Simple Buttercream Borders

Simple Buttercream Borders

Ever since I started decorating cakes, I have had this love affair with borders.  I know that sounds strange, but I love looking at buttercream borders on cakes.  To me, the border can really make a plain cake look special.

Since I don't do video, I want to share a couple of youtube channels where you can watch some very talented buttercream decorators.  The first one is Liz Larson.  Liz was a grocery cake decorator and shares a wealth of information on how to quickly pipe buttercream cakes.  The other channel is Roland Winbeckler.  Roland is a legend in the cake decorating world.  He definitely does things old-school. He has a few buttercream tutorials on his channel that are well worth watching.

Shell Borders

One of the simplest and most common buttercream border is the shell border (or some variation).  This border is done by holding your piping bag at about a 45 degree angle and letting your icing build up a bit before you ease the pressure and pull away. 

 Here is the shell border shown with a #18 tip and a #21 tip:
shell border

Shell border with #32 tip:
buttercream shell border

Shell border with #199 tip:
199 shell border

And with a #5 writing tip:
bead border

You see that the piping and pressure control are the same, but you get completely different looks depending on what tip is used.

Variations on the Shell Border

There are several things that can be added to a shell border to "jazz it up" a bit.

You can add a dot of a different color in between each shell
shell border with dot

or you can add a star:
shell border with star

You can do what I refer to as the "over-under" which is a line piped with a writing tube that goes over a shell, then under the next one, then over, then under, etc.  Then, go back to the first shell and reverse the order so that they criss cross:
shell border with lines

This works really well when you have 3 main colors that you can carry through to the border:
shell border

One way to embellish a bottom shell border is to pipe simple arches above them and on the cake board.  Here, I show a #199 shell border with arches piped with #18:
buttercream border

Once you are ready to move beyond the simple straight shell, try a reverse shell.  Start by piping a shell where the "puff" is curved to the right:
reverse shell

Then pipe the next one with the puff in the opposite direction:
reverse shell

reverse shell

A variation of this is the double reverse shell.  This is done by piping 2 puffs in one direction, then reversing:
double reverse shell

To take this one step further, pipe another shell on top of the double so it looks like a triple shell:
reverse shell

Other types of Buttercream Borders

The rope border is well suited for a basketweave cake, a western or cowboy themed cake, nautical cake or masculine cake.  I used a #32 to pipe this rope border.  Start with a loose backward "S" shape:
rope border

Then, place the tip under the curve of the "S" and pipe over the tail of the 1st one:
rope border

rope border

Two very simple borders are the Zig-Zag and Puff borders.  The zig-zag border on the top was piped with a #18 tip by keeping steady pressure and moving the bag back and forth along the top edge.  The botton Puff border is piped with a #32.  You make the zig-zag motion but start with easy pressure then build to heavy pressure in the middle and back to easy pressure to ease away.
simple buttercream borders

The leaf tip #70 makes a very pretty ribbon like border.  I made this border by using a shell-type motion but without building up a "puff".

The e-motion border is made pretty much how it sounds.  Take a star-tip (in this case #14) and keep steady pressure while you pipe in a motion like a cursive "e".
e-motion border

You can add to this with a row of dots above and below the e-motion border:
e-motion border with beads

Simple scroll design for sides:

This is one of the simplest scroll designs that I know of.  Start by piping a wavy line.  Make sure the waves are not too close together.
simple scrolls

Then, pipe a backward "c" in each curve:
simple scrolls

Then, go back over the "c" and use heavier pressure on the start of the "c":
simple scrolls

Then, go back and pipe extra embellishments to fancy it up:
simple scrolls


Bottom Leaf ribbon border with dots - Top shell border:
buttercream cake Senatobia MS

Top Rope border - bottom shell border:
Easter Cake

Top Over-Under border:
buttercream borders

Bottom Puff border
puff border

Top border Reverse Shell:
reverse shell border


Grooms Cakes

Grooms Cakes

Grooms cakes are a southern tradition.  Who can forget the red velvet armadillo grooms cake from the movie "Steel Magnolias".  Did you know that the tradition of the grooms cake actually goes back to Victorian times in England.  It was a cake made with fruit and usually some type of alcohol.  Supposedly, it was cut by the bridegroom and served to the bridesmaids with wine before going to the church.  

Grooms cakes can either be served as the dessert at the rehearsal dinner or
Senatobia MS cake
enjoyed by wedding guests at the reception.  Chocolate seems to be the most popular flavor choice for grooms cakes; however, just about any flavor will work. 

Nintendo cake
In some cases, the grooms cake is ordered by the bride as a surprise for her groom.  These cakes usually represent something of interest to the groom or to their relationship.  The grooms cake can be a little less formal than the wedding cake and many couples use it to reflect their personality.

Senatobia MS cake

Sometimes, the groom would prefer to have an undecorated "dessert style" cake like a:

Carrot Cake
carrot cake
or Poured Chocolate Ganache Cake
chocolate cake
or Buttermilk Caramel Cake
buttermilk caramel cake


Budget Friendly Wedding Cakes

Budget Friendly Wedding Cakes

Senatobia MS wedding cake
I recently developed a line of two-tiered wedding cakes that are semi-customizable - geared for the bride and groom who want a nice, fresh (non-grocery) cake for their wedding but are working with a very limited budget.  These wedding cakes are available in my local region of Senatobia, MS and surrounding area.

This budget wedding cake line consists of 5 beautiful designs from which to choose.  These wedding cakes are created to be subsequently customized by the bride and groom.  The wedding cakes are 2-tiers and can serve about 35-40 people.  The size cannot be changed.  My normal price for a custom 2-tiered wedding cake of this size starts at $2.50 per serving.  For these 5 designs only, the price has been reduced to $80, which is a 20% savings.  These cakes are perfect for a small wedding or combine them with one of my wedding kitchen cakes or sheet cake for more servings.


Senatobia MS wedding cake
Each cake is made fresh with real buttercream frosting, made with real butter (not the chemical stuff like the *mart uses).  Each tier consists of 2 cake layers with a filling of homemade vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  You have the option of vanilla cake or white almond cake flavor.  Vanilla is well, vanilla.  White almond is vanilla with a hint of almond flavor (think almond wedding cookies).  The frosting is my signature vanilla buttercream.

Each cake is delivered on a 1/2-inch thick silver colored cake drum and is ready for you to customize with ribbon, flowers, topper, etc.  The pictures below show each of the 5 design options as well as some ideas to show how you can customize them.  NOTE:  Ribbons, flowers and other embellishments are not included.  You can add these after the cake is delivered.

Design Options

budget wedding cake Senatobia MS

Basketweave - 
This is a contemporary, fresh take on the classic basketweave pattern.  

budget wedding cake in Senatobia MS
Fondant Hearts - Smooth iced buttercream with fondant hearts decoration.  You get to pick the color of the hearts.

Senatobia MS wedding cake

Rustic- Perfect for your rustic or country themed wedding.

Senatobia MS wedding

Petal - Popular petal design on top tier.

Senatobia MS wedding
Rose - Swirl rose pattern on top tier for that shabby chic look.

If you are planning to add a ribbon to the bottom of each tier, let me know when you order and I will omit the bottom “inside” border.  That will make it easier to place the ribbon and get it straight.  IMPORTANT:  If you plan on using one of those wedding cake toppers made of glass, ceramic, etc., you will need to add support under it.  You do this by inserting 1-3 straws under the topper in order to keep it from sinking into the cake.  (Cut the straws even with the top of the cake).

These cakes are also appropriate for bridal showers, anniversary parties or birthdays with the right customization.


Sheet Cakes

Sheet Cakes

Ahh, the lowly sheet cake.  I was very surprised to find out some time ago that many custom cake decorators refuse to make sheet cakes.  They see the sheet cake as beneath them.  Why has this form of cake gotten such a bad rep?  My theory is that the sheet cake reminds them of W*mart or grocery store cakes - they equate sheet cakes with low price and/or inferior quality or skill.  If you think that sheet cakes are boring and ugly, I hope this post changes your mind.


As a decorator, sheet cakes can be challenging.  The height of the cake is a regional preference.  Where I live, a sheet cake is 1-layer, about 2 inches tall. This limited cake height can make it difficult to do anything with the sides are than just smooth ice them.  Here are a few sheet cakes where I did do something different with the sides.
buttercream sheet cake

In this chocolate sheet cake with marshmallow flowers, the sides are decorated with a star tip (like #18) in a vertical pattern.

July 4 cake
In this Independence Day themed cake, I piped a simple pattern of string work on the sides.

Many decorators have a hard time figuring out how to fill the top of the cake with a pleasing design.  One thing I see written on cake decorating forums is "How do I fill up all that space?"  

If my client wants me to come up with a design on my own, I start by asking myself these questions:
  • what type of event is this cake for
  • are there any techniques that I have been wanting to use
  • are there any specific colors that I need to use

For example, I was asked to make a sheet cake for a baby shower.  We knew the baby was a girl, the colors were going to be pink and purple, and the party plates/decorations had baby feet on them.  Based on that information, here is the design I came up with:
baby shower cake Senatobia MS

When I offered to make the cake for my brother-in-laws birthday, the only specific request was that it be a strawberry cake.  I knew my brother-in-law likes Bud Light beer and I had been wanting to do one of those "gravity-defying" floating can cakes so here is what I came up with:
floating beer can cake

This cake also gave me a chance to try out my new cake airbrush.  

I was asked to make a sheet cake for a birthday cake for an 80th birthday party.  The two requirements was that the cake needed to be dark blue and include daisies (favorite color and flower of birthday girl).  I came up with a design that my client and the birthday girl both loved.
buttercream sheet cake

graduation cake Senatobia MS

The sheet cake works particularly well for graduations

birthday cake Senatobia MS

and children's birthdays.

The sheet cake is very versatile and is a great way to provide cake for a large but informal party.  I would definitely take issue with anyone that thinks the above cakes are boring or ugly.  

So...don't be hatin' on the sheet cake :)