Cake decorating is an art taught in the pastry arts divisions of culinary schools as well as continuing education sections of community colleges. Graduates may be eligible for professional certification.
Some courses in the associate's and bachelor's degree programs teach business topics such as purchasing and management. Some degree programs call for internships.
Certificate in Cake Decorating
Students prepare for entry-level positions in pastry shops and restaurants by investigating a variety of techniques employed for different materials such as creating a crumb layer when frosting with butter cream. Students experiment the creation of edible flowers made out of frosting and piping design elements on to cakes while maintaining a consistent pressure on the piping bag. Certificate programs take 1-2 semesters to complete and are available through the adult education division of community colleges.
Certificate programs in cake decorating train students to use a wide variety of techniques for creating decorative edible cakes. Techniques include:
- Figure piping
- Lace work
- Petal flowers
- Rolled fondant
- Transferring patterns
Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts
Students in an associate degree in pastry arts program learn to create dessert buffets that appeal to both the eyes and the taste buds. Students are taught the fundamentals of baking, finance and hospitality. Associate-level curriculum offerings include cake decoration coursework. Associate degree programs take two years to complete and typically require a high school diploma.
Pastry arts programs teach students the science behind rising bread and progress to teaching students to create decorative sculptures out of sugar. Commonly offered courses include:
- Baking science
- Chocolates and confections
- Specialty cakes
- Sugar art
Bachelor's Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts
Students are given an in-depth look into dessert preparation through hands-on experiences and theoretical practices. For example, students are trained to create and sculpt with edible sugar-clay materials such as marzipan, pastillage and fondant. Baking programs also discuss sweetened, puffed breakfast breads such as croissants, and how to serve them. Because there is no direct path from degree completion to success in the culinary world, many programs require students to complete an internship prior to graduation. The path to a bachelor degree typically lasts four years.
Students are taught to plan desserts to complement menu options, and how to order the proper amount of ingredients in advance. They study the fundamental science of cooking. Additionally, students learn to create elaborate baked goods by constructing an internal support structure to place the edible cake elements. Programs cover topics like:
- Chocolates and confections
- Decorative breads
- Multi-tiered cakes
- Pastry buffet presentation
- Wedding cake design
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for bakers, as well as chefs and head cooks, was forecast to increase as fast as average from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). BLS reports showed that there were 191,900 bakers and 139,000 chefs and head cooks employed across various fields, as of May 2018. The median annual wage of chefs and head cooks was $48,460 as of 2018, while bakers earned $26,520 annually.
Because baking and pastry arts training includes hospitality and small business management, graduates work in a variety of situations, from hotels to baking companies to restaurants. Graduates qualify for positions including:
- Assistant pastry chef
- Bakery manager
- Pastry cook
- Small business owner
Bachelor's program graduates were employed in the following positions:
- Bakery manager
- Pastry chef
Though not required, pastry and baking professionals are able to obtain certification through the ACF, or the American Culinary Foundation (www.acfchefs.org). Entry-level certification requires a high-school diploma, or 100 hours of continuing education credits. Other requirements include two years of experience working in the field, within the last ten years, and specific mandatory training in sanitation.
Aspiring cake decorators can enroll in a baking and pastry arts certificate program, associate's degree program or bachelor's degree program depending on their specific career goals. Undergraduate programs teach business courses as well to help prepare students to be bakery managers, entrepreneurs, or pastry chefs, among other careers.