13 Easy, Pretty Ways to Top a Cake

published May 16, 2017
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The actual baking of a cake has never intimidated me — it’s the decorating part. I don’t have a knack for anything like fancy piped buttercream flowers, so more often than not I forgo baking a cake altogether in fear of it never looking celebratory enough. The truth is, though, you definitely don’t need professional cake tools to make a cake that rivals the best bakery in town. What you really need is just a bit of ingenuity. These 13 clever cake toppers are not just dead simple — they are also dead gorgeous. (And you probably have many of the supplies already have in your pantry!)

1. Top it with edible flowers.

Pick a color mix of edible flowers (like pansies, nasturtiums, and marigolds) to pile on top of a cake for a romantic, fresh look. Place them on the cake just before you’re ready to bring it out so that the flowers don’t wilt. Just make sure you’re using flowers that weren’t sprayed with any pesticides.

2. Drizzle it with ganache.

Make a simple chocolate ganache and drizzle it over a single or double layer cake so that it pours down the sides a bit to create a dramatic look. This is nice on a cake that’s already frosted, but I love it even more over a naked cake.

3. Cover it in colored sprinkles.

You can never, ever go wrong with sprinkles. Pick out a mix of your favorites and don’t be afraid to go a little crazy. Pour them over the top and press them lightly on the sides, and feel like a kid again.

4. Top with balloons.

Blow up small ones, like water balloons, and then tie them to wooden skewers. Stick the skewers all over the top of a cake to make one seriously birthday-worthy cake for any age.

5. Pile on fresh fruit.

Small berries, like blueberries and raspberries, can be pressed along the perimeter and sides of a cake. Or cut whatever fruit happens to be in season — whether it’s strawberries, peaches, or plums — and pile it on top.

\Love (Image credit: Studio DIY)

6. Top it with rock candy.

Here’s a great excuse to buy rock candy again (because if you’re anything like me, you haven’t bought it since you were 9 with your allowance money). Stick a colorful mix of them on the top of a cake to quickly make it sparkle.

7. Think real carrots for carrot cake.

This is a whimsical yet super-easy way to decorate a carrot cake. Place the cut and cleaned tops of a handful of carrots on the top of the cake to create the illusion of a vegetable garden.

8. Stick lollipops on top.

Honestly, the lollipops that you get free from the bank would look cute as a topper, but take the time to seek out those really awesome rainbow ones from the candy store to make a show-stopping display.

(Image credit: Sprinkle Bakes)

9. Press Pocky sticks on the sides.

The chocolate or cream-covered biscuit sticks that are found at most Asian grocery stores come in a rainbow of colors and flavors to match whatever cake you’re making. Press them lightly around the sides of the cake to create a tall tower around it that looks extra glamorous.

10. Decorate it with circus animal cookies.

Buy a bag or two of colorful circus animal cookies, which are coated in icing and decorated with sprinkles, and press them all over the cake for a cute look that’s perfect for a kid’s birthday or just-because celebration.

11. Top it with store-bought meringues or macarons.

If circus animal cookies are for the kids, meringues and macarons are for the adults. Use either of them, store-bought, to garnish around the top perimeter of a cake. The bonus here is that with every slice, you get an extra dessert in the form of one of the cookies.

12. Garnish it with fresh herbs.

This is particularly lovely on a sweet cake that’s flecked with herbs, like this yogurt and honey olive oil cake, but even a chocolate cake would look beautiful with a few sprigs of fresh lavender on top. Rosemary, thyme, and sage are other nice picks.

13. Grab the coconut flakes.

You have a few choices when it comes to coconut flakes. I love the natural look of large coconut chips that have been toasted and pressed all over the cake, but good ol’ shredded coconut looks pretty great too. You can even color shredded coconut with a few drops of food coloring before using it.