Painted Cakes

Painting Cakes (a recurring theme)

I talk a lot about painting on cakes. Partially because of my arts background, I know -- but also because it's a versatile way to add detail to a simple project and much easier than it appears. We also do it constantly here in the shop!!

The obvious approach is to use the cake as a canvass and paint directly on it, as you might a porcelain vessel or ceramic tile. Powdered petal dusts dissolved in vodka have a pleasing watercolor effect and behave much the same. A few tips, though:

  • Refrigerate - Fondant your cake and let it stand in the refrigerator for a while. This will make the fondant firm and also dry the surface out a little.
  • Temperature Control - I like to drop the temperature in the studio when painting on a cake to prevent sweating as the cold cake adjusts to the room.
  • Let it sit - You can also allow the cake to sit for ten minutes or so and the moisture will reabsorb. Once the painting is done, so long as the cake doesn't sweat excessively again (so don't, say, leave it in direct sunlight on an open porch in august) a little extra moisture should not mar the painting.

I recently did a  Lily Pulitzer inspired print on a tier which was quite exciting! As you can see, I block out my larger fields of color and go back in for small details.


A more delicate and classical design, this Victorian style flower illustration was taken from the invitations provided by the client. I took a much softer approach color-wise, but ultimately the same method of blocking out swaths of color and defining them with details in other colors after. Always start with your lightest colors and work in darker as you go. If you want to read more about how I integrate art skills to cake, here is a Cake Corner post with a selection of helpful classes you can take to expand your skill set.

victorian style flower painted cake

You can also apply this water color effect to 3D items as well. In trying to think of the best way to illustrate this technique I asked my friend's seven year old son what to make. He suggested a white tiger, so I quickly pulled together a tiger face in gum paste, allowed it to set for ten minutes until the surface was no loner porous, and then brushed some soft details in. It's a great, fast, artistic element to use when designing a cake.

Water color technique tiger cookie

Another painting technique is trompe l'oeil. I use this when I want to make a surface resemble something it is not. Troupe l'oeil translates to "fool the eye," which is exactly how it works. This exotic themed cake we made for The Knot features a "bamboo" texture on the tiers and a blond wood board that we made by adding strokes of thinned airbrush color to the fondant with a hard bristled brush. To keep the color from becoming too intense, I "lifted" some of it off after it had set by dipping the same brush in vodka and stroking over the tiers again.

Tropical Themed Cake for the Knot!

If you are interested in learning more about Painted Cakes I recommend you check out my review of Kate Sullivan's Painted cake class!

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Anna Puchalski

Anna Puchalski

Anna is a classically trained sculptor and illustrator who started her career in cake decorating with Ron Ben Israel in 2000. Since then she has worked for a number of well known cake studios in the New York area doing complex sugar work and design. Her specialties include freehand painting,...

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