Kids love to decorate cakes! Plus they make great blank canvases for creativity. Here are lots of tips and ideas for kids cake decorating at different ages, toddlers through tweens.
We like our celebrations around here. And for us a celebration is usually a good excuse to bake a pie or decorate a cake. And then balloons, flowers, and a dance party have a way of getting thrown in, too, just because momentum has already been gained with the cake thing.
Other times we bake and decorate a cake, just because, and then it turns a non-occasion into a celebration.
Because hey, cake.
This was one of those times.
While I was in the middle of book edits a couple of months ago (i.e. too busy to cook or clean or do much of anything with the kids*), Maia and Daphne asked if they could decorate a cake. One large cake turned into two little ones, so they could each decorate their own.
Maia whipped up our favorite chocolate cake recipe, and a vanilla buttercream frosting, and the kids had a blast decorating their own cakes.
Since both have been in the kitchen since young, and decorating cakes almost as long, and since Maia has watched more than her share of Craftsy cake decorating videos, the whole thing turned into a major cake decorating extravaganza. All while I sat at the computer and worked on edits, occasionally jumping up to take a photo.
*The painful irony being that the book was about doing stuff with the kids.
Kids Cake Decorating Ideas
We’ve baked all kinds of cakes, starting when the kids were young, and decorated them lots of different ways. We have made everything from theme cakes, shape cakes, nest cakes with paper birds sitting on top, tiered cakes, and rainbow bundt cakes. We’ve tried all kinds of frostings and decorations. We have used cakes and cupcakes as blank canvases for cake art multiple times, in multiple ways. And the kids have made and decorated their own birthday cakes (with help) from toddlerhood.
Here are 6 CAKE DECORATING IDEAS that are easy and fun for children:
- Draw pictures on a frosted cake with writer icing (as with this outer space cake or this flower anytime celebration cake)
- Decorate a frosted cake with small items such as sprinkles, tiny candies, dried fruits, fresh berries, nuts, or edible flowers
- Add paper artwork to a cake with skewers (as with this paper bird perched on top of a spring nest cake)
- Make a mini bunting and hang it over the cake between two bamboo skewers
- And, of course, kids can use a piping bag and decorating tips to make icing stars, flowers, and other piped designs on their cakes as Maia and Daphne did in the photos above. It takes some practice and no one (child or adult) should expect perfection their first few times. Maia learned by watching cake decorating videos and practicing on parchment paper and multiple cakes.
- If you have multiple kids as for a party or large family, you may want to decorate cupcakes, mini cakes (baked in child-sized baking tins), or a single cake layer.
What About Food Coloring?
We have usually used regular food coloring, whether for baking rainbow cakes or decorating the cakes, and not worried about it too much since it was a once-in-a-while kind of thing. However, many people are concerned about the chemicals in food coloring, especially with children. If this is you, natural alternatives are more widely available now and at better prices than before. Here are some you might want to consider:
Natural Food Coloring Alternatives
- McCormick Color From Nature (I just ordered this one to try)
- Watkins Food Coloring, No Artificial Dyes
- India Tree Nature’s Colors Carnival Sprinkles
Kids Cake Decorating Tips by Age
I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned over the years including tips by age. (If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below!)
Cake Decorating Tips for Little Kids, Ages 2 to 5
Little kids LOVE to help in the kitchen! They can help you bake a cake, they can help spread icing on the cake, and they can decorate the cake.
- Think of process over product, as we do with kids’ art. Let the kids enjoy the process of decorating the cake and don’t worry if the finished product does not look like it belongs in a magazine.
- Offer small amounts of the decorating supplies, whether it is a small bowl of candies, sprinkles, or berries. ALL of what you offer is likely to be used.
- You can also have the already cake frosted and let the kids use it like a blank canvas.
- To keep the sugar content down, you can reduce the sugar in most cakes by half and they will taste fine. Frost the cake with a sweetened whipped cream and let the child decorate it with fresh berries.
- Consider outfitting the kiddo with a cooking apron and real child-sized kitchen tools. The website For Small Hands is a great resource for real kitchen tools for kids at reasonable prices.
Cake Decorating Tips for Big Kids, Ages 6 to 8
Big kids can own the process of decorating their cake, including applying the icing, choosing the decorations, and executing their vision. Again think of process over product, as mentioned above. They may welcome help and advice, or they may want to try it all themselves.
- Let them decide on their own vision for the cake. You can help by providing the materials, tools, and (sometimes) advice.
- Kids of this age can make the frosting with your help, and tint it with food coloring if appropriate.
- Big kids can frost the cake themselves but may appreciate learning a few techniques or your help ensuring that it’s evenly covered.
- If they want to make flowers, stars, and other designs, they can begin to use decorating tips. You can help them put the frosting in icing bags, show them how to use the tips (practice on parchment paper or a plate first), and then let them do it themselves. It’s okay if it’s not perfect!
Cake Decorating for Preteens and Up
Tweens and teens can own the entire process, especially if they have some experience in the kitchen. They can bake the cake themselves, whether from a recipe or a mix, and make the frosting. They can decide on, and execute their vision. They can test and tweak recipes, take photos, and plan ahead to next time they want to bake and decorate a cake. And they can watch cake decorating tutorials for specific techniques or ideas.
For Maia’s unicorn cake, she used white fondant to cover her cake and also to make the ears and unicorn horn (tinted with food coloring and then twisted around a bamboo skewer). The face is drawn on with black writer icing and the unicorn hair was made with pink and yellow rosettes piped on.
Where to Find Cake Decorating Videos and Tutorials:
- Wilton has a entire how-to video gallery of cake decorating tips and tutorials
- Bluprint’s cake decorating classes, both free and paid (surprisingly inexpensive and worth it!), are what Maia watched the most when she got started
- YouTube is obviously a font of all kinds of how-to everything, including cake decorating
One thing I can promise you is that the kids will LOVE baking and decorating their own cakes! Probably as much as eating them.
Basic Cake Decorating Products
A few basic products you might want to consider as you begin your cake decorating fun.
- Wilton Beginner Basic Gel Icing Colors Set, 5-Piece (includes gel food coloring, sprinkles, spatula, and flower decorations) – Or see the natural food coloring options mentioned above
- Wilton 9-Piece Tip Starter Set
- Disposable Decorating Bags, 2-Piece
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