1. Don’t have a Lazy Susan? Take out the glass plate and wheel from your microwave for easy spinning while you decorate.
2. To keep your cake from sliding around as you decorate, spread a dollop of icing on the stand before placing your cake on it and let harden.
3. Pass off a grocery store cake as homemade by ordering a plain frosted cake. (Or if time is not on your side, place a decorated cake in the freezer for an hour and then slice off the rosettes with a serrated knife.) You’ll have a clean slate for your own designs.
4. Make your cake look like it has a glossy fondant coating with just a container of store-bought frosting. Set cake on a baking rack over a cutting board. Microwave the icing so it’s melted but not hot. (Try two 15-second bursts.) Let cool. Pour one-quarter of the icing over the cake in a circular motion. Let set, about 10 minutes. Repeat until you’ve used up all the icing.
5. Lay strips of parchment around your cake to protect your platter from smears of icing while you decorate. (Remove before the big reveal.)
6. Liquid food colouring is water based, which means you’ll need to add more of it for a bold hue. Gel food colouring (great for making watercolour cakes!) is very concentrated, so mix in a little bit at a time.
7. To make sure your stencil won’t stick to the frosting, place your iced cake in the freezer for 30 minutes.
8. To make a flat-topped cake (like this numbered cake), refrigerate it until firm and then trim off the domed portion with a long serrated knife.
A version of this article appeared in our April 2016 issue with the headline "Piece of cake", p. 51.