From sprinkles to sugar paste. Stuff you need for making bakes look beautiful with as little fuss as possible.
Decorating cakes and biscuits doesn't have to be a huge palaver. With a tiny bit of planning and just a few bits of basic kit, the whole things can be immensely enjoyable. Check out my 'Thee Fuss Free Ways to Decorate a Biscuit' Blog for examples.
Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself though, nothing HAS to be decorated. A cupcake looks just as tasty as a bun. A biscuit is still a biscuit without extra sugar and sprinkles. Check out my 'How do you Find the Time' post for more tips.
Decorating can also be a great stand alone activity if you do the baking in advance. When going to the effort to bake with the family, always maximise the pay off. If you bake 12 cupcakes, freeze 6 that can be whipped out and defrosted in the microwave for a super quick after school or playdate saving decorating activity at a later date. Check out my 'Top Tips' blog for more ideas like this.
An Icing Sugar Sifter.
There's no bake that can't be improved by a quick sprinkling of icing sugar, and this is an easy way to do that and smalls will love making it snow! These are also handy for using with cake stencils to give an easy professional finish to a simple cake. Also quite a lot of fun in the bath or sand pit!
The easiest way to finish a cake. Place on top of the cake, sift over some icing sugar or cocoa powder and lift off. Voila. You can also make your own bespoke stencilS quite easily. See my Victoria Sponge post for more details.
These are so gorgeous and little ones love stamping their cookies. Simply cut round cookies with a scone cutter and then stamp a motif. You can get just about anything. Bake the biscuits as normal and that's that. Beautiful straight from the oven.
Royal Icing Mix
I always have a massive bag of this in the cupboard. It's not cheap, but it is by far the easiest way to do any kind of biscuit decorating with little ones. Icing made with normal icing sugar will always be runny, transparent and sticky. This stuff needs very little water and can be spread thick like peanut butter and dries solid. Less mess. It tastes better too. You can make up one batch, divide it and colour them differently and use them like paint. Water it down slightly and you can even use it with paint brushes. It keeps in the fridge (covered with a slightly damp J-Cloth) for a week, so you can always make it in advance or do a bake over the course of a couple of days.
Sugar Flair Food Colouring. Again, not a cheap purchase, but a few primary colours will keep you busy for years. These paste colours are the best in the business if you ask me and you need the tiniest tip of a cocktail stick's (also something worth having in stock) worth of it to colour a whole bowl of icing. No mess and magical for the smalls to stir in. Works with any kind of icing, including fondant and florist paste, which you would use for modelling.
Writing Icing Pens
These are great for toddlers up. However, their effects can be varied. Cheaper varieties can be watery and older decorators may get a little frustrated if their designs run or the colours are diluted. For the occasions where presentation really does matter I'd always recommend a piping bag with real royal icing. Nothing else will give you the shine or the definition.
However, for speedy activities with Smalls, these Cake Decor ones are really handy to have in your store cupboard and give much better results than others I've tested. They can be reused lots of times and a little goes a long way.
The world of sprinkles has changed dramatically since I was a kid and it was all about teeth-shattering silver balls and those weird little jellied fruits. The supermarket aisles are flooded with an array of shapes and colours, grand for every day baking and an economical purchase, but it's definitely true that you get what you pay for as far as sprinkles are concerned. A good sprinkle will add to your bake rather than just sit on top of it. It will add texture, colour and even sometimes an exciting taste or flavour boost. Luxury sprinkles will be an occasional purchase for most people, but they're so worth it when you do.
Sugar Florist Paste
Unlike normal fondant icing, florist paste can be rolled extremely thinly and dries rock solid making it perfect for making embellishments of models for cakes. It's not cheap enough to make it a stock cupboard item for most bakers, but for a special cake or project it's a must have. You can colour it with a tiny prick of gel food colouring or buy it pre coloured. It's a great way for children to make decorations too. Simply roll it out and let them cut out shapes with biscuit cutters. Once dry (leave over night on foam pad or non stick board) they can be placed on top of icing on a cake or cookie. Check out my Christmas Cake Tutorial for an example of cake toppers made with florist paste. Of course, you could let me do the hard work for you and choose one of my cake decorating kits.
I first bought one of these for fondant icing work, but it's proved invaluable for baking with the smalls. Nothing sticks to it, which makes cleaning up a breeze. I use this for rolling out icing, biscuits, scone dough - even play dough!
Disposable Piping Bags
A roll of disposable piping bags is always useful. I use a reusable piping bag because I'm trying to reduce throw away plastic, but if you're not a frequent iced, then these are much easier. Cut the tip off the bag about one cm up to make an easy way to pipe nice big blobs, or add an icing tip into the bottom of the bag to have a go at more detailed designs.
Set of PME icing tips. Confident enough to be baking without your small ones? Want to add finishing details to their bakes? A set of these will help you pipe a variety of easy decorative touches. There are lots of brands out there, but this set from PME is a perfect starter set and I find them to be incredibly good quality and long lasting.