Graduation, whether from pre-school or university, holds special significance to the graduate and his or her family and friends. Bakeries add to this accomplishment by offering custom decorated cakes to help make the celebration a success. Since the traditional graduation season falls in the spring, along with numerous bridal showers, weddings and anniversaries, this tends to be a very busy time for decorators and bakeries. It is extremely important to plan ahead for this demanding time.
I find it easiest to offer four to six standard graduation designs for customers during the busiest weeks of the season. Provide an attractive display of the cakes for customers to view. Design the order blanks so clerks can note the design chosen and the appropriate colors and inscription. Cake designs may include a computer generated school emblem or photo on edible paper, plastic caps, plaques, picks and diplomas, or icing arrangements. The following graduation designs are suggestions for your display.
| This design is shown as a half sheet, but is easily modified to fit a full or quarter sheet cake. |
The plastic mortarboard cake is easy to execute and very practical. I chose to demonstrate the design on a half sheet, but it can be easily modified for a full or quarter sheet cake. To determine how many servings to score each cake, ask the customer if the cake is to be used for a dessert or a buffet serving.
Dessert Size: 2-in. by 4-in. slices
1/4 sheet serves 12
1/2 sheet serves 24
full sheet serves 48
Buffet Size: 2-in. by 2-in. slices
1/4 sheet serves 24
1/2 sheet serves 48
full sheet serves 96
Base ice the cake, and comb the sides, making them even and removing excess icing. This also leaves a nice pattern on the sides. Score or cut through the cake as the customer desires, leaving a section in the middle for the plaque and the inscription. Add appropriate plastic picks to the middle of the pieces. Pipe a white shell border around the center section, top and bottom edges using star tip No. 20. Add some colorful sugar pieces as garnish.
| Scan a picture of the graduate, and use it with an edible diploma frame. |
| Personalize a cap and diploma edible design by piping a soccer ball on the cake. |
|Use tip No. 104 to pipe roses for this more traditional design. |
| A large, decorated chocolate chip cookie is ideal for smaller celebrations or for customers who prefer something besides cake. |
| Create a non-traditional cake by arranging 24 cupcakes in a slight swag to form a diploma. |
| Ice the top of each cupcake with a rosette, ensuring that the top is completely covered and no spaces are left between the cupcakes. |
Computers speed decorating
Since many bakeries have implemented computers to assist in their cake decorating, photo cakes have become extremely popular, especially for graduation celebrations. The diploma photo cake uses a diploma frame available for downloading from bakery suppliers. The image is printed using edible ink on edible paper designed especially for traditional icings. For non-dairy icings, use a heavier, fondant-type edible paper. After applying the image, smooth it lightly with your fingertips. Pipe a solid blue band border around the base of the cake using a No. 125 flower tip. Outline the band by piping shell borders using No. 20 star tip. Add a white shell top border with a No. 22 star tip. Pipe squiqqles and an inscription using a No. 3 writing tip.
The soccer cake is a striking example of a cake suitable for a graduate who has spent years developing his or her winning soccer techniques. The edible graduation cap and diploma design is available from bakery suppliers. Pipe a soccer ball and inscription using writing tip No. 4 and black decorating gel. Add white top and bottom borders with star tip No. 22. Pipe the top border using a triple ‘e’, reverse triple ‘e’ motion, and use a ‘c’ motion for the bottom border.
For a more generic cake, incorporate a popular floral design with a miniature cap and diploma. After base icing the cake with white icing, airbrush red color across the top of the cake and around the borders.
Next, add the gold “Congrats Grad” decoration around the side of the cake. This decorative swag is available from bakery suppliers. Pipe an inscription using writing tip No. 4. Then, place the cap and diploma on opposite corners of the cake. Place these elements before piping the roses to ensure you achieve the proper balance of design elements. Use tip No. 104 to pipe a variety of sizes of roses. Add vines and tendrils with writing tip No. 3, and pipe leaves using tip No. 352. Pipe top and bottom shell borders and a shell border around the cap using tip No. 86. This half-star, half-flower tip gives a delicate ribbon look to borders.
For customers looking for a unique take on the traditional graduation dessert, a large cookie is perfect, and it requires minimal icing and effort. Border a chocolate chip cookie using a No. 22 star tip and a reverse shell pattern. Stripe a decorating bag with the school’s colors, in this case red and white, and pipe the graduate’s tassel with grass tip No. 233. At the top of the tassel, pipe a band of white icing using a No. 104 flower tip. Add the year of graduation using red icing and writing tip No. 3. Pipe the inscription in white using open tip No. 4. Then, overpipe the inscription with red.
For customers looking for an easy-to-serve dessert, I suggest a cupcake “pull-apart cake.” These cakes are becoming increasingly popular due to their ease of serving and decorating. They are decorated like a traditional cake. For the diploma design, you will need 24 cupcakes. Arrange the un-iced cupcakes in a slight swag to create the diploma shape. Ice each cupcake using a large star tip No. 8 in a rosette motion. Make sure that the tops are covered and the pattern is joined together without any spaces between the cupcakes. Use a No. 4 writing tip to define the border of the diploma and also for piping the inscription.
Have a display of graduation cakes available at least one month prior to graduation season, using designs that are easy to execute and that focus on your decorator’s mastered skills for this high volume period.