Five Favourite: Decorating Tools for Beginners


There’s no denying it – the world of cake decorating can be absolutely bamboozling when you first begin to get into it. Not only do you come across all kinds of words and phrases you’ve never heard of before, but a visit to your local cake decorating supply store is exciting and overwhelming all at once – there are just so many items available!

Unless you have lots of money to burn, chances are you won’t be able to buy every tool and gadget you see straight away. And you don’t have to. There are really only a handful of things you should think about buying reasonably early into your foray into cake decorating – the trick is knowing which items these are.

I totally remember how confusing it was working out what to buy when you’re just starting out and often receive emails from lovely readers asking exactly the same thing. With this in mind, I’ve pulled together a list of the five things I recommend setting yourself up with when you’re new to cake (and cupcake!) decorating.


1. Food whitener

We have amazing butter here is New Zealand, but that beautiful yellow colour does affect the colour of your buttercream icing – no matter how long you beat it, it will never become a pure white. That’s where food whitener comes in – just a little squeeze of it will tint your icing a beautiful, crisp white! While it looks a little strange when you first add it – it looks like you’ve tipped twink into your icing! – it really does work and gives a great finish (it’s how I got this icing so white!)

2. Wilton 1M tip

Whether you want to ice cupcakes or decorate a rose cake, this tip will soon become your best friend. The size and open star shape of this tip make it perfect for piping beautiful, big swirls of icing on everything from cakes and cupcakes to cookies. I get a massive amount of use out of this tip – it’s a rare week that it doesn’t get used to decorate something!

3. Decorating bags – disposable or re-usable

If you want to do any kind of piping work you’re going to need to buy some decorating bags. There are two types to choose from – disposable plastic ones or reusable fabric bags with a plasticised lining. There are pros and cons to both so it really comes down to personal preference – while I have both, I tend to use my disposable ones more often as it’s easier to switch from colour to colour without washing your bag a million times. If you go for disposable ones, be sure to buy a good quality brand – the cheaper ones can split really easily.

4. Gel food colourings

Gel food colourings are amazing – they enable you to quickly tint your icing or cake to practically any shade you can imagine. While they’re a little pricey compared to the liquid food colourings you can pick up at the supermarket, the gel colouring is so concentrated that you only need to use a tiny bit to achieve awesome colour – meaning one little tub will last you a long time. Plus, unlike liquid based colourings, gel colourings don’t dilute the balance of your baking so you can safely use them when making fiddly things like macarons.

5. Offset spatula

Your trusty offset spatula will get you through pretty much anything. Want to paddle ice a cupcake like this? You’ll use your offset spatula. Want to decorate a petal cake? Your offset spatula will be really handy. Want to layer and coat a cake? Use your offset spatula to achieve a smooth finish. I have several of these stashed in a drawer and they get used every single week, not only for cake decorating but also for everything from  smoothing layers on a slice to spreading marshmallow.

These five things will set you up with everything you need to get into cake decorating – you’ll soon work out what type of decorating you want to focus on and can get any specialty tools from there. Find them at your local cake decorating store, Living and Giving or online at stores like Kiwi Cakes.

I hope you’ve found this useful – happy decorating!


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6 Responses to "Five Favourite: Decorating Tools for Beginners"

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  1. Sarah

    August 13, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Thanks, this is great! I have all but the whitener… Guess what I’ll be buying this weekend! ;-)

    • Kirsten

      August 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Hope you like it Sarah – I find it really handy (and it’s pretty fun to play with too!) :)

  2. Sian

    August 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Great basic needs. When I first started I launched in and got all the fancy things and then had no idea how to use anything. I still haven’t used whitening though. Will add that to my Kiwicakes cart for next order :)

    • Kirsten

      August 14, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks Sian! I know exactly what you mean – I did a bit of that myself to begin with. Hope you enjoy the whitener – I love it :)

  3. Daphne

    August 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Hiya, great advise and tips :) quick question about the whitener …I have used the Americolour brand of white for some frosting I made recently and it left a odd taste to it which I don’t usually get when making it (i had to use a heap to make it white) does the Wilton brand do this at all??

    • Kirsten

      August 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Hi Daphne, I’ve never noticed a strange taste after adding the Wilton whitener and I often add quite a lot too my recipes. I do usually add vanilla bean paste or essence when using it though, so it’s possible that that masks any slight taste the whitener leaves. Hope this helps! :)


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