The Perfect Icing on Top

Words Vicki Ravlich-Horan Images Ashlee DeCaires

I’ve decorated my fair share of cakes. In fact, when I was child-free, Aunty Vicki’s cakes were my contribution to my nieces’ and nephews’ celebrations. And while these cakes were always well received, the end product never quite matched my initial vision and enthusiasm.

I needed some expert help. That help came in the form of a Frozen themed cake by Lynn from This Little Cakery when I had my own child, whose birthday is just three days before Christmas. Lynn’s help can also come in the form of passing on her skills too, and we recently experienced this at a cup cake decorating class at Sweet Pea Parties.

With the move to their larger store on Rostrevor Street last year, Kirsty and Chris from Sweet Pea Parties added a space where they could hold classes. It is here Lynn runs a number of classes where you can learn to decorate a cake or, in our case, a cupcake. Demand for the classes is high and Kirsty admits they should do more, but it really is about finding the time.

Both these ladies are super busy. Lynn, whose donuts, fudge, brownies and other sweet treats are available at This Little Cakery on Princes Street five days a week, also continues to take commissions for cakes for all manner of celebrations.

Kirsty runs Sweet Pea Parties, now New Zealand’s largest party supply business and recent winners of a Hamilton CBD Award. Add to this a new sideline business – The Jig Store. Oh, and did I mention these ladies are both mums?

The day of our class, Kirsty and Lynn were decorating Christmas themed cup cakes for an upcoming fundraiser. “We like to pay it forward,” says Kirsty. Supporting Laura from the Cake Detective is another way Sweet Pea Parties do this. The Cake Detective is a charity run by local woman Laura Casey, who ensures every child feels uniquely celebrated on their birthday regardless of circumstance. And they do that by creating amazingly unique birthday cakes. Sweet Pea Parties support the Cake Detective by providing their kitchen/classroom space for her to work as well as all the cake decorating goods at cost.

So here we are on a Sunday afternoon surrounded by piping bags of colourful buttercream icing eager to learn more. This is no place for perfectionists, warns Lynn. “It’s about having fun! You can always take the icing off and start again.”

With that in mind, and after a few demos on how to make a gorgeous rose, a leaf, on trend wave and more, we are off, with Lynn always close by to answer questions, guide our hands or congratulate us.

Basic Buttercream Recipe
500g butter
1kg of icing sugar

Beat the butter for at least 10 minutes. Add the icing sugar and, starting on low, slowly increase the speed and beat for just a few more minutes.

Colour using a gel-based food colouring.

Top Tips

Use a piping bag coupler so you can change your tips – this is a game changer!

The closer your hand is to the nozzle the more control you have, so when using small tips don’t fill your bag too much.

When starting out, practise on a board so you can scrape off the icing and reuse.

It’s about patience not speed.

For more info on Sweet Pea Parties’ classes, go to


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