Adding a rice paper topper or decorations to a cake creates a dramatic presentation for a decadent dessert. You should always ice the cake before adding the decorations because the rice paper is delicate and susceptible to tearing if you try to maneuver icing around it. Designs using rice paper can range from two-dimensional pictures to three-dimensional flowers.
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Prepping the Cake
To create a base for your rice paper creation, create a smooth icing coat. You could use fondant, a sugar-water-cream of tartar mixture cooked and kneaded to make a pliable topping. Fondant can be rolled into a smooth covering for a decorative cake and serve as an icing base for a rice paper topper or decorations. Fondant’s taste and texture isn’t pleasant for everyone, however, so you might prefer to go with buttercream. Apply a thin layer of the buttercream to your cake with a icing spatula or palette knife to seal in the crumbs. Place the cake in the freezer for about 10 minutes to set this coat. Finish frosting by applying a generous dollop of icing in the center of the cake and use the palette knife to spread it to the edges. Smooth icing around the edges of the cake in quarters, even if it is round. Once the cake is fully iced, smooth it out with your icing spatula. Dip the spatula in water occasionally to keep the icing from clumping.
To finish the cake with a simple design, use a rice paper topper. You need a sheet of rice paper, found in most cake decorating supply stores. The paper is completely edible and serves as the pattern for your topper. If you are using a template for your design, place the rice paper over the picture or logo you wish to use and trace it with a nontoxic crayon or food-grade marker. Once the design is traced, trim the edges of the paper as close to the border of the design as possible. Place the topper on your prepared cake and trace the outline of the design with a pastry bag fitted with a small writing tip and dark-colored icing. Fill in the design with tiny dots made with a small star tip. Start with the smallest areas first. If your design requires multiple colors, have several filled pastry bags fitted with the small star tip on hand to make the process easy. After the entire design is filled in, retrace the outline again to create added definition.
A cake or cupcakes topped with 3D rice paper designs should be prepped with a smooth icing coat. Even if you use fondant, you’ll need some buttercream to act as an adhesive for the rice paper decorations. After creating a smooth icing base, use small dollops of buttercream and stick your decorations into them so they stay in place. Use just enough to hold the decorations in place -- too much looks messy.
Rice paper doesn't add any flavor and minimal calories to the cake. It might soften under the icing, but it doesn’t always dissolve completely. It might be challenging to cut through a two-dimensional topper and can be chewy to eat. Before serving the cake, consider lifting it off using an offset spatula. If you want a product that dissolves completely, look for papers made with tapioca or potato starch.