Cake Decorating Timeline – When should I decorate my cake?
The most common question that gets asked when one has to decorate a cake – when should I decorate my cake? How far in advance can you make a cake? When to ice a cake? Today I discuss what is the cake decorating timeline that I use to make sure I have a fresh cake and as well as enough time to decorate.
Making dessert cakes is a lot different than making custom decorated fondant cakes. I can decide in the morning that I want to serve a delicious chocolate cake for dinner today and that would be perfectly fine. I’d have to work hard, a little fast but in general, I can produce a very impressive chocolate dessert cake in a very short time.
But can I do the same with my custom decorated fondant cakes? Nah!! Why not? If you are a new cake decorator then you find that now you are suddenly confused about baking your cakes. This was what you were most confident about and now suddenly you are surprised that it does not work the same way!
Now you think, how far in advance should I make my cake? How far in advance should I bake my cake? When should I crumb coat my cake? When should I cover my cake with fondant and when must my cake be ready for delivery?
On the flip side, most customers think their cakes are baked a day before the event. Right? Often they will make sure to tell you that they want their cake fresh. But in reality, the cakes are baked a few days ahead. Why is that?
Well, cake decorating is time-consuming!! So if we baked it at the last minute there is no way we will manage to do as much as we do on that cake. Will we? That’s why often people are confused – when should I decorate my cake?
Technically! you know.. technically?
Technically a cake can be put together in less than 3 hours. Yes, you can! Unfortunately, decorating the cake in such haste can be very stressful and sometimes lack professionalism.
For example – I never decorate my cake minimum 6 hours after it is baked. I believe it needs some resting time. After I crumb coat, cover in buttercream I give my cakes another couple of hours so it will rest (maybe another 4 hours). This helps all the gasses inside the cake settle.
Then when I put fondant I don’t have to deal with bumps or bulges. I dowel my cakes at least 4 hours before delivery so that I have enough time just in case something goes wrong last minute.
If you look at the cakes above in the college, you will see that they are all similar (not same) in size. mostly single tier cakes. But each one will use a different timeline.
The bottom three buttercream cakes for example.
- The simple ruffles cake (tutorial) took me two hours from start to finish – because buttercream cakes don’t necessarily need a lot of settling time.
- The second Princess cake is also a buttercream cake but the bottom tier does need a bit of resting time, and you need more work with stacking as well as piping. So while it is a buttercream cake it still needs more caution compared to the first ruffles cake.
- The third floral cake (tutorial) looks very simple but is actually easier than the second. Why ? because the buttercream flowers can be made ahead of time. So you can make this cake from start to finish or in small parts.
The Top fondant cakes for example
- The first is a simple small marbled fondant cake with a sugar flower that was made ahead of time. Because this cake is so small you can actually do a lot of it from start to finish without much resting time, unlike our tiered wedding cakes.
- The minion cake (tutorial)- is simple but has a lot of work on details that can be done ahead or on the cake. This is a type of cake where often cake decorators tend to underprice themselves. Mostly because they do not calculate the amount of time that goes into creating these details. Read more about Pricing your cakes as well as underpricing your cakes.
- The last handbag with shoes is actually a very easy cake. The shoe has to be done in advance because there is no way you can make a Gumpaste Stiletto Shoe at the last minute
While those are very simple cakes. These below-being wedding cakes take extra effort to plan and execute. As you can see each and every one through three tiers will have a very different timeline – depending on how much can be done ahead of time as compared to how much work is involved on the cake at decorating the stage. Now I won’t really discuss these in details but if you look at Decorated Cakes – click on the cake and I always share information that you will find useful in the process of the cake.
Work ahead of schedule – when should I decorate my cake? (Save/Pin)
Cake decorating can be divided on what you can do before you bake your cake and then what you need to do on the cake. There are a lot of things you need to do before you bake the actual cake in an effort to save time later. For example
- You can prepare your cake boards ahead of time. And this does not necessarily mean just wrapping them in decorating paper. I mean you can cover your cake board with fondant or add the extra elements that go on the board.
- Decorations and cake toppers – Sugar flowers and figures can be made as early as two weeks ahead of time. Standard size cake boards and cake dummies work great to help with this. Use a dummy as a base for your figures until they are dry. Use a cake dummy to decide how many flowers you need. Or use a cake dummy to get the shape you need for your cake toppers.
- Check on your supplies to make the cake – if your cake order has lace make sure you have the lace mold. Do you need to order? How long will it take to arrive? Perhaps you need to get back to the client with any change of plans.
- Buy the necessary ingredients – sounds basic but when you make cakes often or not so often – your inventory can sometimes cause issues. Make sure you have the color or brand of your fondant.
- Download any templates or information you need – Always do this in advance just so you do not lose what you searched for when you planned the cake.
Scratch Cakes have a longer shelf life?
Having said that – do you know that if you bake from scratch the cake becomes tastier in the next few days. It matures into something more delicious. Now I can’t prove that but mom use to say it; so it must be true. Right? I bake from scratch and you can find my collection of Cake Recipes here on my blog. If you are a new cake decorator you may find my Calculated Cake Recipes Collection in my online shop very useful.
Cake Decorating Timeline – when should I decorate my cake? (Save/Pin for later)
Often I get messaged and emailed the same dilemma of how far in advance can I make my cake? Over time I have realized this schedule works best for me. Now there is no right or wrong here; as time passes you may make your own schedule. For now, I’ll be happy to share with you my timeline so you can get started.
To better understanding; let’s pick a day say you need the cake for your event on Saturday night.
Day I – Wednesday Night
- Make Filling, Frosting including Fondant if I’m using a homemade fondant recipe.
- Bake the cake. Cool completely. Wrap well in cling wrap and store in the fridge –
- Prepare your cake boards. Dress the cake board – if using Fondant or Royal Icing on the whole board.
Day 2 – Thursday Morning
- Bring cake, filling, and frosting to room temperature.
Day 2 Thursday Afternoon
- Level, Tort, fill and crumb coat the cake.
- Let set in the fridge for 15 minutes, then cling wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. This helps settle the cake.
Day 2 Thursday Night
- For Buttercream cakes (how to get sharp edges on buttercream cakes)
- Apply second and third coat giving enough time to chill between coats
- Back to the fridge to rest.
- For Fondant/ Sugar paste cakes (how to get sharp edges on ganache cakes)
- Take cake out of the fridge – let rest for a few minutes
- Novelty cake gets carved and shaped at this point.
- Cover with Fondant (Tips for working with Fondant)
- Leave at room temperature or fridge if using perishable fillings
Day 3 – Friday – The Fun Part
- Complete design and decorating details including doweling the cake and setting up the tiers.
- Decorating the cake board.
- Adding the additional details like sugar flowers and setting up the figures.
- All decorations are completed by night and the cake is left to rest overnight or (at least 4 hours just in case)
Day 4 – Saturday
- Check cake for any last minute hi-cups like bulges or burps.
- Photograph and pack the cake for delivery.
That’s the usual schedule I use. The exceptions to the rule would be if I have a novelty cake or a wedding cake that requires more decorating time, I would start a day early.
Don’t forget to save this tutorial on Pinterest for later.
You can find a collection of my tutorials and recipes here on Pinterest.
A few Tips from me
Organization – How far in advance can I make my cake?
As a cake decorator who does almost everything from scratch at home, as well as take care of two kids and manage the home, it is very important that I organize and plan my work correctly. For example; I prefer to bake twice a week, mainly Sunday and Wednesday. I dedicate one day to making my fillings and frostings including buttercream
One day to making my fondant if I’m using my homemade fondant recipe. That way I am not overwhelmed with too much to do for one cake.
The Working Mom – When should I decorate my cake?
I know some of you are working mom who is not cake decorators but wants to make a celebration cake for the family or birthday cake for your kids.
- You can bake your cake ahead of time, prepare your buttercream as well as your fondant and freeze these.
- Two days before you want to start decorating, thaw it in the fridge first then on the counter.
- It’s best to work with semi-frozen of chilled cakes. The torte and carve better too!
- Once you finish decorating you can keep it on the countertop in a cool place or in the fridge.
This Cake decorating timeline was today’s Tip Thursday – in answer to your question When Should I decorate my cakes?
Save this Tip Thursday for later. You can find a collection of my recipes, tips, tutorials here on Pinterest
Are you are new Cake Decorating Professional –
You may like to see more
- Cake Business Related Post Cake Pricing – A Beginner Guide (How much should I charge for my Cakes?),
- I bet most of you are Under Pricing your Cakes
- Where to find Inspiration for cakes,
- How to find your Cake Decorating Style?
- How to start a cake business from home,
- Cake Decorating as a Profession or Hobby?
- How to start a cake website