Cake Decorating: How to Be a Professional Cake Decorator

Research the requirements to become a cake decorator. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in cake decorating.

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Do I Want to Be a Cake Decorator?

Cake decorators design, construct and embellish baked goods. Along with expertise in decorating techniques, this career depends highly on creativity and manual dexterity. Cake decorators often work in retail bakeries to create cakes and pastries for all occasions, such as weddings or birthdays. In addition to icing, frosting or piping these baked goods, common job duties include providing customer service, tracking supply inventory and maintaining clean work areas. This occupation may become stressful when important deadlines hover.

Job Requirements

There is no strict career path for becoming a cake decorator, but formal training and apprenticeship programs in baking, pastry arts or culinary arts are available. The following table outlines common requirements described by employers in July 2012 job posts:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No degree required, though a certificate or associate degree could expand career opportunities
Degree Field Cake decorating, culinary arts, baking and pastry arts
Certification Voluntary certification is available from the Retail Bakers of America
Experience Varies by employer; requirements range from six months to five years
Key Skills Creativity, manual dexterity, a sense of taste and smell, customer service skills, an attention to detail
Additional Requirements A portfolio containing photos of finished cakes could also be required

Step 1: Complete a Formal Training Program

Some professional cake decorators prepare for this occupation by completing certificate programs in cake decorating or baking. Associate degree programs in pastry or culinary arts are also available and could be coupled with an apprenticeship component, where students gain up to 6,000 hours of work experience under the supervision of skilled chefs and bakers.

Pastry and baking courses in these programs can cover such decorating techniques as airbrushing, piping and the use of gumpaste and fondant. Many also incorporate topics in baking and sanitation. These training opportunities are commonly offered by culinary schools, technical institutes, community colleges and even professional organizations like the American Culinary Federation.

Success Tips

  • Practice at home. While enrolled in their formal training programs, aspiring cake decorators can improve and refine their skills by decorating cakes at home. Volunteering to decorate cakes for family and social gatherings can be one way to practice methods and techniques outside of school.

Step 2: Get Work Experience

A search of July 2012 job posts revealed that entry-level cake decorator positions were often with retail grocery store chains. In many cases, these employers stated that relevant education would satisfy experience requirements. After getting their foot in the door and working for two or more years with these companies, cake decorators could move on to positions with luxury hotels, bakeries and cake shops. These jobs might also come with some baking responsibilities.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Cake decorators can demonstrate their skills and advance in the field by obtaining voluntary professional certification. The Retail Bakers of America offers a Certified Decorator designation to applicants with at least four years of experience preparing icing, decorating cakes and serving customers in commercial bakeries. Along with passing a 1-day practical examination, certification candidates must have completed an approved food sanitation course.

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