Welcome to the Cake Decorators Q&A

asked November 27th 2012

does sugarpaste icing need to dry?

Hi, i was just wondering, if i make a wedding cake or birthday cake, do i need to let the icing dry, or can i do it the night before? I know if it is a fruit cake it is fine to ice it and leave it to dry for 2-3 days, but if it is a sponge or chocolate, both the cake and buttercream would go off wouldn’t it if it was left to dry? I just read it on a recipe for a wedding cake, it was a fruit cake and it was iced and then the instructions said to leave it for 2-3 days for the icing to dry before decorating it.

I have made an 18th birthday number plate cake and it was madeira sponge that keeps for 2 weeks, sandwhiched with buttercream and raspberry jam, and i made a three tier wedding cake (which was three different flavoured madiera’s, vanilla, lemon and cherry and coconut) just to practice and i didn’t leave it to dry.

I am going to keep practicing i have got some cake dummies coming, and will decorate and take photo’s, eventually i want to try to sell them and get orders hoping that one day i can do it full time. I have not done any cake decorating courses, i am just learing from books and online etc.

Is there anyone that has made a maderia or sponge or chocolate wedding cake that has been iced with sugarpaste for a customer? If how long before delivering the cake did you ice it? Also do you deliver it all stacked or do you stack it and put ribbons etc on when you get there if your delivering it, and if they are collecting it, will royal icing between each cake board keep the tiers together? Lots of questions, and i think i am worrying to much and should just use my own iniciative but any advice would be appreciated.

One more question, do i need to offer cake that are all buttercreamed on the outside, and ones that are covered in ganach and chocolate pipe’s etc as well or can i start off with just the sugarpaste iced ones?

I am making a wedding cake for a lady at work in may but she doesn’t want a three tier cake, i have already designed it in my head a lot, but we will see how many people it is for and what flavours and colour scheme’s she has got in mind yet.


Hi 1979lizzy

I’ll try and answer your questions in the order you’ve asked, if I miss something I’ll apologise now. So here I go.

Sponge cakes filled with buttercream or chocolate ganache do not go off if left out on the counter for two or three days. I always decorate a sponge cake the day after it has been baked and deliver to the recipient within three days of baking and decorating. A madeira cake has longer shelf life, a week to bake and a week to decorate. Dense chocolate cakes have a shelf life of about five days, so it would be good to have them decorated two or three days before delivery. Fruit cakes have a very long shelf life and it’s fine for them to be decorated and left in a box until collection. Decorating sponge and madeira cakes a couple of days in advance allows the cake to settle and icing to dry. Once you’ve decorated the cakes, box them up so they keep clean, dust free and less likely to get accidentally damaged. Keep them in a cool room away from direct sunlight or heat sources like radiators.
Ideally stacking of tiered cakes ( ribbons can attached to boards once the cakes are decorated) should be done at the venue but it isn’t always possible to do that. Transporting unstacked cakes is much easier and safer. You can dowel your cakes as soon as you ice them ready for stacking at the venue. You can use royal icing or ganache in between the individual boards and a little on the dowels to secure the tiers. Strong boxes for tiered cakes can now be bought from online cake decorating suppliers, however, stacked cakes are very heavy so, even though they can be transported in the special boxes, great care should be taken when delivering. Boxed cakes should be transported in either the boot of a car or in the front well. They should be protected as much as possible to prevent the boxes from shifting about.
Finally, you can offer any cake you want to customers as long as you feel confident that you can produce it successfully. If you just want to do iced cakes then that is absolutely fine too.
I hope my answer helps but I’m sure other members will have useful advice for you as well. You will be able to learn from everyone’s experiences and, I’m sure you will eventually achieve your ambition to have your own business. There is lots of advice throughout the site, it’s very worth looking at the blog section and just reading through the Pro Membership section for future reference. G’d luck and we’re all here for you.


Hi Lizzy,

You don’t have to let the sugarpaste dry, you can decorate it as soon as you’ve covered it, however once a cake is covered in sugarpaste it is sealed and both the cake and the buttercream will be fine if stored in a cool dry place. If I have more than one order on the go I may cover all the cakes on one day and decorate them the next. If you are doing a multi-tiered cake you are unlikely to be able to cover and decorate them all in one day!

A madeira cake will last for two weeks which gives you one week to decorate and one week for the customer to eat, a Victoria sandwich style sponge will not last quite as long but again is sealed when covered in sugarpaste. Chocolate cake (made with real chocolate rather than flavoured with cocoa powder) usually has the longest shelf-life.

I always have my cakes finished the day before the customer collects and it will have been baked two days before that as I like to let them settle before covering. It’s fine just to offer sugarpasted cakes, I’ve never had anyone ask for a cake decorated with buttercream (but that’s in Scotland)!

I haven’t made a wedding cake so I’ll let someone else address that part but hopefully I’ve covered some of your questions! Good luck!


Hi ,

you dont have to let the sugar paste dry before icing. For the various sponges ( except choc that doesnt last as long) i bake one day, ice & decorate the next. and transport on day 3. Day 3 gives the buttercream and icing time to firm a little especially if there are figures etc on the cake.

For sponge wedding cakes- you can make the fondant pieces quite a while before making the cake (store in cool dry place in a cake box not plastic). then make the cakes a couple of days before.

I have transported 2 tier cakes that travell well, but would always say if the design allows it to stack at the venue but this isnt always possible. I usually ribbon up mine before going.

Im quite new at selling to customers and only started with sponge and fondant- i extended it as i got better.

hope this helps, good luck


Wow thank you very much all of you, extremely helpful, that is what i thought and more and i am not so worried any more x

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