Rough effects, geometric shapes and soft ruffles – 2019 is all about the texture.

People eat with their eyes first – though these days their first ‘bite’ is likely to be through the screens of their smartphones.

Demand for Instagram-worthy foods has pushed external textures and finishes to the fore when it comes to cake creation, with painted details, rough finishes and geometric shapes among the trends driving decoration.

Layers of very rough, torn-edged fondant with cracks and dry fondant pieces can be used to achieve an on-trend textured look, suggests Rosalind Miller, founder of Rosalind Miller Cakes.

And, following the popularity of geode cakes last year, geology is set to continue as an inspiration this year.

“We’re seeing a lot of abstract geologically inspired textures, using wafer paper, painted effects and metallic painted effects,” notes Miller, adding this is one example of growing use of buttercream finishes. (A Swiss meringue buttercream was notably used to coat the wedding cake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle  last year.)

Thicker icing can also help bakers premiumise their goods, with a quarter of cake, cake bars and sweet baked goods buyers seeing this as worth paying more for, says Michael Schofield, marketing manager at Bakels, citing Mintel research.

When it comes to colour, many are tipping marble as the effect to watch this year.

“Buttercream marbling, using a couple of different coloured buttercreams, is a quick and efficient method to achieve a textured geological look,” explains Miller.

Geometric designs are also on the rise, and can be incorporated into the shape of the product as well as the decoration. This was demonstrated in the confectionery category this Easter, with retailers including Aldi launching geometric-shaped chocolate eggs.

“The enduring trend for Instagram-able food means cakes with eye-catching geometric designs will grow in popularity,” says Matthew Bratt, patisserie NPD & innovation centre manager at Puratos UK.

“Visually impressive, this is also a versatile trend, as it can be incorporated into a cake’s shape and decoration, for example with the use of chocolate geometric shapes.”

But for all the interest in rough textures and hard-edged shapes, there remains a place for softer finishes such as ruffles and floral designs.

Jo Elsdon, director of NPD at Bright Blue Foods, suggests that textured collars, such as lace and ruched effects, can transform the look of a cake, and give a unique texture.

Palette knife-painted buttercream flowers are another very popular trend, suggests Miller, who adds that painting directly onto fondant – whether floral inspired or otherwise – is also becoming more popular.

Elsdon points out that floral piping is being given a contemporary twist through the use of delicate piping nozzles.

“These enable more intricate floral designs – such as tulips and chrysanthemums – to be used across cupcakes and celebration cakes, really moving floral cakes into a new and
modern style.”

A touch of glamour

Lustres, shimmers and glitters continue to be popular in the cake decorating market when it comes to adding a touch of glamour.

“Glitter can instantly transform icings and decorations into something spectacular but can also be used lightly to add a stunning sheen to cakes and bakes,” says Kirsty Graham, marketing executive at Cake Décor.

Dawn Foods recommends using metallics for glistening icing, molten fillings and glamorous celebration cakes. “Metallics will be used to adorn, wrap and coat food, while gold and silver leaf will be added to liquids, baked goods and used to decorate sweet treats,” says food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye, who works with Dawn Foods.

Jo Elsdon at Bright Blue Foods suggests these effects work well alongside more subdued tones: “Pastels and subdued tones are still popular and are often combined with lustres, shimmers or gold leaves which can be achieved through effective use of paints, sparkles and dusts, and add a touch of elegance.”