Make Like an Artist and Hand-Paint Your Cake! Here's How To Get Started

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For an extra special occasion (your baby's first birthday! your BFF's bridal shower!) you definitely want an extra special cake.

Forget those edible printed plaques, photographs and motifs. You need to hand-paint your details, designs or images right onto the fondant. Painting the cake yourself beats prefab options any day, and creates a fabulous custom-made look.

To get started, you’ll need to pick the type of cake-paint mixture you want to use and the right kind of brush.

You can totally do this. Let's walk through some basics first.

1. Choose the Right Mixture

There are loads of edible paint recipes out there — no problem picking one. But once you've chosen your paste or powder colors or your luster dusts, figuring out which thinner or base to add can be a real head-scratcher. Your best bet is to experiment and see what works for you.

The options here are listed in order from the most challenging to the easiest to work with, roughly speaking, but you may have a different experience when you try them out. Just make sure you’re comfortable with at least one type of edible paint mixture before you even think about hand-painting, say, a three-tiered wedding cake.

Rejuvenator Spirit, aka Color Thinner

You’d normally use this with powder colors or luster dusts, but you can also mix it with concentrated gel or paste colors. It can take a while to dry and feel a little sticky to work with — plus it’s a bit pricey compared to other options — so factor that into your decision.

Lemon Juice

Plan ahead when you’re adding lemon juice to your edible paste, powder or luster dust, since it won’t evaporate quickly. Your painted surfaces will tend to stay wet or tacky for a while, so you’ll likely need to wait a bit before you can add detailing on top.

Water

Adding water to gel or food color paste is one of the cheapest options, but keep in mind that it’s similar to using rejuvenator spirit or lemon juice. Since lots of cake decorators use water as a glue, choosing it as a base or thinner for cake paint can feel a little risky, especially when you’re not used to working with water yet.

Lemon Extract

Extracts contain alcohol, which evaporates and dries quickly, and lemon extract is one of the most user-friendly options. It’s also one of the spendiest additives, but sometimes you can luck out with a bargain price on a large bottle.

A word of caution: You might smell and taste a little lemon if you use this in your paint mixture, so depending on which cake flavor you’re working with, it could be a deal-breaker.

Vodka

Using vodka is relatively easy, but the fact that it dries quickly has its pros and cons. You can add another coat onto your work in around a minute, but you'll need to add a few drops of vodka to your mix every so often.

Vodka is great if you’re painting a sheen with luster dust, since when you're done you can cover your palette of luster dust paint in plastic wrap. Then you just add a little alcohol next time you want to use it, and you’re good to go.

Don't worry about painting with an alcoholic substance like vodka on kids' cakes, since the alcohol evaporates completely and won’t leave a boozy trace.

Everclear

The super-high alcohol content in Everclear means that your edible paint job will dry incredibly fast. You definitely want that if you’re planning to add extra painted details on top (for example, if you’re painting a bouquet of roses and need to add layers of depth and color fairly quickly).

Another bonus is that if you mess up as you’re painting, you can take a clean brush and paint over your mistake with some alcohol. Then you just wipe it away —carefully! — and it’s like it never even happened.

2. Invest in Good Paintbrushes

The boss move is to get yourself a high-quality collection of brushes in a variety of types and sizes. You can play with different styles and shapes, from ultra-fine to Japanese calligraphy brushes — all are perfect for adding designs or intricate details to your cakes.

Pro tip: Make sure you only use your cake-painting brushes with edible materials.

3. Start Small if You Want Big Results

Begin working small, then add bolder colors and detail as your work dries. It’s important to always build up your work. If you try doing too much at once, you’ll get overwhelmed.

Layering is key. If you have a base color running through your design, consider sketching out your shapes and silhouettes with a thin brush and a light color first.

(PS: Yes, this is a cake!)

While you explore the world of cake painting, keep challenging yourself and practicing as much as possible. As you get more confident and creative, you work will get much more impressive — and so much more fun!

Photos by Juniper Cakery

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Make Like an Artist and Hand-Paint Your Cake! Here's How To Get Started