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No-Piping-Required Birthday Cake Decorating Ideas

No-Piping-Required Birthday Cake Decorating Ideas - Parents Canada

Instagram and Pinterest aren’t doing anyone any favours when it comes to cake decorating. Search for birthday cake ideas and you’re quickly rewarded with a deluge of delightful but not exactly rookie-friendly ideas for the piece de resistance at your kiddo’s party. So close the browser window (no one needs to make perfect rosettes or fondant figurines) and look no further—here are three cute but simple solutions for the novice froster, piping tips not required.

Each of these ideas requires a simple chocolate or vanilla cake or cupcakes, and a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting. (Kitchen secret: Go for a boxed cake mix and homemade icing. A butter frosting—instead of store-bought, which is often oil-based—will work better for these cakes, and party guests will think the whole thing is from scratch.)

Cookie-cutter stencil cake

Cookie cutter stencil cake - parents canada 


  • Sprinkles
  • Cookie cutter(s)


1. Frost cooled cake or cupcakes with a thin layer of frosting (the cake should not show through).

2. Place cookie cutter(s) on cake and very gently press down. Leave in place.

3. Carefully spoon sprinkles into the cookie cutter (less is more, so that the pattern holds when you lift the cutter, but be sure to get the candies right to the edges of the shape). Using your fingers, press the sprinkles into the cake.

4. Very carefully lift the cookie cutter. Use the tip of a butter knife to remove or redirect any runaway sprinkles.

TIP  You can reverse the stencil as well. Press the sprinkles up to the outside of the cookie cutter instead of filling in, leaving the shape as negative space.

Candy rainbow cupcakes

Candy rainbow cupcakes - parents canada 


  • Blue or turquoise gel food colouring
  • Sour rainbow ribbon candy
  • Mini-marshmallows


1. Add a bit of food colouring to frosting; stir to incorporate. Frost cupcakes.

2. Cut ribbon candy to 1½- to 2-in. pieces. Bend each piece into a rainbow shape and press each end into the top of a cupcake.

3. Just before serving, rip or cut mini-marshmallows in half and mound on either end of the rainbow arch to make the clouds.

Tri-colour layer cake

Tri colour layer cake - parents canada 


  • Three colours of gel food colouring
  • A long, serrated knife


1. Mix the cake batter and divide  into three separate bowls.

2. Add a little gel colour to each of the bowls; stir to incorporate fully. (If you’d like to create an ombre effect, use the same colour in increasing amounts for each layer.) Scrape into greased cake pans and bake. Cool completely and remove from pans. Level the tops of the bottom two layers with the knife.

3. Spread a layer of icing on the first layer and stack the second cake on top. Repeat with remaining cake. Continue with frosting the outside of the cake.

*This cake will only work with a vanilla cake mix or recipe. A chocolate cake won’t show the colours.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Spring/Summer 2018

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