How to Become a Cake Decorator in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a cake decorator. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Baking & Pastry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cake Decorator?

Cake decorators study the art of decoration and of crafting specialty cakes. Typically, they must work very closely with clients to clearly understand their vision for the cake that they want. Decorators make these visions come to life by using advanced decorating techniques. Some decorators may specialize in a certain type of cake design, like wedding or birthday cakes. Decorators may work for a bakery or catering company, while some others may own their own business. The following chart gives you an overview about career requirements for cake decorators.

Degree Required Post-secondary certificate or associate's degree
Training Required On-the-job training may be considered in lieu of formal education; apprenticeships may be available
Education Field of Study Baking and pastry arts, cake decorating
Certification Professional certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% for bakers*
Median Salary (2015) $24,170 for bakers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Cake Decorator?

Cake decorators are often seen as artists. As a cake decorator you'll learn to bake cakes and decorate them. Using buttercream, gum paste, fondant and fresh flowers you'll decorate cakes for weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. Using fondant, you'll learn how to mold decorative flowers, animals and other ornaments for cake toppers. You'll also learn how to use various instruments to pipe icing, create designs and repair ornate or elaborate cakes in the event of an accident.

Step 1: Gain Experience as a Cake Decorator

If school isn't an immediate option, you may begin practicing at home for friends and relatives. Resources you can consider include television shows, DVD tutorials, books and magazines that offer tips for beginners. Wilton, the industry standard, also provides cookbooks and how-to books for amateur cake decorators. You can also seek out books for additional ideas and inspiration.

Step 2: Work in a Local Bakery

Many supermarket bakeries hire people with little or no experience. If you're interested in becoming a cake decorator and want to gain professional experience, this is an option that allows you to see what a career in baking and decorating will involve. You may also be able to begin decorating with a local baker who needs additional help meeting the demanding decorations. This option could also include on-the-job training.

Step 3: Enter a Certificate Program

At some point, you'll likely want to take a cake decoration class. Many colleges offer certificate programs in cake decorating. These programs are for you if you have little or no experience decorating cakes. You'll need to purchase your own equipment and ingredients, but these programs tend to focus on smoothing buttercream, using fondant, molding fondant, making and using royal frosting, adding borders and designing edible flowers. Importantly, you'll gain hands-on experience under the guidance of a professional cake decorator.

Step 4: Continue Your Education

Having a formal education in cake decorating increases your chance of securing employment. Many vocational and community colleges offer associate's degree programs in baking and pastry arts. These programs cover cake decorating, but they mainly focus on general baking techniques. This type of program is especially beneficial if you intend to begin your own company or if you want to bake more than cakes.

Step 5: Earn Certification

The American Culinary Federation offers four certifications for baking professionals: Certified Pastry Culinarian, Certified Working Pastry Chef, Certified Executive Pastry Chef and Certified Master Pastry Chef (www.acfchefs.org). If you're interested in a certification more specifically for cake decorators, the Retail Bakers of America offers a Certified Decorator credential (www.retailbakersofamerica.org). This certification allows you to work with customers, trains you to understand safety and sanitation, and tests you on your icing and decorating skills.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Depending on an individual's interests, there are a number of other food and dessert-related careers available. For individuals who wish to be in charge of a staff, they could pursue a career as an executive chef or pastry chef, a role in which they would direct a number of cooking staff. They could also choose a career in food preparation, in which they would be responsible for a number of tasks like preparing coffee, making cold foods, and cutting and chopping vegetables and fruits.

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