cakes/ tutorials

How to Paint on a Buttercream Cake

If you’ve ever been intimated with how to paint on a buttercream cake, don’t be! Trust me when I say that it’s fun and easy! In my short video tutorial below, along with a few tips and suggestions, you’ll be on your way to painting your first cake! The most important thing with all of this is to have fun!

How to Paint on a Buttercream Cake - Easy Steps and Video Tutorial by Beyond the Butter, LLC | Image and Video Copyright Policy: © Beyond the Butter, LLC

painting a buttercream cake – items you’ll need to start

paint tray

YUYUE Round Painting Palette Professional Plastic Paint Tray

Paint trays come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be found at just about any craft store like Michaels, A.C. Moore, or Hobby Lobby. You can also purchase them online. I prefer the smaller-sized paint trays like the one shown here on the left, but buy the one that works best for you and your cake painting projects.

YUYUE Round Painting Palette Professional Plastic Paint Tray | $2.03

synthetic paint brushes

Wilton 5-Piece Decorating Brush Set

You’ll want to use synthetic, sterile brushes for applying your gel colors to the buttercream frosting. Wilton sells this five-pack brush set, but you can typically find other companies that sell something similiar. I have these as well as some other generic brushes.

Wilton 5-piece Decorating Brush Set | $7.99

icing gel colors

Wilton 12 Icing Color Set

When it comes to coloring buttercream frosting, I typically use Wilton’s brand. A little bit of their gel coloring goes a loooooong way and the colors are fabulous. They also have the Color Right system which apparently can match the color you previously used based on the number of drops. A few of my fellow food bloggers that are crazy good with cake decorating swear by it. You also have the Chefmaster food coloring brand as well. A good starter set, if you choose to go the Wilton gel route, would be:

Wilton 12 Icing Color Set (even though their image shows only 11, ha!) | $24.99

For this particular tutorial, I used Buttercup Yellow (Wilton), Cornflower Blue (Wilton), Juniper Green (Wilton), Kelly Green (Wilton), Violet (Wilton), and Bakers Rose (Chefmaster)

vodka, grain alcohol, or clear vanilla extract

If you want, you can paint with using just the gel color itself which will give you a much more concentrated, bolder color. To thin it out though, and to achieve a watercolor effect, you’ll want to add a few drops of either vodka (the cheapest you can find), Everclear Grain Alcohol (look for the 151% proof – not the 190% proof which is obtainable by permit only in the state of PA and banned in most other states), or a clear extract (vanilla- or a lemon-flavor will work) to the gel color.

My preference is the Everclear Grain Alcohol which I can get for roughly $19 (750 ML bottle).

How to Paint on a Buttercream Cake | Image Credit: Beyond the Butter, LLC

buttercream painting tips and suggestions

remember the colors you’re using

I like to place the gel color bottle I’m using behind each paint well so I can remember what color it is I’m using. You can also take a sheet of paper, draw circles to match the paint tray wells, place a dab of each color inside the circle, and then write the name next to it.

clean your paint brushes

Rinse out your paint brush in water before changing paint colors and clean your brushes thoroughly after you’re done using them. Allow to air dry standing up in a dish caddy.

brain freeze

If you’re stuck on what to paint (I’ve been there), look at different examples on Pinterest (check out my Floral Inspiration board for some ideas!) or magazines that inspire you! If you like to doodle in sketch books like I do, look back at some of your drawings and see if anything creates that spark.

My very first painted buttercream cake that had flowers on it was inspired by one of my favorite companies ever—the Rifle Paper Co.! The sky is the limit with what you want to paint! As I’ve said before, just remember to have fun!

stay cool

I like to keep the house at a much cooler temp so the buttercream doesn’t begin to sweat. The cats don’t seem to mind it (they have fur coats on) and I just put on a light sweater, if need be. My husband hates the cold though, so I make sure to try and do it when he’s not home

buttercream softening

If you find your buttercream is softening up while you paint, place it in the fridge for about an hour (or however long it takes for the frosting to feel firm again). An hour seems to be the sweet spot for me.

be creative

Don’t just stop with painting the cake. If the mood strikes you to add sprinkles or gold accents (like Truly Mad Plastics, super gold powder), go for it!

be social and share your painted cake creations!

Take pictures of your painted buttercream cake masterpiece and post it to social media! And don’t forget to tag me in the photo with #beyondthebutter and @beyond.thebutter (Instagram), @beyondthebutter (Facebook and Twitter), so I can feature your beautiful work!

how to paint on a buttercream cake video tutorial

check out these irresistible cake recipes from beyond the butter!

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  • Reply
    April 24, 2019 at 8:51 PM

    Thank you for this comprehensive guide!

  • Reply
    August 13, 2019 at 4:09 PM

    Which butter cream do you prefer? Which one will hold better?

    • Reply
      August 13, 2019 at 4:59 PM

      Hi! Thanks for your questions! I like both the American Buttercream (ABC) and the Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) for different reasons. SMBC is quite stable (because of the meringue) in hotter temps, and holds up well with piping and frosting cakes. ABC holds up equally well with piping and frosting, but isn’t as stable in hotter temps and can sweat when the cake is taken out of the fridge. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried painting on SMBC yet, but I would image it would work just as well! And for taste (if you’d like to know), I prefer SMBC because it’s not as sweet as ABC.I hope this helps!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2019 at 4:55 AM

    Hi can i use essence since extract type is hard to find here in my country

    • Reply
      September 12, 2019 at 9:01 AM

      Hi! I apologize for the late reply! I haven’t used essence in place of vanilla extract before, but it is a common replacement, so I don’t see why not. Just be aware though that if it’s not clear, it will darken the icing gel colors you’re using to paint your cake with. Other clear alternatives are grain alcohol and vodka.

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