Baking Terminology

Definitions of baking and decorating

A synonym for sift; to pass ingredients through a fine-mesh device to break up large pieces and to incorporate air into the ingredients to make them lighter.
An artist's paint gun using an air pump to spray food coloring finely and evenly on cakes, cupcakes or cookies. Excellent for making backgrounds.
All-Purpose Flour
A blend of soft and hard wheat flours with a medium amount of gluten, suitable for most baking purposes.
Almond Paste
A smooth, heavy dough made of ground almonds. Used in candies and pastries.
Angle Food Cake Pan
A round, high-sided pan with a hollow cylinder in the center that provides the traditional angel food cake shape. It is typically two-piece with a removable bottom for convenient cake removal. Standard size is 10" diameter and 4" deep, just right for a mix. Smaller pans (4" and 7" diameter) are also available. These pans are also great for chiffon cakes, quick breads and gelatin molds.
Affixing decorations, such as flowers or icing decorations, to your cake using dots of icing. Use your icing to attach these items as you would use "glue".
A method of cake decorating using the fine art of detailed extension and curtain work comprised of delicate stringwork and icing lace on a rolled fondant cake.
Bag Striping
technique of applying stripes of color--either icing or color paste-- on the inside of the decorating bag for multi-color decorating effects.
Also known as Mary’s bath or water bath, refers to the method of placing smaller pans within a large pan containing hot water to stabilize the heat from reaching the food and allows food to cook evenly all the way through without the food burning or drying out or can be used to keep food warm. The bain-marie technique is traditionally used for preparing delicate items such as custards, milk-based sauces, mousses, and other foods that need to be gently warmed without scorching, burning, breaking, or curdling.
To cook raw food in the oven using dry heat.
Baking Powder
is a dry chemical leavening agent used in cooking, mainly baking. It is most often found in quick breads like pancakes, waffles, and muffins. When dissolved in water the baking powder's ingredients react and emit carbon dioxide gas which expands, producing bubbles to leaven the mixture. Baking powder is used instead of yeast because its action is instantaneous, while yeast takes two to three hours to produce its leavening action.
Baking Soda
Scientists consider baking soda a type of salt. It is most widely known function is for baking, because it reacts with other chemicals to releases carbon dioxide, which makes dough (cakes, muffins, and quick breads)rise.
Ingredients or an ingredient that have been agitated vigorously using a spoon, whisk, electric mixer or fork.
To thicken a sauce or hot liquid by stirring in ingredients such as eggs, flour, butter, or cream.

To thoroughly combine two or more ingredients together or to process food using an electric blender or mixer.
Sometimes called "pre-baking", refers to the process of baking a pie crust or other pastry without the filling. Generally, the pie crust is lined with tin foil or parchment paper, then filled with dried peas, lentils, beans or other pulses, or with ceramic "baking beans", so that it will keep its shape when baking. Metal or ceramic pie weights are also used. After the pie crust is done, the pulses are replaced with the proper filling. Blind-baking is necessary if the pie filling can not be baked as long as the crust requires, or if the filling of the pie would make the crust too soggy if added immediately.
A whitish coating on chocolate, caused by separated cocoa butter.
To cook a liquid at a temperature of 100°C when bubbles rise rapidly to the surface. Always use a saucepan large enough to prevent ingredients from boiling over the edges of the pan.
Boil Vigorously
To cook a liquid at a temperature of 100°C, without the temperature falling below the specified temperature.
A continuous decoration used around the top, side or base of a cake.
Buttercream Icing
The most versatile and best tasting decorating icing. Icing is smooth and creamy with decorations remaining soft. Stiff consistency is used for flowers with upright petals, medium consistency is used for borders and flat flowers, thin consistency is used for icing the cake, writing and making leaves.
The cuplike green portion of the flower connecting the petals to the stem. The outer protective covering of a flower, which folds back when open in segments called sepals.
Candy Clay
A combination of chocolate and corn syrup to keep the chocolate pliable. Used to form woven baskets, ribbons and flowers like the rose. Also known as Candy Modeling Clay.
Candy (Sugar) Thermometer
A thermometer used to check the temperature of sugar when making sweets. A sugar thermometer is also invaluable for checking the setting point when making jams and jellies. A sugar thermometer can also be used to measure the temperature of oil when deep frying.
Browning sugar over a heat, with or without the addition of some water to aid the process. The temperature range in which sugar caramelizes is approximately 320°F to 360°F (160°C to 182°C).
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt granulated sugar, stirring constantly, until sugar caramelizes into a golden-brown syrup. Superfine sugar caramelized in less time.
A continuous flow of decorations from one level to another.
Caster Sugar
Castor or caster sugar is the name of a very fine sugar in Britain, so named because the grains are small enough to fit though a sugar "caster" or sprinkler. It is sold as "superfine" sugar in the United States. Because of its fineness, it dissolves more quickly than regular white sugar, and so is especially useful in meringues and cold liquids.
Cast Sugar
Sugar that is boiled to the hard crack stage and then poured into molds to harden.
Casually Iced
A loose, free-flowing way to ice your cake that is easy for anyone to achieve. Unlike perfectly smooth iced cakes, the casually iced cake surface has a textured look, achieved with a light stroking motion of the spatula.
Citric Acid
Helps prevent sugaring and improves flavors, especially in fruit candies. Comes in liquid or crystal powder form. Crystals can be mixed with an equal amount of water to form liquid citric acid.
Remove impurities from butter or stock by heating the liquid, then straining or skimming it.
To evenly cover food with flour, crumbs, or a batter.
Coats a Spoon
When a cooked egg-based mixture or sauce leaves a thin layer on a metal spoon as a test for doneness.
Powder of roasted cacao beans, when added to oil makes an excellent substitute for processed chocolate. The dry powder that remains after cocoa butter is pressed out of chocolate liquor.
Cocoa Butter
A white or yellowish fat found in natural chocolate.
A dessert made of whole or pieces of fruit in sugar syrup. Whole fruits are immersed in water and with sugar and spices added to the dish, over gentle heat. The syrup may be seasoned with vanilla, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon sticks or powder, cloves, ground almonds, grated coconut, candied fruit, or raisins. The compote is then served either warm or chilled arranged in a large fruit bowl or single-serve bowl for individual presentation. The dessert may be topped with whipped cream, cinnamon, or vanilla sugar.
Confectioners' Sugar
Granulated sugar that has been processed into a powder. Contains either cornstarch or wheat starch to keep the powder from clumping. All confectioners' sugar is pre-sifted but with different gauges of mesh. The size of the gauge is sometimes indicated on the packaging, such as 4x, 6x, or 10x. Used to make icings, gum paste, fondant, or sprinkled on top of cakes, cookies, or donuts. Also known as Icing Sugar or Powdered Sugar.
Cornelli Lace
An elaborate piping technique using a series of curved lines that yields a lace-like pattern.
A powder created from maize used as a thickener in cooking, to dry Gum Paste when working, or to dust the work surface when rolling out fondant. Also found in confectioner’s sugar to prevent clumping.
Corn Syrup
A corn product used to prevent sugaring in candies. Often adds a chewy consistency.
A grooved insert and retainer ring for the decorating bags that allows tip changes without changing bags. The coupler has two parts; the inner coupler base and the outer coupler ring. Decorator bags are cut so that only the first thread of the inner coupler is exposed.
Natural, sweet chocolate containing no added fats other than natural cocoa butter; used for dipping, molding, coating, and similar purposes.
Covered Wire
Florist wires covered with paper not plastic, used when making Gum Paste flowers.
The fat content of milk, the thicker the cream the higher the fat content. To beat fat (usually butter) and sugar (usually granulated sugar) together to form a pale and fluffy mixture which resembles whipped cream in texture and color. This mixture is used as a basis for a wide variety of cake, pie and pudding recipes.
Cream of coconut
A sweet thick liquid made from fresh coconuts, and added sugar and stabilizers.
Cream of Tartar
Potassium bitartrate; a white powder used to hold beaten egg whites and to harden flowed sugar.
The process of beating fat and sugar together to blend them uniformly and to incorporate air.
Creaming Method
A mixing method that begins with the blending of fat and sugar; used for cakes, cookies, and similar items.
Cream Together
To beat fat (usually butter) and sugar (usually granulated sugar) to form a pale and fluffy mixture which resembles whipped cream in texture and color. This mixture is used as a basis for a wide variety of cake, biscuit and pudding recipes.
Cut In
To mix a cold fat, such as butter or margarine, with flour or dry ingredients by hand until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs using a pastry blender or two tableware knives.
Decorating Tips
Specially-shaped, open-end tips used to form icing decorations. The size and shape of the opening on a decorating tube determines the type of decorations the tip will produce. Sometimes called decorating tubes.
Decorating Tubes
Specially-shaped, open-end tips used to form icing decorations. The size and shape of the opening on a decorating tube determines the type of decorations the tip will produce. Sometimes called decorating tips.
Decorator Brush
Nylon brush used for color striping, smoothing icing details, painting sugar molds, painting chocolate molds, applying vanilla and piping gel to fondant, and moving outlines.
Desiccated Coconut
A finely cut, dry, unsweetened coconut. Sometimes referred to as macaroon coconut.
Cut into very small cubes.
A delicate technique that creates a pattern on the top and sides of the cake using a series of straight and curved lines, dots and flower shapes resembling fine embroidery.
Firm Peaks
When a whisk is removed from a well whisked or whipped ingredient, the mixture stands up in small points known as firm peaks.
An open pie filled with sweet or savory ingredients; also, a Spanish dessert of baked custard covered with caramel.
Flower Former
A curved plastic form used to dry icing flowers and to create curved petals.
Flower Nail
Round, flat surface on a stem that is finger-held and can be rotated. Used for making icing flowers.
When a mixture is beaten or mixed until it has a soft texture.
Press together two pastry layers on edge of pie crust, sealing the dough and at the same time creating a decorative edge using fingers, a fork, or other utensil.
The process of whipping eggs, with or without sugar, to incorporate air.
When a mixture is beaten or mixed until it has a frothy and bubbly, semi-liquid texture.
Fold In
To combine a light ingredient such as whipped cream or whisked egg whites into a heavier mixture such as melted chocolate and butter. By folding in the lighter ingredient the heavier mixture becomes lighter. To fold in, pass wire ship, rubber spatula, or metal spoon vertically down through the mixtures across bottom of bowl and up opposite side. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn with each stroke. Repeat until evenly combined. Do not stir in circles. Also refers to incorporating ingredients like chocolate chips or nuts into a cake or cookie dough.
A sweet, elastic icing made of sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin that is rolled out with a rolling pin and draped over a cake. It has a smooth, porcelain finish and provides a firm base for hand molded sugar flowers, decorative details, and architectural designs. Cakes iced in fondant have a layer of buttercream, apricot glaze or ganache underneath to keep the fondant soft. Flowers made with fondant are generally not as delicate as Gum Paste flowers. A fondant covered cake should not be refrigerated unless it contains perishable items.
sweet, rich chocolate, denser than mousse but less dense than fudge. It is made by pouring hot cream over chocolate and beating it with a wooden spoon until the mixture is glossy and smooth, and will soften in very humid weather.
Swags of icing used to create a draped decoration along the top of the cake.
To add a small decoration, often edible, to a dessert just before serving to enhance its finished appearance.
Ingredient of Gum Paste used to strength the final product. Also used to thicken some fillings.
Glacé Fruits
The French word for glazed, and refers to fruits that are preserved in a sugar syrup and then further glazed or candied with syrup.
Glazes are used to give desserts a smooth and/or shiny finish or to seal in the moisture. Cake glazes can be water icing (confectioners’ sugar mixed with liquid), melted chocolate in combination with cream, butter and/or sugar syrup, or fondant (a thick shiny opaque icing). Caramel is used to glaze some cakes and small pastries; and sugar cooked to the hard-crack stage can be used to give pastries sheen but no color. Tart glazes are made from sieved jam, preserves or jelly, or a combination of the above. Pastry glazes (brushed on dough before baking) can be an egg glaze made with whole eggs or yolks; milk, cream and/or butter glaze (these produce a duller finish); sugar glaze (sugar sprinkled over milk or cream glaze), or any combinations of the above.
A type of sugar used in commercial candies and frosting, baked good, soft drinks and other processed foods because it does not crystallize easily. Also called dextroglucose or dextrose. Used in making fondant.
A protein formed when hard wheat flour is moistened and agitated. Gluten is what gives yeast dough its characteristic elasticity.
A colorless, odorless, syrupy liquid made from fats and oils and used to retain moisture and add sweetness to foods. It also helps to prevent sugar crystallization in foods like candy. Stir into icing to restore consistency or use to soften fondant or royal icing. Can be used to soften dried icing colors, and when making rolled fondant.
Gum Paste
sugar paste dough with a gum stiffening agent, this mixture is most often used for handmade flowers and other three-dimensional decorations. Flowers made from Gum Paste usually look the most lifelike. It dries hard and breaks easily if not handled gingerly. Gum Paste is susceptible to heat and humidity. If properly stored, Gum Paste decorations will last for years as keepsakes.
Gum Paste Flowers
Realistic-looking fruits, flowers, ribbons and bows molded from a paste of sugar, cornstarch, and gelatin. Gum Paste decorations which can be used to garnish a cake, are edible and will last for years as keepsakes.
mixture of sugar, butter, and flavorings used to cover a cake and from which decorative, edible designs are created.
Icing Color
Concentrated color formula used for adding color to icing and other foods.
Icing Comb
A plastic triangle with toothed or serrated edges; used for texturing icings.
Icing Pearls
technique using icing, piping gel, and tips to form pearls on a cake.
Invert Sugar
Created by combining a sugar syrup with a small amount of acid (such as cream of tartar or lemon juice) and heating. This inverts, or breaks down, the sucrose into its two components, glucose and fructose, thereby reducing the size of the sugar crystals. Because of its fine crystal structure, invert sugar produces a smoother product and is used in making candies such as fondant, and some syrups. The process of making jams and jellies automatically produces invert sugar by combining the natural acid in the fruit with granulated sugar and heating the mixture. Invert sugar can usually be found in jars in cake-decorating supply shops
A yeast derivative, used in fondant centers to make them creamier as the fondant ripens. Usually only a few drops are necessary. Can be omitted from any recipe.
Iridescent Powder
Powder that give cakes and decorations a pearl-like finish.
Lace Points
Royal icing piped filigree which extends past the edge of the cake.
A method of using intricate, dimensional overpiping of borders on a rolled fondant cake. Overpipe scrolls, scallops and stringwork plus other decorations for the layer-upon-layer look.
A detail that crisscrosses with an open pattern. The lattice can be piped on the side of the cake or pressed into the cake.
To partly mix two colors of cake batter or icing so that the colors are in decorative swirls.
paste made of ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites, used to mold edible flowers or fruit to decorate the cake. Marzipan can also be rolled in sheets, like fondant, and used as icing.
Pronounced mas-kahr-POH-nay. It is a soft unripened cheese that belongs to the cream cheese family. It comes from Switzerland and Italy and is a thick, buttery-rich, sweet and velvety, ivory-colored cheese produced from cow's milk that has the texture of clotted or sour cream. It delicate and mild flavor is great with fresh fruit and is probably best known for its use in Tiramisu. Produced mainly in the fall and winter it is sold in plastic 8 ounce tubs and can be found in specialty food stores and in the deli section of some grocery stores.
To apply heat to a solid ingredient to turn it into a liquid.
Egg whites beaten until they are stiff, then sweetened. It can be used as the topping for pies, or baked as cookies.
Meringue Powder
Mixture made with pasteurized dried egg whites; used to make long-lasting, hard-drying royal icing. Safe to use uncooked in icings, meringues and mousses. Also adds strength to sugar molds and buttercream flowers. Stabilizes buttercream and whipped cream icings.
Modeling Chocolate
A thick paste made of chocolate and glucose, which can be molded by hand into decorative shapes. Also referred to as Candy Clay.
Adding enough liquid to dry ingredients to dampen but not soak them.
With knife, remove outer covering, such as with apples.
Rolled Fondant without any of the softening ingredients (glycerin, cornstarch or shortening). It is used mainly for decorative ribbons, three dimensional shapes and appliques, as it dries bone-dry and crusts more quickly than Fondant. It can be rolled very thin. It is also used to make sugar greeting cards, picture frames, bells, boxes or other containers which can then be decorated with piping or sugar flowers. Decorations made from pastillage should not be eaten.
Pastry Blender
A tool made of 5 or 6 parallel U-shaped steel wires attached at both ends to a handle. It cuts the butter into small pieces so the flour can coat the particles. Two knives may also be used.
Pastry Cream
A delicate milk and egg-based filling similar to pudding. Pastry cream can be flavored with vanilla, chocolate or coffee.
Pastry Cutter
A tool which is used to stamp out pastry, biscuits, scones, sweets and canapés. Pastry cutters are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes from the most popular plain or fluted round cutters to novelty shapes such as stars, animals, numbers and letters and can be made from metal or plastic.
Pastry Wheel
A small hand held tool with a fluted wheel on the end for cutting pastry and creating a decorative edge
An illustrated design which can be transferred to an iced cake, then decorated.
The mounds made in a mixture. For example, egg white that has been whipped to stiffness. Peaks are "stiff" if they stay upright, or "soft" if they curl over.
Round, edible sugar balls coated with a pearl dust (in almost any color) used for decorative purposes. Pearls can be individual or in strings.
Phyllo Dough
A dough or pastry that is paper-thin sheets of raw, unleavened flour dough used for making pastries in Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern Cookery. Phyllo dough is made with flour, water, and a small amount of oil. It is almost always used in multiple layers separated by melted butter. When these are baked or deep-fried, they become crispy and the result resembles puff pastry, though the method is very different, and they are generally not substituted for one another.
Used in a tiered cake, such as a wedding cake, to separate the tiers of cake. They can be made of plastic or wood in several lengths to achieve the desired look.
An approximate tiny measurement of a powdered ingredient usually obtained by picking it up with the finger and thumb.
Squeezing icing out of bag through a decorating tip to form decorations.
Decorative details created using a decorating bag and various metal decorating tips. Piping details include leaves, borders, basketweave, and flowers.
Piping Bag
A triangular shaped fabric or greaseproof bag that has large opening at one end and a small opening at the other. A nozzle is inserted into the small end, the bag is filled with a smooth, semi-solid mixture and forced out using pressure from both hands.
Piping Gel
Transparent gel that can be tinted any color for decorating, writing or pattern transfer.
To let yeast dough rise.
Pulled Sugar
A technique in which boiled sugar is manipulated and pulled to produce flowers and bows.
To reduce volume of liquid by rapid boiling in an uncovered pan.
To place food or ingredients to one side until they are needed in a recipe.
Ribbon Stage
A term in baking that describes a certain stage that is reached when beating eggs together with sugar. It is when the batter forms a flat ribbon falling back upon itself when the electric mixer beater is lifted. Or when a whisk, spoon or your finger is moved through the mixture leaving a trail behind that is visible for a couple of seconds before disappearing back into the mixture.
Rolled Buttercream
sweet and very pliable icing similar to Rolled Fondant that is rolled out then placed on the cake as a covering. The cake is first covered with a very thin layer of buttercream icing, and the rolled buttercream is laid on top. It can also be used to mold flowers.
Rolled Fondant
thick, malleable dough made of powdered sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and glycerin with added flavor and then optionally tinted. Typically, it is rolled out and then draped and smoothed to conform with the shape of the cake for a flawless matte finish, making it a popular covering for wedding cakes. Rolled fondant can also be modeled, formed, twisted, imprinted, cut out to form eyelet lace and used to make scrolls and flowers. It can be used to cover cake boards. It acts as a smooth base for pastillage flowers and royal icing details. Sometimes referred to as Sugarpaste.
Rolling Boil
When water in an open saucepan reaches boiling point and all of the liquid is moving with bubbles continually rising and breaking on the surface.
Rose Tip
Decorating tip used to make the rose, daisy, primrose, daffodil, pansy, rose bud, sweet pea, ribbon, bow and ruffle border.
Round Tip
Decorating tip used to make dots and outlines. Also used for writing and figure piping.
Royal Icing
Icing that can be made with raw egg whites, meringue powder, water, confectioner’s sugar or cream of tarter. It can be tinted in any color. This icing is piped from a decorating bag to create latticework, beading, bows, and flowers.
Royal Icing Flowers
Decorated flowers made of royal icing. When dry, the texture is hard and brittle and keeps virtually indefinitely. Do not refrigerate dried decorations.
An elaborate piping technique using a series of curved lines dropped in a random manner that yields a lace-like pattern.
A light, fluffy, baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert.
Broad, flat metal utensil used to spread icing smoothly and evenly. Also used to put icing in decorating bags and cutting fondant.
To divide horizontally.
An icing flower arrangement on a cake.
One of the reproductive parts of a flower usually found in the center of the flower.
To leave ingredients for a specified period of time to enable the flavors to develop or to rise.
Star Fill-In Method
Covering part or an entire decorating surface with icing stars. Also used to decorate character cakes.
Star Tip
Decorating tip used to make a shell, star, rosette, rope, zigzag design and ribbed stripe.
To allow a substance to stand in liquid below the boiling point, for extraction of flavor, color or other qualities, as tea.
A technique using a small round tip to create garland on the side of cakes.
A crumbly topping made from a mixture of butter, flour, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon. The word "streusel" comes from the German word "streuen" which means "to sprinkle" or "to scatter". Streusel was originally used as a topping for the German-made "Streusel Kuchen" but is now used as a topping for cakes, coffee cakes, Danish pastries, muffins, pies, sweet breads, crisps, and tarts.
The chemical name for regular granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar.
Sugar (Candy) Thermometer
A thermometer used to check the temperature of sugar when making sweets. A sugar thermometer is also invaluable for checking the setting point when making jams and jellies. A sugar thermometer can also be used to measure the temperature of oil when deep frying.
To cook slowly over low heat in butter, usually covered, without browning.
The process of melting and cooling chocolate to specific temperatures in order to prepare it for dipping, coating, or molding.
A procedure for putting a finish onto the surface of the cake.
Baked goods that contain no agents to give them volume, such as baking powder, baking soda, or yeast.
Wax Paper
Paper that has a waxed surface making it ideal for using as a non-stick lining for cake tins and baking trays.
Wheat Starch
A powdery substance obtained from wheat kernels. It is very useful as a thickener, but it doesn't have as much thickening power as cornstarch, which requires only half as much to achieve that same level of thickening. Wheat starch is used for thickening sauces, gravies, and puddings. It is best to stir it into water first before it is added to other foods, so that it can be more easily incorporated without creating lumps.
To beat rapidly using a fork, hand or electric whisk to introduce air into a mixture or single ingredient to increase the volume and become fluffy.
A mixture of ingredients or a single ingredient that has been rapidly beaten using a fork or hand or electric whisk to introduce air into it to increase the volume.
Whipped Cream
Made of heavy cream and sugar and usually has some type of stabilizer to prevent it from separating. Whipped cream must be kept refrigerated. Not recommended for outdoor settings.
Sometimes known as peel or rind. Thin, colored outer coating of citrus fruit that contains the essential oil extracts that gives the fruit its distinctive flavor. A small amount of zest gives a strong characteristic flavor of the fruit. Citrus zest is used extensively in sweet or savory dishes wherever the flavor of citrus fruit is required. Zest can be grated from fruit using the fine side of a standard grater - be careful to only remove the colored zest and not the white pith underneath which imparts a bitter flavor, the best way to avoid this happening is to turn the fruit frequently when grating. Alternatively use a zester - a small tool which efficiently removes the zest by running it down the skin of the fruit.