How to Make Watercolor Cakes
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.