Year of the Dog Birthday Cake
Year of the Dog Birthday Cake

People often ask me, “How long did that take?” or “What goes into making a cake?”

Before I entered the decorating world, I had no idea about the extensive process that is behind each cake.

I will say that a “simple” buttercream cake (meaning, just iced with maybe “Happy Birthday” written on top and a simple border) takes at least 5 hours of active work. A plain fondant covered cake takes closer to 6 hours of active work, and the more decorated cakes can take up to 16 hours plus. For example, the two-tiered elephant cake took at least 16 hours from start to finish.

(non-active work includes things like baking/cooling times for cakes, and resting time for fondant)

Keep in mind – I am calculating total time here, meaning from the time that I meet with a client to the time they pick up the cake.

I have outlined major steps in this post . . . for a more detailed answer (not for the faint of heart – honestly, it’s the longest post I’ve ever written) you can check it out here.

Step 1: Meet with the client.

This includes all discussions about cake flavors, cake design, colors, booking a date, etc.

Step 2: Research and shop.

This includes any researching I may do for design inspiration, techniques to use for decorating. I also take time to shop – this includes ingredients, supplies and tools.

Step 3: Plan out the project.

I like to “map out” each project . . . this involves sketching out the design, making a list of “to-do’s” etc.


Step 4: Make fondant and modeling chocolate.

These need to be made in advance, and usually I will make them early in the week if the cake is due on a weekend.

Step 5: Make decorations that need time to dry.

Fondant decorations need time to dry and harden before you can place them on a cake. I always make these at least two days in advance. It’s also key to make any modeling chocolate figurines/decorations – sometimes a week or more in advance!

Old Man out of Modeling Chocolate!
Old Man out of Modeling Chocolate!

Step 6: Bake the cake.

I usually bake in the middle of the week after work. Yes, I will make the cakes after working a 12-hour shift . . . because I am just that crazy! It really works out best for my schedule. This can also be done in advance, because cakes can be chilled.

Step 7: Level and trim cakes.

I learned a great method from Joshua John Russell’s free(!) Craftsy class, “Modern Buttercream” I really got a grasp on the basics of making/building cakes here.

Step 8: Prepare frosting.

Step 9: Stack, fill and chill the cake.

a crumb coated cake
a crumb coated cake

Step 10: Flip the cake and frost!

Yes . . . it’s true. I turn all of my cakes upside-down. I always wondered how cake decorators got those amazing sharp edges on buttercream cakes, and then I learned something called the upside-down method. There’s a great tutorial on Jessica Harris’ Craftsy class, “Clean and Simple Cake Design” if you want to check it out!

Step 11: Chill the cake again, flip it right-side up, and do a final smoothing..

Step 12: Decorate buttercream cake or move on to fondant.

If its just a buttercream cake, we’re done 🙂 Or, it’s time to get ready for adding fondant.

Step 13: Apply fondant, smooth and trim.


Step 14: Apply decorations, or start to stack a tiered cake.

This is where I would either add fondant/MC (modeling chocolate) decorations for a single cake and be finished. If making a two-tiered cake, I would prepare a cake base by covering it with fondant, then place internal structure (dowels or bubble tea straws) into the bottom tier. Then begin stacking . . .

Step 15: Decorate!

After stacking the tiered cake, time to decorate!

Step 16: Document!

I try (key word here) to have my cakes finished when there is still good sunlight coming in, so that I can get a good picture. Gotta document!

Step 17: Clean the kitchen 🙂

After making a decorated cake, my kitchen usually looks like a bomb went off. Time to clean!


4 Comments on What goes into a cake?

  1. kelly
    February 8, 2015 at 5:36 pm (4 years ago)

    Great job Sarah on the website. Your cakes are beautiful.

    • SprinkledCakes85
      February 8, 2015 at 6:33 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks so much, Kelly!

  2. Jancie
    February 8, 2015 at 9:53 pm (4 years ago)

    Great work Sarah!!!!! Love the blog!

    Beautiful and delicious cakes!!!!!

    • SprinkledCakes85
      February 9, 2015 at 7:17 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks Jancie!


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