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Cake Decorating on the Cheap

Stylist Elizabeth Alston of Woman's Day magazine explains how to decorate store-bought cakes at half the price.

Materials and Tools:

store-bought cake or cake mix
plain white frosting
blue food coloring in paste or gel (often available at supermarkets)
box of blue gelatin
zippered bag
yellow snack cake
orange food paste or gel
green food paste or gel
wooden skewer
2 pieces of flat yellow fruit snack
green belt candy (or straw candy)
graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
seashell candies
teddy bear-shaped graham crackers
corn syrup or honey
fish-shaped snack crackers
black food paste or gel


1. Start with a store-bought cake or bake your own from a mix. You'll need two eight-inch layers.

2. Freeze the top layer of the cake for a couple of hours so it's easier to cut.

3. Cut out a hole in the cake about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch deep and scoop out the contents (figure A) to make the "water."

4. Line the inside of the hole with white frosting (or you can dye it blue with food coloring if you prefer) to make it waterproof.

5. Make blue gelatin using half the water that is called for on the package. Let it set up until syrupy, then fill in the hole.

6. Dye frosting blue with food coloring. Take a small amount of frosting and give the cake a "crumb coat," pressing hard to loosen any crumbs. Refrigerate or let stand in room temperature for 20 minutes or so to let the frosting settle.

7. Scoop out large dollops of frosting and give the cake a thicker layer of frosting.

8. Place some frosting in a zippered bag and cut a small hole in the tip. To make the waves, move the tip of the bag down and over to make nice relaxed loops (figure B). Be sure to keep the top of the bag well wrapped so that the frosting doesn't come out the top. Also, make sure to always squeeze from the top.

9. To make the sailboat (figure C), trim a snack cake to three inches long. Tint 1/4 cup frosting orange, then apply to the sides and the deck. Make sure your cake is flat side up.

10. Tint one tablespoon of frosting green. Spoon into a zippered bag and snip off the tip to create a pastry bag as was done to create the waves.

11. Pipe the border around the deck of the boat.

12. To make the sail, place a wooden skewer between two pieces of flat yellow fruit snack, with the pointed end extending below the snack (figure E). Press together firmly to adhere. You may need to wet the skewer to get it to stick properly.

13. Cut the snack into a three-inch triangle.

14. Cut out a small flag shape from the leftover snack pieces and wrap around the top of the skewer, again pressing firmly to adhere.

15. Insert sail mask into deck, letting pointed end extend below boat.

16. To make the seaweed on the side of the cake (figure F) cut green belt candy into seaweed shapes and press into place.

17. Make the sand by spooning crumbs of graham crackers around the base of the cake. Add seashell candies for seashells.

18. The teddy bear mermaids (figure G) are made by applying a small bit of corn syrup or honey to the cookie, then wrapping a bit of fruit snack around the "legs" to make the fish tail.

19. Squirt yellow frosting on the bear's head for the hair and blue frosting for the bikini top.

20. Place fish-shaped snack crackers periodically. Make eyes by dipping a toothpick into black-dyed frosting.

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