How to design a cake from scratch

Ever wondered what the actual process is in setting about designing a cake from scratch? We picked Paul’s brains to find out how he goes about making his marvellous creations – from the seed of an idea to the fully realised product…

Get to know your customer

Sometimes a customer will come to you with a theme already in mind. Other times, they may just come looking for ‘a birthday cake’ or ‘a retirement cake’ – and this is the moment to let your creativity shine!

With a little bit of gentle prodding you should be able to discover what makes the cake intended recipient truly tick. Are they a keen golfer? Lover of glamorous shoes? Wannabe DJ? Listening carefully is key to drawing out the interesting little nuggets that will help you make this cake design truly special.

So let’s use a little example: meet Mark. You probably recognise him, from some of our Pro courses! As well as being a digital whizz, Mark is also a keen diver. He loves few things more than being out in the deep blue sea surrounded by his fishy friends. Let’s say you’ve been asked to create a special cake for Mark….


Start with a theme

At this stage, you want to let those creative floodgates well and truly open. Don’t hold back, just let the ideas flow. Get a piece of paper and write down as many different ideas as you come up with. Some of the ideas might seem a bit ‘out there’ but just trust the left side of your brain to do its job.

Using Mark’s cake as an example, we’ll start off with the theme of Under the Ocean. You could go for something novelty – say, Mark with a shark. Or if you want to go gruesome, Mark in a shark’s mouth! Think about the equipment used when diving: what about an air tank, flippers or scuba mask? Or you could go more natural, with driftwood, coral reef and beautiful fish. What about a shipwreck complete with divers? Or a brimming treasure chest buried under the sea? Now the ideas are really flowing…

Pick the best idea

Now you have all your ideas down on paper, it’s time to narrow it down to work out what will be the focus of your design. Decide on a cake that’s right for your level of skill and experience. Think about what shapes are involved. Once you’ve settled on an object – we’re going to use the air tank, in this example – sketch out your initial ideas and decide what parts will be made of cake, which will be made of sugarpaste and modelling chocolate.

There are a few other factors to consider too. Will your design be realistic or novelty? What are you going to do with the board? With our air tank cake we might create a sand effect, or simply use black icing. Are you going to include a hidden message?

Give three options

It’s always a good idea to give your client three different options. The cakes will be essentially the same design, but vary slightly in complexity and time involved – and therefore, price. Present them with their three options and explain how each is slightly different and priced accordingly.

Finishing touches

When it comes to actually making the cake, don’t stray too far from the design you’ve agreed with the customers. If you need to make any major changes, make sure you run this by the client first. You don’t want any big surprises when they arrive to pick up the cake! Smaller tweaks and slight improvisations are ok, provided they don’t alter the overall look at feel of the agreed design.

And there you have it – the entire process of designing a cake, from concept through to delivery!

What’s your process for designing a cake? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

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