Cake Decorating Class: Worth it? Or Waste of Money?

Wondering whether the Wilton cake decorating classes at Michael's are worth the money? Take a look at what I can create after spending just $100 on the class and materials. One hour before Little Stapler’s third birthday party, I was a mess of buttercream, sweat, and tears. I was in the middle of an ugly cry because I couldn’t decorate the cake the way I had imagined. My mother, husband, and son witnessed the breakdown. It was my mom who snapped me out of it. She said: Your son is turning three. He’s just happy to have cake! Sure enough, there was Little Stapler, completely confused by my crying but enchanted by the birthday cake that was in his honor. Realty check accomplished.

Thomas the Train 3rd Birthday cake

Before: My Skill Set Before Taking a Cake Decorating Class

By Christmastime, Little Stapler didn’t remember my breakdown, but apparently my mother did. She bought me a Wilton cake decorating class at the local Michael’s craft store. Trust me when I say that never, in a million years, did I think that I would enjoy a cake decorating class. I thought that they were for DIY-raving maniacs who tried Pinterest projects all the time. But after my birthday breakdown, I realized that I needed to learn a thing or two about decorating cakes if I wanted to save money and sanity on cakes in the future.

The course taught me a lot of new skills that I have used over and over again this past year. Now, I’m a cake-decorating fiend! I love a new challenge and giving the special gift of a home-made cake.

How much is a cake decorating class?

Michael’s publishes weekly coupons for 40%-60% off one regularly priced item or 25% off your entire purchase. They limit coupons to one per customer, so if you want to get items for 50% off, you have to keep coming back. You can also use competitors’ coupons, and JoAnn and Hobby Lobby regularly publish the same types of coupons. So, if Michael’s doesn’t have a great coupon that week, check out JoAnn and they probably will.

With that coupon policy in mind, most of these fees and supplies can be discounted by 50%. You just need to stop by the store a few times.

  1. $25 — sale price for course
  2. $35 — course materials (use a 50% off coupon to get it for $17.50)
  3. $4.99 — course book (use a 50% off coupon to get it for $2.48)
  4. $10 — cake mixes (you will have to make two cakes and a dozen cupcakes)
  5. $16 — tub of Wilton frosting (use a 50% off coupon to get it for $8)

TOTAL: $90.99. Or, if you buy the materials and supplies with coupons, $62.98.

My cake for the fourth, and final, Wilton Cake Decorating Class, course #1 -- buttercream.

After: My Final Project for the Cake Decorating Class

How much for Additional Supplies?

Aside from the fees and materials, I did purchase a few more tools. Ribbon Rose Detail on my final cake for the the Wilton Cake Decorating Basics Course. Was the class worth the cost?During the course of the class, Wilton tries to sell you some of their other tools — that’s to be expected — but some of them are actually useful. There are some tools I would have bought if I wasn’t already re-purposing something I already had in my kitchen.

These are the supplies I decided I “needed” in my cake-decorating arsenal. The prices listed are after a 50% off coupon at Michael’s:

TOTAL: $27.90

Was the cake decorating class worth it?

Side Cake Detail on my final cake for the the Wilton Cake Decorating Basics Course. Was the class worth the cost?Since taking the class, I have made 4 cakes — 3 of them were for birthdays and 1 was for Mothers’ Day. I loved creating these cakes and sharing them. They are ways that I can give a thoughtful gift that people can see the time and effort made for them.

Did the course save me any money? No. I would have made a cake for Little Stapler’s birthday anyway (I prefer to make the cake instead of paying $45 for a cake from a nut-free bakery). Admittedly, any cake I made before taking the course would not have been decorated very well. Now, I have some useful skills. Not just in the actual decorations that we practiced, like roses, leaves, writing, etc., but now I can speak the cake decorator’s language and figure out new techniques from online examples.  Leaves and Rosette Detail on my final cake for the the Wilton Cake Decorating Basics Course. Was the class worth the cost?

If having a well-decorated cake is the difference between buying one and baking one yourself, then this course will absolutely save you money — year after year. I estimate the cost of butter, sugar, and cake mixes to be about $7, although there are always opportunities to get them for less expense. Compared that to what you paid for your last store-bought cake ($25 at the grocery store? $45 or more at a bakery?). Depending on how many cakes per year you’ll replace with homemade cakes, it might save you some money just in that first year.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. I love to create thoughtful gifts for people I love, and I hate to contribute to clutter. A thoughtful, edible gift can be the perfect gift for someone who has it all. It’s also a gift for me, because I have a few hours to myself where I can create something beautiful. It’s a creative outlet that I don’t get to have every week.

Here are the four other cakes I made, using Pinterest (gasp!) for inspiration:

LEGO Cake, using oreos for the bumps on top. I recommend using a flower nail to frost the Oreos before placing them on the cake.

LEGO Cake

Boulder the Rescue Bot Birthday Cake: Yellow and Green with Black Hazard Stripes on the Side

Boulder the Rescue Bot Birthday Cake

Fall Birthday Cake with Sunflowers (chocolate chips for seeds), Mums, and Falling Leaves. It would have been useful to have more than one leaf tip so I could make a multi-colored leaf pile more easily.

Fall Birthday Cake with Sunflowers, Mums, and Falling Leaves

Mother's Day Cake Inspired by Wax Flowers and Lilacs

Mother’s Day Cake with Wax Flower and Lilac Inspiration

They’re not perfect, and one got a little smashed before I could snap a picture, but everyone who received a cake loved it, and that — to me — is what matters most. Granted, one recipient was my mom, who ooohed and aaaahed my preschool drawings, so she’s hardly an unbiased source. At one party, a guest asked where I got the cake, to make sure it was nut-free, and when I told him that I made it he was surprised. What an awesome feeling! I definitely didn’t get that question before taking the class.

My favorite resource for inspiration is Pinterest. If you’d like to follow along, I have a Preschooler Cake board and a Cake Decorating board — for non-kid cakes. Follow along, and send me pins of cakes you’ve created.

For other DIY things you can do to save you time or money check out these great articles.

Frugal Holiday Gift: DIY Coffee Syrups
My Kind of DIY: Easy Car Repairs
30 Things to Do After You Buy Your First Home

Have you ever taken a cake decorating class? Was it worth it to you? Are you considering taking one, or giving one as a gift?



36 thoughts on “Cake Decorating Class: Worth it? Or Waste of Money?

  1. I totally agree! I took 3 of the cake decorating classes and loved them. Definitely worth it to me; and it was nice to get out of the house for a couple hours!

  2. Am I the DIY-raving Pinterest maniac? LOL! ‘Cause I always wanted to take a cake decorating class. I have to say, though, it takes A LOT of patience, which I’ve recently learned I don’t have. 😉

    • Haha! No! I know how you roll — you’re much more down to earth than the image I had in my head about what it meant to do Pinterest projects. Turns out, there’s projects for all skill levels and timeframes on Pinterest. Until I started this blog, I honestly never knew that.

  3. Wow, you have some skills. I don’t think like can be solely frugal and savings. You didn’t waste money buying something but used it to develop a skill you can do at home and to share with others. You now have a great skill and it’s fun at the same time. Seems like it was totally worth it. I’m not allowed to touch cakes to help…until it’s time to cut and eat them.

  4. Loved this. Your cakes are awesome! I decorate my own but they could go on Pinterest Cake Fails board. LOL. You will definitely get your money out of that course and now I am thinking it might be a good idea for me too. Bakery cakes are so expensive.

  5. I don’t think your first cake was bad! That was really clever that you thought to put all the trains around it.

    That being said, they definitely got better after the course. I think if you enjoy it, there’s nothing wrong with spending some money on a hobby.

  6. Now you’ve got me wanting to take a class. I wonder if Craftsy has cake decorating classes? It’s nearly impossible for me to get out of the house for something like that, but I could do an online course. Maybe you should become a craftsy affiliate 🙂 With my 5 kiddos 8 and under I’ve taken the last year to just buying cupcakes from the local ice cream place. And I refuse to feel guilty, although I do look forward to the time again when I can enjoy baking cakes.

  7. I’m still getting over the fact that you have time to bake and decorate. You’re a busy woman! They are really lovely cakes, and I’m reconsidering my previous no-decorating-class thoughts.

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  9. I’m trying to find a good cake decorating class that is local. I’m having a hard time finding anything.Any ideas on finding one? Your cakes are beautiful by the way.

  10. Hey! I love your cakes! Very well done! I had a quick question. Did you have to pay a fee for each class or was it just the one time deal + the cost of supplies? I really suck with decorating, so I am wanting to take some classes at Michaels.

    • Don’t Worry I am one of the youngest person to complete most courses. If I can do most of the courses, so can you! I learned everything I need to know about all those things.

  11. Hello I am wondering what Wilton course you took? I am trying to sign up but there are so many options. What is the exact name of the course you took?

  12. I would like to learn how to how to decorate cakes I see so many beautiful cakes I have the machine but I’ve never tried it this would be my first time trying to make cakes

  13. I took my first courses about 14 years ago. I had a dear friend who volunteered to take on my two little girls for 2 hours, four Fridays in a row. I had seen my mom and my aunt make some great cakes, and I wanted to have the ‘professional learning’. I did help my cakes look nice but was just as much for the social interaction. I ended up staying for all 4 courses (It is only 3 now). Each course builds on the last, although there is no hard and fast rule saying what order you have to do them in. Class one is usually called ‘Decorating Basics’ or ‘Buttercream skill’ or something similar and is about how to make icing, how to get the cakes ready for icing and some simple decorating techniques. The next course is usually using royal icing (that hardens) so that you can make flowers that you can just pick up in your fingers and add to a cake, and they last nearly forever. The final course is using fondant to decorate. My kids are all teens now, and I work part time at Michaels. I’m upgrading all my courses so I can help people with questions. Tonight I finish course 2. It was a little pricey but fun, and I’ve made a lot of birthday cakes and even a few wedding cakes for friends. Now, it is free for me…Michaels perks means I don’t pay for classes, and I have all the supplies already. I just bought the new books. And if you have the course, you can always make a few dates with friends and teach them too…

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