Painted Buttercream: A how-to guide from a non-painter

Today I'm sharing a little technique that I'm SURE anyone can do. You see, I'm terrible at painting. Well let's be clear, I can roll some paint onto a wall like nobody's business but when it comes to anything finely finished you can count me out.

When painted cakes started to gain popularity, I knew I had to try my hand at the technique even though I have some shortcomings in that category. Most people I saw were painting on fondant, and perhaps even using some specialty products to do it. If there's one thing I hate though, it's investing in products that I may not use. I'd much rather be able to use items I already own in a new way. So I decided to try edible painting, only on the canvas I'm most familiar with: buttercream, with "paints" I already own: gel colors.


I started playing around with mixing gel colors and dug in with some basic florals. I googled images of watercolor flowers and just dug in. Luckily, watercolor anything is super trendy right now, so there are a lot of graphics and paintings out there to draw inspiration from.


For the lemon cake that I made for the blog a couple weeks ago, I wanted to try something different from the florals I'd been doing. Since it was a lemon cake, painted lemons made the most sense. When painting with gel colors that won't be thinned out, I much prefer the flat surface of a basic cake circle to a paint palette with wells for the paint. I used all Americolor® Gel Colors for this tutorial.


For the lemons, I used a bit of lemon yellow, egg yolk, and white in the center. For the leaves, I used moss green and leaf green. By using different shades of each color, we'll be able to give the painting more depth and realism. I also grabbed a selection of round, flat, and angled brushes. I like to use round brushes when I'm painting flowers or in this case the lemons. The flat/angled brushes work great for leaves, stems, and greenery. For finer details, you'll want smaller brushes.

Next, you'll want to start mixing the colors for your varied shades. I always start with the lightest color as the base, then add in darker colors. Since gel colors are a highly concentrated translucent color, you'll always need to mix white in to make them more opaque for painting. I always love how the palette looks when I'm done, almost like a piece of art itself.

Now to apply it to the cake. This is very important: your frosted cake MUST BE VERY COLD. Like chilled in the fridge overnight, or if you're in a rush, stashed in the freezer for about an hour. I don't recommend the freezer method during the summer months because you could run into a lot of condensation issues. Pull your cake out of the fridge and get to work.


You can see that I started by painting the basic shapes in a lighter shade, then began adding deeper shades for depth. The lighter color is lemon yellow mixed with white, and the darker shades have egg yolk mixed in. I also ended up adding a bit of leaf green to the yellow for another portion of the lemon.

Once I finished the lemons, I began adding the leaves and branches in to fill it out. This time I started with a darker green for the branches and leaves, then added in strokes of a lighter green to make the leaves pop more. If you notice your buttercream becoming soft at any point, stick the cake back in the fridge for a bit then come back to your work.

Full transparency here: I painted one side of the cake while focusing on taking pictures of the process and hated the way the design looked. So I started over on the opposite side of the cake, focusing on the design and forgot about taking new pictures. You may notice some differences in the process pictures vs. the finished cake. I hope you'll give me some grace with this one, I'm still new to the whole blogging process.


In the end, I was super happy with the final product. These painted shapes are so super simple that I'm positive anyone can do them, as long as you know the right way to go about it. What's that saying? Easy peezy lemon squeezy? Sorry, I couldn't help but go there.


But really, if you're not an avid artist, start with something simple and you'll be surprised at how easy it is to pull off. Simple florals? They start with a round-ish shape and you add some brushstroke details from there. Leaves? They're just a couple rounded strokes that come to a point. Just break it down, and don't be scared to try!


If you enjoyed this little tutorial, I'd love for you to pin the image below or share with your friends!


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Special note: Photos bearing the Crazy Cakes Kansas City watermark are simply from a time when the business was operating under that name. All work you see here was created by the owner, Ashley Falkner. 

Kansas City, KS info@ashleyspurpleapron.com 913.638.8857

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