Aside from having a kitchen full of cake decorating tools, a lot of the time it can feel like bakers have their own secret language too. The array of technical terminology, different part of a cake, and jargon you find in cookbooks and online recipes is literally endless. And unless you’re a seasoned pro, it might be difficult to understand what some cake terms and cake decorating terminology actually mean.
So, if you are just beginning to learn how to decorate cakes and are sitting there looking at a cookbook or a recipe trying to decipher the meaning of ‘chevron’ or ‘dowels’, you are not alone.
To help you on your cake-baking journey, I have listed 55 of the most important cake-decorating terms and definitions you will most likely encounter at one stage or another.
Let’s get started.
Cake Vocabulary – A to Z
When decorating cakes, an airbrush can be a big help. Instead of using food coloring on fondant or icing, you can use an airbrush to color the cake itself. Not only does this save you a lot of time, and money as you don’t need to buy fondant, but it is also really fun to do!
You can use the airbrush to draw images on the cake, color your design, spray paint, and more. You can produce unique and lovely results while spending less valuable time.
2) Basket Weave
A common cake decorating technique that produces a three-dimensional look that mimics a woven basket, often on the edges or tops of cakes. Round tips, ridged ribbons, or plain ribbons are typically used to achieve this technique.
Beading is a technique used in creating a border on cakes. It mimics the appearance of pearls and is usually used in tier cakes.
Beading is such a simple way to add a classy but minimalistic appearance to your cakes or cookies.
Beating is a very common baking technique. The primary purpose of beating is to aerate mixtures. It is usually used to incorporate air in heavier bases, like butter, for a cake mix. You can also beat lighter mixes, like egg whites into stiff peaks to make meringue.
Beating ingredients is achieved with the help of a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (whisk attachment if you are beating egg whites). You can also use manual mixing utensils like whisks or wooden spoons.
Buttercream is also known as butter icing or frosting. It is made by combining butter and sugar until soft and creamy. It is used to fill the cakes and for cake decorating.
6) Cake Board/Cake Circles
A Cake board supports cakes or cupcakes to enhance their appearance and ease transportation. It is made of a thick piece of material. Using a board close to the size of your cake is advised unless you would like to have some space for decorating.
7) Cake Stand
A cake stand is a tableware or culinary equipment used to display your cake or other baked treats. The stand elevates the cake for all to see. It is also a great place to store your cake, especially if you have a cake stand with a dome. The most typical shape is a plate on a pedestal; occasionally, several plates are stacked together in a tower.
8) Cake Turntable
Cake turntables are similar to cake stands, only the section that looks like a plate spins around. Being able to spin around the table allows you to easily decorate your cakes without getting buttercream icing up your sleeve.
9) Cake Topper
A cake topper is an ornament or pattern that you place on top of your cake as decoration. Cake toppers vary depending on the theme of your cake. You can get wedding-themed cake toppers, birthday ones and so on.
A chevron is a pattern that is produced by cutting out zigzag lines using icing or fondant to decorate cakes.
Combing, or folding, is the process to ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and dispersed throughout the mixture. You are not looking to beat together anything or add any air into a batter. You are merely combining gently to make sure everything is fully incorporated.
12) Cooling Rack
A cooling rack is used to cool down cakes, pastries, or other baked goods. Typically made of stainless steel wires woven into squares of tiny crisscrossed bars or several straight, closely spaced parallel bars. This allows enough air to reach the bottom of the goods to prevent them from retaining too much moisture and becoming soggy.
13) Cornelli Lace
A design that mimics laces, typically made by using a small, round piping tip with royal icing. A cornelli lace doesn’t touch or intersect like a typical lace would.
The act of thoroughly combining and beating butter with various dry ingredients to produce a smooth mixture evenly distributed with butter. To minimize air pockets and holes in baked items, the butter mixture must be thoroughly combined to create a light, fluffy texture and uniform consistency.
15) Crumb Coat
It is a thin layer of frosting applied to the cake’s sides and top before applying the final frosting layer. This is done to seal the cake’s surface, preventing the final frosting layer from picking up cake crumbs when applied.
Dowels are used to support the cake. This is usually used when making tall or multiple-tiered cakes. Dowels are typically made of wood or plastic. Thick straws can also be used as an alternative.
A sugar-based decorative confectionery frequently used in cakes, cookies, and other baked items. Often very small in size and made in a variety of shapes.
A Dragee can be manufactured as brightly colored candy chips, roasted nuts that are sugar-coated and have been colored, or round balls with a metallic finish.
Dust or dusting refers to delicately sprinkling a thin layer of an ingredient that is powdered or granulated onto food. It can also refer to the process of dusting a pan with flour to prevent your baked goods from sticking to the pan.
19) Edible Image
Images printed on icing paper with edible ink. Potato, rice starch, or icing can be used to make the paper. An edible image can be created from almost any type of image.
20) Faux Bois
Faux Bois is a French term for fake wood. As the name suggests, it imitates the structure of a bark. This is usually used in decorating cakes.
A filling is what you put in between layers. Some of the most used fillings in a cake are buttercream, ganache, and fruit jams.
Fondant is an icing made by combining sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. It looks like modeling clay and is a firm, pliable cake icing. It can be colored depending on your theme and is usually used in creating themed cakes.
Ganache is a mixture of chocolate and cream and is used to make truffles, used as a glaze, cake filling or icing. Chocolate, using dark, is heated up with cream and cooled down into a silky, smooth and shiny chocolate goodness.
Glaze is a glossy coating, such as syrup, glazed powdered sugar or even a mirror glaze. It is applied to cakes or pastries to give them a lustrous or shiny appearance. Glazes can be produced to enhance the aesthetic appeal of food products.
25) Gold Leaf
Gold leaf is an edible 24-carat thin sheet of gold used to decorate cakes and pastries and is available in flakes or sheets.
26) Gum Paste
Gum paste and fondant have the same qualities. The difference is that gum paste is made from egg whites, powdered sugar, and shortening, which hardens as it dries.
Manually incorporating embellishments, patterns, or intricate details using paintbrushes and food coloring. Similar to painting on a canvas, but using food-grade ingredients.
28) Icing Spatulas
Frostings on the cake are spread using icing spatulas. They are made of somewhat flexible long, narrow metal blades. The spatula comes in two varieties. The other has an offset blade, while the first has a straight blade.
This piping method uses diagonal lines that intertwine to create a diamond-shaped design. Latticework is one of the most gorgeous cake designs, especially when piped to fondant.
Layer and tier (see tier for definition) are usually what beginners get confused with. A layer is a single cake “sheet.”
31) Luster Dust
Luster dust is a powder used for food decorating that when delicately sprinkled on food’s surface, gives cakes and pastries a reflected aspect that resembles metal or pearls.
Marble is a partially blended cake batter or icing of two or more colors to create attractive swirls.
Marzipan is a confection or paste made of finely powdered almonds or almond paste, sugar, and egg whites. Typically, marzipan is hand-molded into decorative shapes after being tinted with food coloring.
34) Meringue Powder
It is a powder used to make meringue, the dessert topping for pies and other pastries. Meringue powder is made with a mixture of sugar, gum, corn starch, and flavorings with dried (dehydrated) egg whites.
35) Naked Cake
A naked cake is purposefully left uncovered and without frosting so that you can see the layers and filling of the cake. These cakes are usually used in boho-themed events and are adorned with cake toppers, fresh flowers, leaves, and more.
A method that creates a gradient-style graphic by blending many colors (or light and dark shades of one hue). Using an airbrush, colored buttercream or several colored cake batters, you can create an ombré pattern on a cake’s frosting or in the cake layers themselves.
37) Paper Cone
A Paper cone or parchment cone is used in piping small amounts of frosting. It is usually used to pipe letters or intricate details on the cake or pastries.
38) Parchment Paper
A silicon-based paper that is used as a liner between your baking pan and cakes or pastries to prevent them from sticking once baked. Parchment paper can withstand the high temperatures produced during baking, is grease-resistant, and doesn’t need any oil or shortening to be applied to the surface.
39) Pastry Bag
A bag in the form of a cone with a small hole on one end and a wide opening on the other. The decorating end, which has a small opening, typically has a variety of tips that may be switched out to produce a variety of decorative forms. The bag is used in piping icing, filling, whipped cream, or dough.
Made of sugar that are used for decorating and have been polished into huge crystals with a pearl-like luster.
41) Petal Dust
Petal dust, which is also known as “luster dust,” is a loose, sparkly powder used to decorate cakes, pastries, sugar flowers, and other treats. It comes in almost every color and gives the dessert a shimmering gloss.
Pillars are used to separate the tiers of the cake, giving it a towering appearance. They are available in various lengths and styles to achieve your desired look.
Piping is the process of decorating a cake with a piping bag or a piping cone. This technique is used to make swirls, patterns, letters, or any decorative shapes that can enhance the appearance of the cake or pastries.
44) Piping Jelly
Piping Jelly is a clear, sweet jelly that is used to decorate cakes. It is offered in a variety of colors as well as in a transparent, colorless form that you can customize.
45) Pulled Sugar
A technique where boiled sugar is caramelized, then stretched and pulled quickly and made into flowers, ribbons, or bows. It can be used as cake toppers or decorations for cakes and pastries.
Rosettes are made by piping frosting, usually buttercream or whipped cream, into a swirled rose-shaped pattern that makes your cake look like it is covered in flowers.
47) Royal Icing
Royal Icing is also called decorating or decorator’s icing. It is a mixture of confectioners’ sugar and egg whites. It is usually white in color, which you can customize and use for decorating cakes. It hardens when dry.
Ruffles are designs used in cakes. It can be piped using a special piping tip or made using fondant to resemble the actual fabric ruffles.
A confectionary made from sugar that is often colorful and used to decorate cakes and pastries.
Stencil is used as a template to make designs on the cake or pastry. It is usually made of plastic, metal, or sturdy paper that has been cut out depending on the design you want for your cakes or pastries.
51) Sugar Flowers
Sugar flowers or edible flowers are used to decorate cakes and pastries. It is usually made by piping frosting using a special tip or molded using fondant, gum paste, or sugar paste.
A tiered cake is composed of multiple layers. A Layer that has been stacked (3 to 4 layers) makes one “tier.”
Torte is a dessert with less to no flour. It is usually made of sugar, eggs, nuts, and flavoring.
54) Tylose Powder
Tylose Powder is an ingredient added to fondant to harden it once it dries. A quick version for gum paste. It helps the fondant to hold its shape when used to make cake decorations like figurines.
55) Whipped Cream
Whipped cream is made by whisking cream high in fat, usually 30% and above. It is used to decorate cakes and pastries or used as a filling. You can also add flavoring to it.
Now You’re A Cake Decorating Expert!
I hope this glossary I made can help you understand recipes better. Knowing these terms will surely make your cake decorating journey a lot easier.
Let me know in the comment box if you have other cake terminologies I can help you with, and I will be glad to include them in the list. Happy baking!