How To Paint a Cake

How To Paint a Cake

I get asked this a lot, and my honest answer is, it’s easy! Much easier than you think, anyway. When I first saw a hand painted cake, my first thought was, wow, that must have been done by an incredible artist and there’s no way that I can even come close to replicating that kind of technique. But the truth is, as long as you’ve got the equipment and a relatively steady hand, then you can do it. You don’t have to be hugely creative or artistic (although it certainly helps) as there are some basic techniques you can master which still look really effective.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A fondant-covered cake (I used a 3-inch tall 8” round cake)
  • A printed design to copy from
  • A bowl of water (some people use alcohol such as vodka, but I don’t think it’s necessary)
  • Wilton icing colors
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Food safe rubber gloves
  • Various size food-safe paint brushes
  • A turntable (not essential, but makes life easier)
  • Something to mix your colours on. You can buy plastic palettes, but I usually just use greaseproof paper!

To get a professional looking end result, it’s important to ice your cake as well as you possibly can. See my tutorial for icing a cake here.

1. Place your cake on a turntable or if you’re not using one, then I tend to place it on a stack of books or a cake stand so that it sits at the right height for me to paint when leaning on my elbow. It can be difficult to paint the sides of a cake if you have it at table height.

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2. Put on your rubber gloves so that you don’t dye your skin if your hands come into contact with the icing gels. Don’t worry if this happens, it does come off after a day or so and a good scrub! Now it’s time to mix your colours. I use a separate cocktail stick for taking the gel out of each pot, so that the colours don’t get mixed up.  Use the water to get the right sort of consistency for painting. You can try out the colours on a scrap piece of fondant icing before applying them to your cake.

 

3. Here’s the trickiest part… With your smallest brush and a very pale, watered down colour, draw the outline of your design. I tend to cut around my design like a stencil, and then if it’s a tricky shape that I don’t feel confident about drawing by eye, I can place it very gently on the cake and draw around it with my paintbrush.

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4. Now start with the lightest colours in your design and paint in the highlights. As you can see in my pictures, I’ve started with the light yellow first. Then build up the design using gradually darker shades. I used midtones of yellow, before adding the shadows with a dark yellowy brown. Use whichever size brush you feel comfortable with. I used a medium size brush for this part. Every time you want to use a different colour, use the water to wash your brush and mix up the new colours.

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5. Add some finer detail with a very small brush. If your design has some intricate lines, then you can paint these now using a deep, rich colour (I used black). This is my favourite part of the painting process as it really brings the painting to life.

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6. Let your cake dry. This will take a few hours, or possibly longer if you have applied the colour quite heavily.

7. Finally, stand back and admire your masterpiece!

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PAINTING A SIMPLE FLOWER

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If you’re not feeling very confident at painting on your cake, try some simple flowers on a piece of fondant as a way of practicing. It’s so easy!

Using the method above, take a large paintbrush and a pale, watered down colour and paint a large petal. Repeat this 4 or 5 times until you have all your petals. Now use a slightly darker shade of the same colour, and a slightly smaller brush, and go over the top of the petals you already did, but leaving the outer edges of the paler colour showing. Now mix a very dark shade of the same colour (or take the colour straight from the pot) and use sweeping motions from the center of the flower into the center of each petal to make some dark creases. Finally, mix a nice shade of green and use a large brush to paint some very simple leaves around the edge of your flower with just two or three strokes of the paintbrush.

See, super simple and this takes only a few minutes. You could cover a whole cake in flowers like this and it would look gorgeous. Why not give it a try?