Learn how to create a stunning and edible watercolor cake. This unique cake decorating technique can be customized to any occasion or color theme.
Watercolor cakes have become an increasingly popular trend in the world of baking, captivating both professional bakers and home cooks with its stunning artistic flair.
Inspired by the delicate brushstrokes of watercolor paintings, this unique style of cake decorating allows for endless creativity and imagination.
We actually created this cake for our lovely friend, Davina when we hosted her baby shower at the Sugar & Cloth studio. And because the couple didn’t want to find out the baby’s sex, this left us using every kid-friendly color palette there ever was for something gender neutral.
And though a watercolor cake may resemble actual works of art, it takes almost no artistic skills whatsoever to decorate!
So check out this cake tutorial on how you can create your own masterpiece at home.
What Cake and Frosting are Best to Paint On?
The most important ingredient that you will need is the cake! You can use any plain iced cake in any flavor. Just make sure the icing has hardened a bit so that it will be easier to paint on.
If you’re using a homemade cake:
Buttercream frosting is most ideal for watercolor cake painting since it’s soft and will allow for those abstract strokes. We love this Italian meringue buttercream recipe that will still appear white over even chocolate cake (if you want a blank white canvas). Plus, it’s not too sweet compared to other frostings.
When frosting a layer cake, first spread a crumb coat to hold the cake layers together. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that seals in any loose crumbs. Chill the cake in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
A turntable is really helpful to make this process quicker.
If you’re using a store-bought cake:
There’s no shame in purchasing a plain cake and “hacking” it as we did for the baby shower and our girls’ Frozen birthday party.
Going this route saves you the stress of baking the cake so that you can focus on the decorating! Just make sure that the cake is at room temperature to make it easier to paint on.
Whether or not you use a homemade cake or pre-made cake, always make sure the frosting is even and smooth.
Materials and Tools Needed
Plain iced cake — Homemade or store-bought cake.
Clear alcohol — Vodka or clear flavored alcohol based extract like lemon extract or almond extract. The alcohol helps dilute the coloring and makes it easier to paint with.
Food dedicated paintbrushes — Any kind and type of brush works. Just make sure it’s unused or at least has been strictly used for food.
Small bowls or containers — One for each color you plan to use.
Can I Substitute the Clear Vodka Ingredient?
Rubbing alcohol can be used in place of vodka or clear flavored alcohols if you choose not to use such items.
A lot of bakers and how-to’s use the rubbing alcohol trick of the trade. Rubbing alcohol should NOT be consumed by mouth.
But when rubbing alcohol is used is very small quantities and mixed in with gel food coloring, it actually evaporates so quickly that it doesn’t cause harm when used correctly.
Please note that with all projects seen on Sugar & Cloth, you assume full responsibility when recreating tutorials at home.
How To Paint On Cake
1 — In separate small bowls, fill them each with about a quarter inch of vodka or alcohol base.
2 — Use a toothpick to drop a small dab of gel food color into each bowl. With the toothpick, stir the mixture until the color combines.
The more gel coloring you add the stronger the color will show up. The less you add the more transparent the color will be. Adding too much also makes the food coloring stay a bit shiny so try to avoid excess if you can.
3 — Dip a food-safe paintbrush into one of the colored mixtures. Start with a light color. Lightly brush the color onto the cake in gentle, random strokes. You can blend colors or layer them as you go. Continue to do this until it’s as colorful as you’d like.
Keep the strokes loose and natural, creating a watercolor-like effect. Don’t worry about making it perfect. The beauty of watercolor is its imperfection.
For even more unique colors, try painting a quick run over another color like pink and blue to make a rainbow purple.
Cake Painting Tips and Tricks
Preparing your edible watercolors:
Make sure you don’t overmix the colors while mixing them. This will give you a watery color, and it won’t stick on the cake.
Paint with one color at a time:
If your frosting cake design has colors touching, paint with one color and allow it to set and dry. Don’t keep switching colors as this may cause bleeding of colors.
If you only have one food-safe brush:
Make sure to dip your brush in the bowl of water to rinse before each color. Be sure to wipe the water from the brush with the paper towel. Putting plain water on icing will make a sticky mess! Always clean your brushes with water in between to prevent the colors from mixing.
Paint in smooth strokes:
Avoid harsh jerky movements as they will leave ridges on your cake and smear your frosting base. If you want a smooth finish, go over the paint once or twice with a damp sponge to blend the colors well.
Make sure your base frosting is always firm:
Your icing should always be firm or the paint will not set and sit. If you notice that your cake is starting to melt and soften, simply chill it in the fridge.
More Cake Icing Designs and Decorating Ideas
Whether you are a professional baker or an amateur enthusiast, experimenting with watercolor techniques can elevate your cake creations to new heights. So why not dive into the world of watercolor cakes and unleash your creativity today?
If you love this watercolor cake tutorial, you’ll love these other decorating ideas below!
- Balloon Cake Topper & Cake Painting Tips
- Colorful Leaves Chai Spice Cake
- 3 Winter Cheesecake Toppers Decoration Ideas
- Homemade Edible Confetti
Watercolor Cake: How to Paint on Cake
- Food safe paintbrush one for each color
- Small bowl one for each color
- 1 plain iced cake
- Gel food coloring
- Clear alcohol or clear flavored alcohol based extract like lemon extract or almond extract
- In separate small bowls, fill them each with about a quarter inch of vodka or alcohol base.
- Use a toothpick to drop a small dab of gel food color into each bowl. With the toothpick, stir the mixture until the color combines.The more gel coloring you add the stronger the color will show up. The less you add the more transparent the color will be. Adding too much also makes the food coloring stay a bit shiny so try to avoid excess if you can.
- Dip a food-safe paintbrush into one of the colored mixtures. Start with a light color. Lightly brush the color onto the cake in gentle, random strokes. You can blend colors or layer them as you go. Continue to do this until it's as colorful as you'd like.Keep the strokes loose and natural, creating a watercolor-like effect. Don't worry about making it perfect. The beauty of watercolor is its imperfection.