How To Hide Messy Frosting With Strategic Ingredients

Social media can be a great place to find inspiration for the latest cake-decorating trends, but it can also be a quick reminder that this process is not always as easy as it looks. Whether aiming for a minimalist vibe or going over-the-top with the newest trend, a Lambeth cake, named after the American master baker Joseph Lambeth, having a few decorating tricks in your baking repertoire and a container of rainbow sprinkles is always a good idea. 

If piping isn't your strong suit or you don't have the time for detailed accessorizing, there's an easier way to frost and decorate your cake to look as good as it tastes. Cover cracked, bubbled, or sloppy frosting with a coat of sprinkles, toasted coconut, chopped nuts, small candies, or whatever you have on hand that can complement the theme and the flavors of the cake. The decorations will hide frosting imperfections, add another textural component to the cake, and scream, "It's a celebration!"

This technique works with any cake style — layer, sheet, or cupcake, and has evolved as sprinkle options have grown online and in craft stores. Customize this cake style using red, pink, and white sprinkles for Valentine's Day or a single color for a modern, contemporary look. This can be a messy project, so don't be surprised if you find sprinkles for days afterward.

How to decorate with sprinkles

Apply a thin layer of frosting, also known as a crumb coat, to the outside of the cooled layered cake, sealing in any crumbs that can lift when you decorate. Allow the crumb coat to harden in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before proceeding. If the cake is still tacky to the touch, wait a little longer.

Put the cake on a rimmed baking sheet to catch the falling decorations, and if you have a pedestal, place the cake on top of it to free up your hands. Put two cups of sprinkles (or any other decoration) in a shallow bowl and apply an even layer of frosting to the sides of the cake. It doesn't need to be super thick or perfect. Working quickly before the frosting hardens, scoop a handful of sprinkles and press them lightly onto the sides of the cake, starting at the base and working toward the top. Turn the cake as the sprinkles adhere, and reuse any fallen sprinkles to fill in any holes.

Alternatively, you can roll the frosted cake in the decorations. Fill a rimmed baking sheet with sprinkles and roll the cake on its side, holding it by the top and bottom (this is why we didn't frost the top). Gently press the cake into the decorations as you roll forward, adhering the sprinkles to the sides. Redistribute the sprinkles on the baking sheet, or use your hand to cover empty patches.

Additional design options

Use an offset spatula to smooth the sides gently, frost the top of the cake, and repeat the process. Once familiar with the technique, decorating can be done in one step. If you're aiming for a more professional look and enjoy going the extra mile, use a star tip to pipe frosting on the top of the cake or along the border where the cake edges meet the circular base.

When making a sheet cake or cupcakes, skip the crumb coat and go right to frosting the top. Decorations can be sprinkled on sheet cakes, while cupcakes can be inverted into a bowl of sprinkles like an ice cream cone.

Larger rod-shaped sprinkles and quins are easier to work with than tiny nonpareils. Avoid covering the cake with dragées or sugar pearls, which are hard to chew, and note that some sprinkles bleed, so use a trusted brand.

While covering the entire cake in sprinkles, nuts, or coconut is beautiful and delicious, your creativity doesn't need to stop there. Purchase several colors and layer the sprinkles in rows to create a rainbow or ombré effect. Complete each layer or color before moving on to the next. Or use a stencil to create a design on the top of the cake like a number. Place a stencil on the frosting, coat around the stencil in sprinkles, then lift the stencil to reveal the negative design. This can also be done with cookie cutters and works best with nonpareils.