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  • Writer's pictureVicky

What equipment do I need to decorate a cake?

Palette knives, smoothers, turntable... How do you know what you need to decorate a cake? And what can you do if you don't have those things? Never fear, I'm here to help!

The amount of specialist equipment in cake decorating is incredible. You can get a tool for everything! But what does that mean if you are a beginner or maybe you are doing a cake as a one-off and you don’t know if you are ready to invest in any fancy equipment? I’m going to share with you my top tips for how you can decorate a cake using buttercream with things you’ll already have in your home.


In the first 2 parts of my blog series on Cake Decorating for beginners, I started with the lists of the equipment I find super useful when it comes to decorating cakes, especially fondant cakes. And if you check out any other list, like this one from Windsor Cake Craft, they’ll give you pretty much the same thing.

All this stuff is nice to have and when you are decorating a cake with fondant they are really helpful and there's not much you can do to get around using them.

But I fully believe that when you are decorating a cake with buttercream, you can make something totally lovely without splashing the cash on equipment.


The things it would be nice to have when decorating a cake with buttercream include:

  • Off-set palette knife

  • Turntable

  • Cake leveller

  • Smoother

But let’s see if we can’t get you shared with some decorating straight away with these simples swaps!


Things are a lot easier if you have something to adhere to. A cake board would be ideal but not necessary. If you have a cake place or stand that would work well, as long as they are flat. Or if not, you can try a chopping board - just make sure it’s clean (and hasn’t been used for cutting raw meat!)


Whizzing your cake around on a turntable makes smoothing your buttercream super quick and easy but it’s not essential. Anything that will help you move your cake about will work. For example, a square of baking paper to pop your cake board onto works well. This stops the board from sticking to your work surface and helps you slide the cake about.


If you don’t have a cake leveller to slice the tops of those cakes off, all you need is a serrated knife and a steady hand! If you are like me and can’t cut in a straight line, a couple of cocktail sticks in place will help guide you. This handy video will show you how to do it.


An offset palette knife is perfect for spreading your buttercream both inside and outside the cake. But as long as you have a smooth knife, like a butter knife, you’ll be ready to go!


A cake smoother is used to smooth down your buttercream (hence the name - very clever!) but anything that is slightly taller than your cake and has a straight edge will do just nicely. A ruler is very handy for using to smooth down your cake - just make sure it’s clean! Or just keep using your rounded knife.

But actually, your cake doesn’t even need to be smooth! Whip around the outside with a fork to get some stripes going, or use the fork to score your cake to create some texture.

So there you go! You don’t need to have loads of specialist equipment to make a beautifully finished buttercream cake! Just use what you have and get creative :) Let me know if you use any of these swaps and how you get on.

Loads of love,


Want to have a go at using your new-found equipment and learn how to make your own beautiful & delicious Buttercream cakes? Check out my new ONLINE COURSE!

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