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5 Creative Ways to Decorate a Birthday Cake

Some might say cake decorating is an art — a sweet, melt-in-your-mouth confection layered with frosting and fruit, coated in creamy, smooth frosting, and intricately piped and embellished. The possibilities are endless, from buttercream, rich fudge, and ice cream to sprinkles and fondant. 

According to a recent study by jeweler company Shane Co., ice-cream cake is Americans’ all-time favorite, followed by strawberry. However, the outer decorative elements tend to be the most eye-catching.

Birthday cakes, in particular, are a long, popular tradition where the celebrant can choose their preferred flavor combination. It’s quite possibly the one day of the year many can cheat without guilt on their diets and indulge in one of life’s celebratory treats.

There are thousands of ways to impress others with your cake decorating skills, whether you’re a baking pro or looking for a simple technique to make your decadent dessert stand out. Here are five creative ways you might try to decorate a birthday cake. 

1. Add Drips

The cake decorating tag on Instagram will prove how drip cakes have taken the baking world by storm. 

Drip cakes are easy enough to do. You drip chocolate, caramel or a dyed white chocolate ganache down the sides of the cake. 

You’ll need essential equipment to make your drip birthday cake look professional, such as a buttercream scraper to smooth out your frosting, a decorating turntable, and a squeeze bottle or piping bag. 

After baking your cake, layer it with frosting or fruit filling and cover it with buttercream. Smooth it out using the buttercream scraper. Then, prepare the ganache drip by microwaving it for 20 seconds, stirring and continuing to heat it in 10-second intervals until it’s fully melted. About 50%-60% cocoa is recommended if you’re decorating a drip birthday cake for the first time. 

Use a piping bag or squeeze bottle to place the ganache along the top edge of the cake in drips until you make it entirely around. Then place the remaining ganache on top and smooth it over the border with the scraper. 

Feel free to add sprinkles, piping techniques and other decorative elements to finish the cake.

2. Make a Unicorn Cake

A unicorn cake is an impressive design perfectly crafted for a little girl or teenager’s birthday. In addition to the cake mix and buttercream, you’ll need black-and-white fondant, edible gold luster, sprinkles, and purple, pink and blue food coloring. 

After you’ve baked and assembled the cake and smoothed out a thick layer of buttercream, roll a piece of white fondant into a tightly coiled horn with a tip. Use two smaller parts to mold white fondant into the unicorn’s ears and allow everything to dry. 

Then, add gold luster to the horn and ears, sticking the pieces into the top of the cake with the horn in the middle.

Divide the buttercream into three bowls with light and dark pink and purple food dye. Use three different piping bags to randomly pipe the colors around the ears, horn, over the top of the cake and down one side for the mane. 

Shape the black fondant into two small eyelash arches on the front of the cake and finish by adding sprinkles.

3. Use Vintage Diecast Models

Bakers have several cake-decorating opportunities for milestone birthdays — for example, creating a birthday cake using classic diecast models.

Diecast model cars are nostalgic for many people, triggering sweet memories of their childhood days. They’re also a popular collectible that grows more valuable as time goes on.

A car replica atop a birthday cake will excite an older celebrant with an impressive diecast collection. However, they should be sure to preserve the model immediately after blowing out the candles to maintain its longevity and worth.

A diecast model car may need a light dusting or general cleaning with a cloth and water. However, frosting and cake may require a deeper clean, in which the vehicle should be submerged in lukewarm water for 30 seconds, followed by thorough drying to prevent rust or damage.

4. Try a Naked Cake

Naked cakes are typical for rustic, farmhouse weddings, but they also make the perfect birthday dessert — and they’re effortless to decorate.

Traditional cakes are covered in thick frosting, but naked cakes use minimal icing, exposing the inner layers of fruit and buttercream fillings instead. The two types of naked cakes include semi-naked or “half-dressed” and an actual naked cake, where the sides remain entirely bare. 

Once your cake has finished baking, coat the inner bottom layer with buttercream and fresh berries, add another layer of cake and repeat until everything is stacked.

Run a scraper along the sides of the cake to smooth out any overflowing buttercream from between the tiers. Add a thick coat of frosting to the top of the cake and decorate with whatever you like, such as edible flowers, berries, candies, sugared fruits, chocolate, nuts or herbs. 

5. Add Edible Flowers

Edible flowers make some of the best birthday cake decorations. They are colorful and aesthetically pleasing, as well as beautifully potent and tasty. 

However, erring on the side of caution is necessary as not every flower is edible — some may be poisonous or sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers.

Nevertheless, lavender buds and thyme are often used in cake batter or whipped into lemon-flavored buttercream, while marigold blossoms infuse a citrusy flavor similar to lemon and tangerine. 

You may also want to use wild pansies, also referred to as Johnny-jump-ups, for cake decorating. They usually taste like wintergreen, and their gorgeous jewel tones will stand out on a cake.  

Decorate Your Cake and Eat It, Too

Make the birthday extra special with a beautifully decorated cake, whether it’s your own or for a friend or relative. A creative design will surely leave a lasting impression and taste even more scrumptious.

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