Nearly a decade ago, I enrolled in a watercolor class during summer school at my university. I've always considered myself to be a fairly crafty and artistic person, but let me tell you- watercolor painting is HARD! Making simple designs and blending colors was fun and sort of relaxing, but the detail and artistry that my instructor and some of my fellow classmates used was phenomenal. Needless to say, I knew I was not going to improve all that much in just a short amount of time. However, I definitely left inspired and with a tremendous amount of respect for those that could create beautiful imagery with only a few tools.
Years later, I find myself as an artist of sorts- a pastry artist. I may not be that comfortable working on a canvas, but I have learned how to manipulate cake and sugar to extreme levels. When watercolor details began circulating through the wedding world, I was inspired to incorporate the trend on to cake. I've been able to translate one medium onto two different sugar "canvases." Using different techniques, the watercolor concept works with both buttercream and fondant covered cakes.
BUTTERCREAM WATERCOLOR CAKE
1. Torte, fill, and layer your cake layers.
2. Crumb coat your cake with the lightest color of your watercolor palette. You may find more details on how to crumb coat here.
3. Divide and color your buttercream with gel food coloring. For this cake, I decided to use three different colors: white, pink, and orange. You may use these same techniques with any shades you wish.
4. Starting with the top, add a fair amount of icing and begin to smooth with an off-set spatula. You will want a bit of this color to hang over the edge, so that it can be blended with the other colors later.
5. Working from the bottom up, add "stripes" of color around your cake- one color at a time. For more control, use a small off-set spatula and only a small amount of icing at a time. These "stripes" do not need to be completely even for this design. In fact, I find it looks better if they are not completely straight. I even added back in a touch of white on top for a more blended effect.
6. Repeat the previous step with your second color.
7. Repeat the precious step with your third and/or final color, making sure to connect with the overhang of the first color. At this point, your cake my look fairly sloppy. Don't worry- it will be okay!
8. Using a turntable and flat icing comb or bench scraper, partially smooth out the final coat of your icing. Finish off the top as you would a regular buttercream cake. For more details on how to ice a cake with buttercream, follow the steps here.
9. To create the swirly, textured effect, hold a straight metal spatula parallel to the cake. Starting with the bottom, touch the tip of the spatula to the cake. Keeping the spatula connected, spin the turntable while spiraling the spatula to the top of the cake. Finish off the top with a spiral. For more instruction, follow the tutorial here.
FONDANT WATERCOLOR CAKE
A decorating technique that I love is that you can literally paint on fondant. When mixed with a clear alcohol, like vodka, gel food coloring becomes edible paint. The alcohol in the vodka evaporates much faster than any other liquid, leaving the beautiful color behind. Just remember, a little color goes a long way!
1. Mix vodka and gel color in a paint palette to create the colors and shades of your choice.
2. Paint directly onto the fondant cake. For this project, I used a medium flat-edged brush. Feel free to test the color on a spare piece of fondant.
3. If you find that your color is too saturated, add more vodka to your brush and blend. Like any watercolor painting, the more liquid, the more the colors will blend and swirl. However, the more liquid, the less control you will have. With this design, that's completely okay!
4. Make a major error? Use a q-tip soaked in vodka to clean up any mistakes- just don't rely on this too much or your fondant finish will be affected.
5. Allow to dry before handling.
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
This cake is so gorgeous!! LOVE it!
Awe, thanks Katrina! I adore your site, too 😉
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[...] is especially perfect for summer celebrations and oh-so-pretty for weddings. Here is a cute little tutorial on how to mix watercolors for cake decorating if you feel up for a project! Enjoy more cake [...]
What a beautiful cake - so much creativity!
Thank you so much!
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This is absolutely incredible!!
I'm a pastry student and have just started my advanced cakes lab, our chef asked us to come up with a design for an occasion and a wedding cakes with the cover made from Buttercream. i think i may use this idea for one of my cakes- especially as it is spring and i think this way works so well for this time of the year.
now i have a cake to sketch and a blog to keep reading!
Maya,Thank you for stopping by! Yes, definitely a great design for Spring. Good Luck!!
I'm thinking about doing this for my daughter's birthday cupcakes. I would definitely have to be a bit more strategic, but do you think diluted liquid based food coloring would work as well as gel food coloring?
Liquid based food coloring for the buttercream? Yes, I think that should work. Try adding a little bit at a time and see if it combines well. Wishing your daughter a very happy birthday!
Hi Tessa, I was wondering would other clear alcohol though weaker, like a moscato, work as well instead of vodka? Your cakes are beautiful 🙂
You, not I am not completely sure. The reason for the alcohol is that is evaporates much quicker than water and too much water may melt the sugar in the fondant. Might be worth trying different types on a sample piece of fondant?
hello:) I don't have vodka so what can I use in place of it?? I heard vanilla flavour or almond would be good, any thoughts??
Leah - yes, you can use a clear extract. Alcohols and extracts work better than plain water since they evaporate much faster =)
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Hey,I just wanted to let you know I love your tutorials and this cake looks great!
I'm not an incredibly experienced baker much less froster, but a friend asked me to make a cake for a special occasion, and I was thinking of trying this. Do you think this is too difficult a technique for someone quite inexperienced with frosting cakes?
Thank you for stopping by! Frontally, this technique is pretty forgiving. You can make the buttercream as smooth or as "rustic" as you'd like. I'd say for a beginner it is totally possible, as long as you use a good frosting recipe =)
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