Candy. Ribbon. Flowers. These are some of the ways you can transform a cake from basic to beautiful.
1 of 10
These dazzling desserts start with a basic fondant or buttercream cake. Pick up one from a baker, then decorate it yourself. Here, we show you how.
Photography: Stephen Johnson2 of 10
Splash With Buds
Adorn a basic dessert, like this Swiss meringue buttercream-topped cake by Jeffrey Selden of Marcia Selden Catering with cheerful blooms that are 100 percent edible. (Those would be spider mums, pea shoots, and snapdragons!) Sprinkle them on a group of smaller confections to punch up a multicake display, which can be more budget-friendly than one towering version. It also lets you showcase a variety of flavors.
Photography: Jonny Valiant3 of 10
Serve Up Sparkle
A towering cake isn’t the only way to add drama to dessert. A single glittering tier can also capture the spotlight. This chocolate-and-caramel treat is iced in glossy fondant and topped with a smattering of edible luster dust, then wrapped with a copper mesh ribbon. Big wedding? Group several together for a decadent spread, or provide each table with its own confectionery centerpiece.
4 of 10
Pile On Cherries
Summer's sweetest fruit looks ripe for the eating scattered across thick layers of buttercream spread on with an offset spatula. To sugarcoat these rosy delights, paint each with a light layer of egg white, dust with granulated sugar while still wet, and let dry. Hand out pieces of cake (vanilla with cherry-jam filling, perhaps?) alongside a bright and refreshing Champagne-and-grenadine cocktail.
5 of 10
There’s a secret to this blossom-draped dessert: The big-impact blooms are made of tissue paper (by Livia Cetti). And while this cake is high on style, it’s low on effort. Just insert the wire stem of each lifelike bud into the cake. Underneath this tropical exterior, anything goes. Our suggestion? Something exotic, like coconut with passion fruit filling.
Swipe here for next slide
6 of 10
Trim With Paper
Swags, laurel wreaths, rosettes, and feathers—fashioned out of silver metallic paper—are pinned to fondant-covered tiers. Purchase the embellishments from artist Denise Sharp at Studio d.Sharp, or try your own hand at making them. Inside, consider the classics—chocolate, vanilla, or a mixture of both.
8 of 10
Top With Ribbon
Pulling off this gift-wrapped style is almost as easy as tying your shoe: Wind ribbon (here, we used Swiss-dot and taffeta satin ribbons from Mokuba New York) around four fondant-covered tiers and secure the ends with pearl-head pins. Crown the whole thing with a bow, and use coordinating fabric as a tablecloth. Martha Stewart Weddings food editor Elizabeth Colling loves when a cake’s exterior reflects its interior: Echo the sunny facade with a lemon filling.
9 of 10
Layer On Leis
These sophisticated cakes are simply strung with store-bought Hawaiian garlands. Order several floral varieties—keep them elegantly monochromatic—and attach them with pins to many small cakes. Carry the floral notes through by infusing vanilla cake with rose water or chocolate with orange-blossom water. Be sure to remove the leis before serving.
10 of 10
Press On Candy
All it takes to chase the rainbow is a buttercream-frosted confection with four layers, and eight shades of milk chocolate lentils. Refrigerate the cake to firm up the icing, then add candy. Complete the bottom row, then work vertically in columns to cover the tier's lower half. Fill in the upper portion with a lighter hue, and move up. For a real dose of decadence, opt for chocolate cake and filling.
Swipe here for next slide