Writing on a Cake
Writing on a cake is an incredible opportunity to show off your talent in decorating; it can also show off your lack of talent if it is not done well. To master the art, and it is an art, of writing on a dessert, you will need to practice using the actual frosting or chocolate and the method you intend to use. The good part about this is that it doesn't have to go to waste if you practice on a plate, wax paper or parchment paper, you can simply scrape the frosting off and reuse it.
One method is to just free-hand your writing, whether script or cursive. This is easy if you take some time and measure the space available for your inscription and you have good handwriting to begin with. To measure the space, use the backside of the cake pan that was used to bake the cake. Just flip it over and start practicing, allowing room for the border around the cake edge and any other decorations you intend to add later. When finished writing, evaluate it to see if you like it. Check for consistency in the letters sizes and for consistency in the pressure on the icing bag. You will know if you need to practice squeezing the decorating bag more evenly if the letters are gloppy in some places and thin or broken in other areas. Broken letters could also mean that the frosting or chocolate is not the right consistency for writing or that the decorating tip is too small for the consistency of the frosting or chocolate.
Another method for writing on a cake is to center the words by counting the letters and starting with the middle letter, writing the additional letters on either side of the middle letter. This will ensure that the word or words are really centered. Check the spelling frequently! Don't forget to count the spaces in-between the words if the message is more than one word.
Still another method is to transfer the word or words onto the icing using various methods. One way is to print out the message on the computer in the font you would like to use. Tape it to a cookie sheet and then cover the message with parchment paper. You should be able to see through the parchment paper. Write the message by tracing over the image with the frosting or chocolate. Put the cookie sheet and message into the freezer for a few minutes to harden it. Take it out of the freezer. Carefully, with a small spatula and possibly a set of tweezers, remove the letters and place them on the cake.
You could also turn the image face down so that it is backwards while you work and then, instead of putting it in the freezer, carefully, flip the parchment paper over to the correct position on your cake and transfer the message. After you peel away the parchment paper, you can go over the message with more frosting or chocolate to finalize the image.
To write the message, use thinned buttercream frosting, royal icing, or piping gel. Thin the buttercream frosting with piping gel or clear Karo syrup. Just remember that this will not set up firm, so you have to be careful when you cover the cake not to let the plastic wrap or foil touch the top of the cake or wherever your message is imprinted
To get the words straight on your cake, use a piece of spaghetti (uncooked, of course) to make a straight line. This way your words won't be going uphill or downhill or all over the place!
If your writing has little peaks where you lift the tip from the letters, just use a small artist paint brush dipped in water, squeeze out any excess water and gently push the little peaks down for a smooth effect.
The message you inscribe has to be spelled correctly! This is a no-brainer, but many cakes are ruined by a misspelled name or word on the cake. How disappointing! Make sure this doesn't happen to your cakes. Check the spelling at least twice, even if it is a word you normally spell correctly. It is not easy to erase on a cake. It can be done, but it is not easy! If you have made a mistake, use a toothpick to carefully lift off the part that is misspelled. You may need to use tweezers, too. After you have removed the mistake, use a small spatula to smooth the icing if needed. Then, carefully, spell the word correctly.
Impression stamps can be used to stamp the image of the letters on the cake. Some of the stamps are customizable, meaning that you can essentially type-set your message and then stamp it on the cake and go over the impression with your tip of the bag of frosting. Wilton has some pre-made stamps that say 'Congratulations, Happy Anniversary, and Happy Birthday.' These come in script or block print.
You can also get food grade markers in which you can just mark directly on the cake, much like you would use a pen and paper. Ideally, the cake will be covered in fondant for this to work well.
You can use rice paper to write your message on and then place that on the frosting in the proper area and it will essentially melt into your frosting leaving the message to appear as if you wrote directly on the cake.
Another option for writing on a cake is to use an air-brush. You will really need to practice writing what you want to say on a paper towel or other absorbent paper to get a feel for how much pressure and how close you will need to be to get the letter size correct. Practicing with coloring book pages is an easy and fun way to increase your skill. The coloring books can be purchased at a Dollar Store. This makes the practicing inexpensive. If your air-brush has an open-type cup for the color, be super careful! I once was using my air-brush with red color in the cup and accidentally spilled it down the side of a fondant covered birthday cake. I ended up wiping the fondant off with a damp paper towel. It helped, but not enough. Lucky for me, the cake was for a family member and not a paying customer!
Another way to spell out your message would be to roll out fondant and use letter cutters (they come in a variety of sizes and fonts) and cut out the letters. Let the fondant or gumpaste dry and then use luster dust or an air brush to color the letters. You may even want to cut out lots of letters and let dry just to have on hand. Having the letters ready to go at a moments notice will impress everyone. The letters could be stored in clean egg cartons using the individual egg holder sections to separate the letters. This could be turned into a project for those slow days! (Okay, I just thought I would put that in for fun!)
Choose your message carefully. Take into consideration the event, who it is for, and what kind of personalization is best. Do you need the generic “Happy Birthday” or maybe “Congratulations” or would something a bit more personal be a better fit? Think about it before you start writing on the cake! Look at greeting cards for some inspiration for ideas of what to write. Do you know the person or is the cake for a person you don't know? Take all this into consideration.
There are so many ways to get your message across; be creative and practice the handwriting part, it is just as important as learning to make roses. Experiment with left over frosting. See what you can come up with to make your cake a stand-out!