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Make Awesome Cakes – Beginner’s Guide & Tools!

Ever wanted to make an AMAZING cake for a birthday party? Here’s ALL my tips and tricks for making adorable and delicious birthday cakes – even if you’re a busy mama! 

birthday cakes

I started my cake making hobby back in 2019 – and it’s been an amazing (& delicious) creative outlet. If you’ve been around on Instagram, you’ve seen lots of behind the scenes videos (and all the mess too, haha). I often get asked what tools I use or where my recipes are from, so here’s everything you need to get started making cakes! 

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The Process

To keep myself from going crazy, I always make my cake a day or two BEFORE the event! That way I have plenty of time to assemble the cake, get the frosting just right, and also time to wash and put away all the dishes! (Plus, it keeps me sane. And I’m less stressed! Really!)

Day 1: Cake Making. While the cake is baking, I wash all the dishes. When the cake is done, I let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to completely cool. Then I saran wrap and freeze.

Day 2: Frosting & Assembly. This is the fun part! The frosting takes a few minutes to whip together, then the assembly begins. I take my cakes out of the fridge, do a crumb coat, and refrigerate again. While the crumb coat sets, I finish the rest of the frosting dishes, then get to work on the final frosting layer! Always store in an air-tight container (I prefer mine in the fridge too!)

Day 2 or 3: Have your Cake and Eat it Too! Time for your hard work to pay off! To get a nice slice of cake, place your sharp knife in a glass of warm water. Wipe off water when you’re ready to cut! You can rewarm the knife as you go in the water again as needed.

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The Tools

After years of using a butter knife to frost cakes (really!), I’ve learned that it’s just easier to actually use the right tools! It’s SO much less stress. And makes the cake look better. Here’s what I use on every cake. Click on the links below, or find everything right here!

Cake Turntable: I use this plastic versionand it works GREAT! It’s affordable and perfect for beginners. Eventually, I’ll probably invest in this nicer one, now that I’ve decided that I love making cakes!

(3) Round 8″ Aluminum Cake Pans: These cake pans are AWESOME. They bake the cakes so well and evenly. Don’t try to use the random mismatched pans in your cupboards like I did for so long. You’ll thank me later!

Parchment Paper Rounds: These are a GAME CHANGER! Don’t try to cut your parchment paper in a perfectly round circle. Try these once and you’ll be hooked! The tab makes it SO easy to get your cake out! (Pro tip: spray the pan, set in parchment paper, spray again!)

Wire Racks: You’ll need wire racks to cool your cake after. Any type or brand will work!

Cake Leveler: If (and when) your cakes aren’t completely flat on top, this leveler will save the day! I tried using a serrated knife a few times, but this works a million times better!

Acrylic Cake Discs: Courtney has great videos on how to use these acrylic discs. These help you get that beautiful, crisp top edge with ease!

Icing Smoother: A must have! Make sure that the icing smoother you have is taller than the cake you’re making. This one works really well for the triple layer cakes I make!

Icing Spatulas: Repeat after me: don’t use a butter knife. Or a spoon. Or a random utensil from your drawer. Get a good icing spatula! Or two!

Cardboard Cake Rounds: Another game changer! These make it so easy to transfer your cake from the turntable, to freezer, or to cake stand. Plus it saves your stand from any scratches when you cut into the cake.

Wilton Icing Tips: The 1m icing tips are my favorite for adding any piping to my cakes! I have these Wilton tips and have loved them so far!

Piping Bags: These are necessary for any piping design! Grab disposable bags or reusable ones!

Cake Stands: You can never have too many cake stands 😉 I have two white cake stands that I use the most (it matches any party decor!) and I have a few other color / wood stands as well!

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Resources

There’s been A LOT of trial and error when it comes to making cakes! Here’s a few of my favorite resources that I’ve used to learn how to bake cakes, frost them, and decorate:

Cake by Courtney: Courtney has THE best posts and videos with frosting tips, baking tips for all altitudes, and she even has a virtual cake class for beginners and amateurs! Definitely worth looking into if you’re interested in cake making!

YouTube: I’ve learned a TON researching on youtube. I’ve looked up how to use my icing tips, how to make a flamingo cake, how to hold your icing scraper, EVERYTHING!

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Favorite Recipes

If you want THE BEST, tried and true cake recipes, head to Cake by Courtney. She gives lots of great baking and assembly tips, and her recipes are foolproof! I’ve tried a lot of others, but I always end up back using Courtney’s recipes. Here’s a few of my favorites:

Chocolate Cake
Vanilla Cake
Candy Bar Cake
French Apple Pie Cake

Every frosting recipe of Courtney’s has also been a hit! The buttercream frostings do use A LOT of butter, you’ve been warned! – but that’s why they’re so dang good, right? Definitely try her peanut butter frosting – it’s my FAVORITE on chocolate cake!

Vanilla Buttercream
Chocolate Buttercream
Peanut Butter Buttercream

Follow along on Instagram for more cake making behind the scenes!

Alexa Zurcher

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