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Wedding Cake Terminology


Basket weave:  A piping technique that features interwoven vertical and horizontal lines (like a wicker basket).


Beading: A border along the edge of tiers that resembles tiny pearls.


Buttercream:   A smooth, creamy icing that stays soft so it's easy to cut through. It can be colored and/or flavored. Also used to create piping, swags and other borders, as well as decorative rosettes. It can be used as filling too.
Knot Note: Buttercream is made from butter (as its name implies), so it may melt in extreme heat or humidity


Cornelli:  An elaborate piping technique that yields a lace-like pattern.


Dragees: Round, edible sugar balls coated with silver or gold and used for decorative purposes.


Ganache:A sweet, rich chocolate, denser than mousse but less dense than fudge, which can be used as icing or filling.

Knot Note: Because ganache is made of chocolate and heavy cream, it will soften in very humid weather.


Gum paste: This paste of sugar, cornstarch and gelatin is used to mold realistic-looking fruits and flowers to garnish a cake. Gum paste decorations are edible and will last for years as keepsakes, but some say they don't taste as yummy as marzipan.

Latticework: A piping detail that crisscrosses with an open pattern.

Marzipan: A paste made of ground almonds, sugar and egg whites, used to mold edible flowers or fruit to decorate the cake. Marzipan can also be rolled in sheets, like fondant, and used as icing.

Petal dust:  Adds sparkle or sheen to a cake.

Pillars: Separators used in a tiered cake. They can be made of plastic or wood in several lengths to achieve the desired look.

Piping: Decorative technique created using a pastry bag and various metal tips. Piping details include leaves, borders, basket-weave patterns and flowers.


Pulled sugar:  A technique in which boiled sugar is manipulated and pulled to produce flowers and bows.


Royal icing: Made of egg whites and confectioner sugar, this icing starts life as a soft paste piped from a pastry bag to create latticework, beading, bows and flowers.


Knot Note:  When dry, its texture is hard and brittle – so don't refrigerate.


Swiss dot:  A piping technique that forms tiny dots in random patterns that resemble a fine dot Swiss fabric.


Torte: A dense cake that does not use leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda.


Whipped cream:  Heavy cream beaten to achieve a thick consistency.


Knot Note: Whipped cream must be kept refrigerated and doesn't work very well as an icing – it's unstable and not recommended for outdoor weddings.



Buttercream:  It’s rich and creamy, is easily colored or flavored, and is used for fancy decorations like shells, swags, basketweaves, icing flowers, etc. Since it’s made almost entirely of butter (hence the name), buttercream has a tendency to melt in extreme heat, so it’s not recommended for outdoor weddings.


Fondant:  Martha Stewart’s favorite. This icing looks smooth and stiff and is made with gelatin and corn syrup to give it its helmet-like appearance (it’s really very cool looking). It looks best when decorated with marzipan fruits, gum paste flowers, or a simple ribbon, like Martha likes to do. Although not as tasty as buttercream or ganache, fondant does not need refrigeration so it’s the perfect icing to serve at your beach wedding.

Royal Icing:
A mix of confectioner’s sugar and milk or egg whites, royal icing is what the faces of gingerbread men are decorated with. It’s white, shiny and hard, and does not need to be refrigerated. It’s used for decorations like dots and latticework.


Ganache: This chocolate and heavy cream combination is very dark, and has the consistency of store-bought chocolate icing. It can be poured over cakes for a glass-like chocolate finish or used as filling (it stands up wonderfully between cake layers). Due to the ingredients, however, it’s unstable—don’t use it in hot or humid weather or the icing will slide right off the cake.


Whipped Cream:  Delicious, but by far the most volatile, fresh whipped cream is usually not recommended for wedding cakes because they have to be out of the fridge for so long. If you really want to use it (it looks extremely white and fresh, which goes beautifully with real flowers) just keep it in the fridge until the very last second.



Marzipan:  An Italian paste made of almonds, sugar and egg whites that is molded into flowers and fruits to decorate the cake. They’re usually brightly colored and very sugary. Marzipan can also be used as icing.


Gum Paste:  This paste, made from gelatin, cornstarch, and sugar, produces the world’s most realistic, edible fruit and flower decorations. Famous cake designers like Sylvia Weinstock are huge fans of gum paste. One nice benefit: these decorations last for centuries in storage.


Piping:  Piping is ideal for icing decorations like dotted Swiss, basketweave, latticework, and shells. It comes out of a pastry bag fitted with different tips to create these different looks, which can range from simple polka dots to a layered weave that you’d swear is a wicker basket.


Pulled Sugar:  If you boil sugar, water, and corn syrup it becomes malleable and the most beautiful designs can be created. Roses and bows that have been made from pulled sugar look like silk or satin—they’re so smooth and shiny.


Dragees:  Hard little sugar balls are painted with edible gold or silver paint, and they look truly stunning on a big ol’ wedding cake.



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