot cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Mary Berry's Victorian Christmas cake (opens in new tab)

Marzipan

Cake decorating ideas: Marzipan

Decorating a cake with marzipan is a great way to add delicious, moist, almond flavour to your cake. Perfect for rich fruit cakes, marzipan is a great topper for Christmas and Simnel cakes.

Top tip: Make sure your work surfaces and hands are clean before attempting this technique. You’ll want to work quickly with the marzipan too to make sure it doesn’t crack or dry out.

Recipes to try using marzipan:

Get the recipe: Mini Eggs Simnel cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Simnel cake

How to cover a cake with marzipan (opens in new tab)

How to ice a Christmas cake (opens in new tab)

Written message

Written message

(Image credit: foodfolio / Alamy Stock Photo)

Make someone feel extra special by writing them a personalised message on a cake. The easiest way to do this is with writing icing but you can also buy edible art pens or special cake decorating stamps to emboss words into fondant.

Top tip: If you can't find writing icing in your supermarket, you can use buttercream or icing sugar mixed with some water instead. It has to be thick though in order for you to pipe it through a thin nozzle to write messages.

Recipes to try with writing icing:

Get the recipe: Heart cake decorations (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Colour in cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Father’s Day cake (opens in new tab)

Caramel

Caramel

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

Whether you're cutting corners and opting for the readymade stuff or you're pushing your baking skills to the next level and making it from scratch, caramel is a very impressive way to finish your cake. You can drizzle it over the top, leave it to set for a crisp finish or add it to cream cheese to make a caramel frosting.

Top tip: If you decide to make caramel from scratch, make sure you cook it gradually on a low heat otherwise it'll burn and you'll have to start all over again.

Recipes to try using caramel:

Get the recipe: Spiced squash ring cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Salted caramel topped brownies (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe:How to make caramel (opens in new tab)

Meringue

Meringue

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

If you love meringue as much as we do, you should really give this cake decorating technique a go. Whip up some soft meringues with egg whites and sugar and gently spoon or pipe onto your cake. If you want that classic, crisp meringue finish you can brown the outside with a blow torch or a quick burst in the oven.

Top tip: If you've never made meringue before, you could cook it slowly in the oven on a low heat and add to your cake as a topping, instead of spreading it over.

Recipes to try using meringue:

Get the recipe: Stacie Stewart's skinny carrot meringue cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Lemon meringue cupcakes (opens in new tab)

Spreads

Spreads

From Nutella (opens in new tab) to marmalade, spreads are a great choice if you're short on time and money when it comes to decorating a cake. Just spread evenly over your cake with a palette knife or spoon. You can top with sprinkles, fondant shapes or fresh fruit - whatever tickles your fancy.

Top tip: If you're decorating with a thick spread like Nutella or peanut butter, make sure your cake is slightly warm, this will let the spread melt a little so it's easier to work with.

Recipes to try using spreads:

Get the recipe: Nutella cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Marmalade cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Jammy coconut squares (opens in new tab)

Royal icing

Cake decorating ideas: Royal icing

Whether you spread it on with a palette knife, pipe swirls or spoon on splodges, royal icing can really make your cake stand above the rest. Perfect for getting that snow white effect at Christmas time. Find out how to make royal icing at home with our handy guide.

Top tip: When it comes to colouring your royal icing, use gel pastes instead of liquid food colouring. This will make sure the consistency of the mixture doesn't change. Make sure when using the gel pastes that you add a little at a time as they've got a strong colour.

Recipes to try using royal icing:

Get the recipe: Red velvet peppermint cake

Get the recipe: Mary Berry's Christmas cake

Fondant shapes

Fondant shapes

(Image credit: Maria Dryfhout / Alamy Stock Photo)

With a little bit of practice, you can make some rather impressive fondant shapes to pop on top of your cake. Our cupcake queen Victoria Threader is a pro when it comes to making fondant shapes, and with her handy step-by-step picture recipes, you'll find making them much easier. They're perfect for personalising cakes for special occasions

Top tip: Fondant shapes are perfect for making in advance as long as you keep them in an airtight container and handle with care when it comes to popping them on your cake.

Recipes to try to make fondant shapes:

Get the recipe: Fondant bow (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Fondant dog (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Fondant name blocks (opens in new tab)

Cream

Cream

Make your cake even more indulgent by topping it with freshly whipped cream, which is the perfect base for chocolate or fruits. Cream is really easy to work with and can be spread or piped onto your cake depending on its thickness.

Top tip: Remember that cream is best kept cold in the fridge - the fresher, the better. So if you're planning on making your cake in advance, store it in the fridge or add the cream topping right at the last minute.

Recipes to try using cream:

Get the recipe: Classic Black Forest gateau (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Strawberries and cream cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Chocolate and double cream cake (opens in new tab)

Get the recipe: Lemon cream cake (opens in new tab)

Jessica Dady
Jessica Dady

Jessica Dady is Senior Content Editor at Goodto.com and has over 10 years of experience as a digital journalist, specialising in all things food, recipes, and SEO. From the best food hampers to cookbooks, from the best cake stands to baking sets, Jessica has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to must-have food products. A passionate baker, she spends much of her time creating celebration cakes for friends and family - particularly for her two lucky children.