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Visual Glossary of Cake Terms

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Thinking about ordering a custom cake or planning a dessert table for an event, but you don’t know where to start?  ‘Cake lingo’ can be a bit confusing, so if there are some words you’ve heard in bakeries or seen in our new retail shop, but you’re not sure what they mean, check out our Glossary of Terms for help!

Custom Cake Glossary

    Click the letter below corresponding to the first letter of the word for which you'd like a definition.
  • a
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  • v
  • w
  • z


Airbrushing :  airbrushing is the act of using a small air pump to spray food coloring onto cookies, cakes and cupcakes.  Think of it as an edible spray paint for cakes!  You can view a video of our airbrushing techniques here.

Bulldog Cake Groom

These bulldog cakes were airbrushed for a realistic effect.

Almond Paste:  this is an ingredient used to give cakes a subtle almond flavoring.  It’s made from ground almonds and looks like smooth dough.

Animal Print: a popular decoration on or in cakes which incorporates various animal markings including zebra stripes, leopard spots and cheetah spots. A popular decoration choice for Sweet 16’s and Bar Mitzvahs. Also see Cake Interior

Leopard Spot Animal Print for First Birthday Cake

Leopard Print for First Birthday Cake

Zebra print pattern baked into cake with sprinkles

Zebra print inside cake!


Basketweave:  Basketweave is a pattern made on cakes in a crosshatch pattern (interwoven vertical and horizontal (pulled) lines), giving the cake the appearance of an actual basket.  This can be achieved with fondant or buttercream.

Basketweave & Flower Wedding Cake

The top and bottom tiers of this wedding cake feature a basketweave pattern.

Bling: Jewels, diamonds, glitter, rhinestones, crystals and brooches are all examples of cake bling. Can be both edible or non-edible and are used as accessories to help create a cake that stands out.

Cake Bling Examples

Examples of different kinds of cake bling

Buttercream:  smooth and creamy decorator icing (commonly referred to as frosting).  It can be made in different consistencies – firm for flowers and petal decor on cakes, medium for borders and flat flower decorations, and thin for icing or writing letters and words on cakes.  You can purchase some of your own cupcakes with buttercream frosting at our Pink Cake Box Boutique.

Medley of natural buttercream cakes

All three of these cakes are frosted with buttercream.

We can style buttercream on cakes several different ways. The cake below shows examples of both vertical and horizontal textured stripes of buttercream.

Classic Buttercream Wedding Cake

Classic Buttercream Wedding Cake

For a more rustic and homemade look, we can create a more natural style with seemingly random swirls and strokes of buttercream:

Wedding Cupcake Stand

Wedding Cupcake Tower with French Macarons

Buttercream-based fillings:  a filling commonly used in cakes, can come in many different flavors.  Can also be mixed with nuts or fruit.


Cake Board:  a cardboard piece available in various shapes and sizes, used as a base for cakes.  Not edible but can be covered in edible compounds. (also known as cake circles)

Lobster Bake Birthday Cake for Addison

This lobster cake features a fondant-covered cake board.

Cake Interior:  referring to the inside of cakes or cupcakes and the different flavors that can be chosen for the inside of cakes.  Pink Cake Box offers a variety of different cake interiors for clients, from different flavors to different patterns.

colorful Rainbow print inside birthday cake

A cake with a rainbow interior!

Cake Pops:  a dessert treat made of cake crumbs and frosting (or chocolate), rolled into balls or other desired shapes, dipped in chocolate or glaze, and placed on a stick (creating a ‘pop’ or lollipop effect).  Often used as favors, additions to dessert tables, or in place of cookies. We create cake pops in two different orientations – stick up or stick down. See the picture below to see the difference between the two types of cake pops.

Vanilla Rainbow polka dot

Cross-section of a vanilla cake pop!

Vanilla Rainbow Polka Dot Cake Pops

Vanilla cake pops with sprinkles

Here’s a visual representation of a stick up cake pop (like a lollipop) versus a stick down cake pop (like a candy apple):

Stick up vs Stick Down Cake Pops

Stick up vs Stick Down Cake Pops

Cake Topper:  (see also cupcake topper)  a small cake that can be placed atop a cupcake tower or used as a stand-alone cake on a dessert table.  View photos of our cupcake toppers in our cupcake stand topper gallery.

Pink Cake Box Cake

A stand alone cake topper served with cookies and cupcakes for a lemonade stand themed party!

Cake Topper Figures : Also known as gumpaste figures, these personalized 3d figures are usually created using gumpaste. Examples include a pregnant lady, a sleeping baby, a pea-in-the-pod baby, and more. If you are interested in learning more about how to create cake topper figures see our craftsy figures class.

Cake Topper Figure Example

Cake Topper Figure Example: Pea in the Pod

Cannoli:  an italian pastry filled with creamy, sweetened ricotta cheese.  We offer a cannoli flavored filling for cake interiors.

Caramelized:  granulated sugar that is heated and melted into a golden brown syrup.

Cake Push Pops: layers of moist cake and rich buttercream packaged in its own convienent vessel. Fun for people of all ages!

Rainbox cake push pops

Rainbow cake push pops!

Chambord:  a raspberry liqueur flavoring.  One of our most popular cake flavor choices is raspberry chambord.

Chevron:   a pattern involving different colored ‘V’ shapes in repetition, usually created on cakes with fondant.

Chevron Cupcake Topper

Chevron birthday cake topper for a cupcake stand.

Crystallized:  when sugar has been formed into ‘crystals’ or crystal shapes.

Cupcake Topper:  (see also cake topper) a small cake that can be placed atop a cupcake tower or used as a stand-alone cake on a dessert table.  View photos of our cupcake toppers in our cupcake stand topper gallery.

Pregnant Mommy Belly with Cookies & Cupcakes

A pregnant mommy-to-be cupcake topper or stand alone cake.

Cupcake Stand/ Cupcake Tower:  sometimes used as an alternative to cakes, a cupcake stand or tree features cupcakes on tiered layers.  They can be rented for events in different sizes and hold varying amounts of cupcakes.  Pink Cake Box’s cupcake stands are patented and custom built.  They are a sturdy construction and can even hold a 6” top cake.

Pink Cake Box Cake

First birthday zebra cupcake stand!

Custard:  a mixture of beaten eggs and milk which is then cooked into a creamy, pudding-like form.  Commonly used in cake fillings and can come in various flavors, such as vanilla or lemon.  It can also be used as a pie filling when chilled.


Dairy-free:  any cake or dessert made without milk, cream, cheese or any milk-based ingredient.

Damask:  a pattern for cakes, cupcakes and desserts, commonly found on silk textiles.  They are usually intricate botanical patterns but can be geometric or include animals.  View more of our favorite damask cakes here!

Red Rose & Black Damask Wedding Cake

A red rose and black damask wedding cake.

Drip Cakes (or Drizzle Cakes): a cake decorating trend popularized by creative extraordinaire Katherine Sabbath. Decorations often include dripping ganache, bright confetti, pastel colors and a smorgasbord of add-ons including shards of french macarons, cookies and more! See more examples of drip cakes here.

French Macarons with dripping cake

Drip cake and French Macaron pairing!


Edible Images: Using edible ink with a special printer and edible frosting paper, any type of image can be imprinted on cakes. Below is an example of an edible image of the snake marking the Chinese New Year.

Edible image - the year of the snake!

Edible image – the year of the snake!

Eggless:  referring to the ingredients or decorations of cakes/desserts that do not include eggs or egg-based products.

Eggwash:  a mixture of beaten eggs and water (or milk).  Often coated on cakes, cookies, breads and pastries to give them a shine when baked.


Favors:  small gifts given to guests of weddings or parties.  Examples of Pink Cake Box favors include cookies, cupcakes, cake push pops, macarons, mini-cakes or cake pops.  Can be boxed, wrapped or presented in a manor of your choice.

Cupcake favor with box

Cupcake favors can include boxes or monograms.

Monogrammed Wedding Cookie favor

A cookie favor with a gold initial monogram.

Fillings:  referring to the flavoring added between layers of cakes.  At Pink Cake Box, fillings can be buttercream or custard based.  Pink Cake Box offers a variety of cake fillings, including standard and premium.

Floral Wire:  non-edible decorative wire used for floral arrangements or cake decor.  Floral wire is usually used to make 3-D decor on cakes.

Top Hat and Bunny Birthday Cake

We used floral wire to make these stars pop from the cake.

Fondant:  a type of icing made of corn syrup, sugar and gelatin.  It comes in many different colors, has a sweet flavor, and tends to be elastic in nature.  It can be rolled out and spread over cakes for a smooth finish.  Most cakes have a layer of buttercream or ganache underneath the fondant to keep it pliable (you can read about the difference between fondant and buttercream here.)  Fondant can also be used for sculpted decorations or patterns on cakes. Pink Cake Box uses Satin Ice fondant. To learn more about fondant and basic cake decorating techniques check out Satin Ice’s website.

99th Christmas Birthday Cake

This birthday cake features layers covered in fondant.


Ganache:   a type of chocolate with a consistency somewhere between mousse and fudge.  Very rich, it is created when hot cream is poured over sweet chocolate, which is then beaten until glossy and smooth.

Gelatin:  a colorless and tasteless protein made from collagen and used as an ingredient in gum paste and fondant.  Can also be used to thicken some fillings.

Gluten-free:  any item made without gluten.  Gluten is found in most grains such as wheat, barley, flour, and rye.  You can view a variety of gluten-free items from our Pink Cake Box Boutique, or request custom cakes/cupcakes to be gluten-free.

Red, White and Blue American Flag Cake

A gluten-free birthday cake.

Gold Leaf: edible 24 carat gold decoration used as decorative element on cakes. Edible gold leaf (also known as gold flakes) can be used sparingly as shown in the photo of tarts below which are topped with gold leaf accents.

Gold leaf decoration on top of tart

Gold leaf decoration on top of tart

Alternatively, it can also be used to cover entire tiers or sections of a cake similar to the wedding cake below.

Gold leaf paint covering cake tier

Gold leaf covering cake tier

Gumpaste:  often used for sculpted figurines or decor on cakes.  Created with a sugar paste dough and a form of gum for stiffening.  Although edible, it becomes very hard when it dries.

Grooms Cake:  a tradition that began in Victorian England, groom’s cakes were originally created to be served to the groomsmen and bridesmaids after the wedding.  Grooms cakes were typically made of chocolate and created in conjunction with a regular wedding cake.  Grooms have become very creative with their cake choices, and we can create them in almost any shape or design!  They are often not served at the wedding reception but it’s up to the married couple what they choose to do with it.  Some couples choose to slice and serve it, others share it with their wedding parties.

Pink Cake Box Cake

A grooms cake for a Kiss fan!


Hand-painted:  a decorative technique used on cakes and desserts, involving food coloring and paint brushes.  The patterns are delicately painted by hand onto the cake (usually on fondant) and are completely edible.  This also allows the cake decorator to add fine details with brush strokes.

Modern Spring Wedding Cake Hand Painted Flowers

A wedding cake featuring hand-painted flowers on the top tier.

Houndstooth:  a pattern that can be used in cake decoration, also known as dogstooth or dogtooth.  Usually characterized by a series of broken check marks or four-pointed shapes.  Typically black and white but can be created in any alternating color pattern.

Houndstooth Baby Shower Cake

A houndstooth baby shower cake.


Isomalt: a sugar substitute often used to create sugar structures liked the wine bottle below. Creates a realistic glass effect that is edible. Isomalt is much easier to work with compared to sugar.

Personalized sugar wine bottle


Macaron: a meringue-based dessert that originated in France, made with sugar, almond powder, egg whites and food coloring.  They come in a variety of flavors and colors (often bright or pastel colored), and usually feature two cookies filled with ganache or buttercream.  Purchase your own macarons at our retail store, Pink Cake Box Boutique, or custom order them for your next event. Want to see more pictures of macarons? See our article ‘French Macarons Make Their Mark!‘.


Chocolate, Dulcey, Pumpkin Pie Macarons!

More French Macarons!

More French Macarons!

Marble:  when flavors or colors are “swirled” together to create a marbled, swimming effect.  Interiors of cakes can be marbled (commonly chocolate and vanilla), or fondant can be marbled for a beautiful color effect.

Sweet 16 Enchanted Forest Cake

The tiers of this cake were designed with marbled fondant.

Meringue:  a dessert made from beaten egg whites and sugar, then baked.

Metallics:  a color choice for cake decor, can be silver, gold, bronze, glitter or different shades of ‘metal.’  Usually created with edible glitter, fondant, crystals or sparkling sugars. View some of our favorite metallic cakes here.

Metallic Wedding Cakes

A wedding cake featuring silver metallic elements.


Novelty Cakes:  a term used to describe specialty or custom cakes designed by our bakers and artists.  Can be unusually shaped or hand-sculpted.  See some of our amazing novelty cakes here.

Snow Leopard Cake

A snow leopard novelty cake.


Ombre:  when tones of color blend into each other, usually graduating from light to dark.  A popular color choice for cakes, but can be achieved in many forms, including cupcake towers.  We can create a custom ombre cake just for you!

Pink Ombre Wedding Cake

A pink ombre wedding cake.


Patterns:  designs featured on cakes to give them texture, highlights or style.  Patterns can be hand-painted, piped, sculpted in fondant or created using various decorating techniques.

Turquoise Sweet 16 Cake

A sweet 16 cake featuring different patterns on each tier.

Pearls:  an edible decoration for desserts, cakes and pastries.  Made to look like real pearls, they are available in many different colors and sizes, and taste a little bit like a hard candy.

Flower Boquet Bridal Shower Cake

Pearls adorn this bridal shower cake.

Pink Velvet:  one of our signature flavors, very popular in bridal and baby shower cakes.  Made of buttermilk with a touch of cocoa, has a rich pink color and goes great with cream cheese frosting or vanilla buttercream.

Piping:  a decorative technique used by cake designers, achieved by using a decorator bag and metal tip.  Patterns, swirls, lettering and other decor can be ‘piped’ onto cakes, cupcakes and cookies.

Wedding Favor Cookies Monogrammed

These cookies feature piping designs.


Quatrefoil:  a pattern created using four leaves or lobes, usually resembling a four-leafed clover or a flower.

Quatrefoil and minature pattern wedding cake

A wedding cake featuring black and white quatrefoil designs.


Red Velvet:  a cake flavor that can actually vary in color shade (from light red to dark red, to brownish-red).  Ingredients in red velvet include buttermilk, butter, cocoa and flour.  Traditionally served with a cream cheese frosting. We share one of our red velvet cupcake recipes at Pink Cake Box University.

Royal Icing: typically a mixture ofmeringue powder, powdered sugar, & water. We often use it for piping details and cementing decorations together. In the example below, the ice cream cone criss-cross detail on the cookie was piped with brown royal icing:

Royal Icing Criss Cross Pattern for Ice Cream Cone Cookie

Royal Icing Criss Cross Pattern for Ice Cream Cone Cookie

Ruffles:  a design style on cakes made to look like real ruffles or folds of fabric, using fondant.  View some of our favorite ruffle cakes here!

Ruffle Birthday Cake

Ombre ruffles on a whimsical birthday cake.


Sculpted:  created or formed by hand.  Many of our figurines and toppers on cakes and cupcakes are completely hand-sculpted.  You can read more about the process of sculpted cakes at Pink Cake Box University.

Pregnant Lady with carriage on baby shower cake

A cake featuring a sculpted figurine on top.

Tiger Cake

A completed sculpted tiger cake

Smash Cake: a small 4 to 6 inch cake traditionally give to your little one to “smash” into on their first birthday! We can create smash cakes to match the theme of your party. Here’s my daughter’s smash cake:

Smash Cake

Specialty Cakes:  see novelty cakes or view some of our specialty cake information and photos.

Pink Cake Box Cake

A specialty Sweet 16 cake.

Sugar Flowers:  often used on wedding cakes or custom cakes in place of fresh flowers, usually hand created from a sugar syrup that hardens.  You can read about how to enhance your cake with sugar flowers, or view some sugar flower examples in our gallery.

Tropical Themed Cake for the Knot!

Sugar flowers adorn this cake made for The Knot.

Sugar Glass: (also known as edible glass) a sculpture created from sugar that is heated with water to harden the sugar into a glass-like substance. We use this effect for ice cubes and champagne bottles:

Edible Sugar Example - Ice Cubes

Edible Sugar Example – Ice Cubes and Champagne Bottle

Sugar Paste:  (see also gum paste)  a sweet doughy substance made from glucose and sugar.  Essentially used to sculpt figures and decor for cakes.

Swiss Dots:  a pattern used in cake decoration created by piping on small, pearlized dots.  Created to resemble the swiss dot pattern commonly found on bridal gowns or veils.

4 Tier Wedding Cake

A swiss dot wedding cake.


Tasting:  a sampling of cakes and cake flavors before you place your order with us.  We can set up cake tastings before your events so you know what flavors and fillings you would like in your cakes.

Texturized:  the act of giving a cake or dessert item texture or the appearance of texture through design elements.  This could include the use of fondant in patterns, buttercream decor in patterns, or hand-painted elements, just to name a few.

Tier:  refers to each level of a cake.

Pink Cake Box Cake

This cake was 12 tiers! Each cake layer was separated by a silk dividing tier.

Topsy Turvy:  a style of cake where the tiers appear to be balanced atop one another in a teetering style.

Nicoles Bridal Shower Cake

A topsy turvy cake gives the appearance of falling over, but it’s perfectly sturdy!

Two-dimensional (2D) versus Three-Dimensional (3D) decorations: Our 2D decorations lay flush against our cakes and are often decorated with layers of fondant to represent a two-dimensional decoration. Our 3D decorations are often used as cake toppers and are sculpted in 3D form. The example below shows the difference between a 2D and 3D elephant decoration on a pair of birthday cakes.

2D Cake Decoration vs 3D Cake Decoration

2D Cake Decoration vs 3D Cake Decoration


Vegan: any item made that does not contain animals, dairy products or animal by-products

Harpers First Birthday Cake, cupcakes, cookies and cake pops

The smash cake for this 1st birthday dessert table was vegan by request.


Whipped Cream:  made from sugar and heavy cream, whipped to the desired consistency.  Whipped cream can be a topping or a filling, but must be kept refrigerated. Note we do not offer whipped cream as a topping or filling at Pink Cake Box.


Zest:  flavoring that comes from the outer rinds of citrus fruits.  Can be achieved using a fine grater or a zesting tool.


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About the Author

Deborah Zelasny
Deborah Zelasny is a freelance writer, blogger and dessert fanatic. You can visit her any time on her blog, TheJerseyMomma.

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