Painting Cakes: Tips and Tricks With Natasha Collins

Tuesday 7th February

The art of cake painting is becoming more and more popular, as cake decorators look for new, fun and easy techniques to create truly unique designs. We receive a lot of questions about painting cakes and so we asked one of our tutors and owner of Nevie-Pie Cakes, Natasha Collins, for some useful tips and ideas. Whether you consider yourself a natural artist or a beginner, we hope the information helps with your painting efforts…

  • How does painting cakes differ from working on paper or canvas? Edible paints are used differently to, for example, watercolours. Sugarpaste (fondant) can melt quickly, so you need to paint in a fairly dry fashion and in this way it’s most similar to working with acrylic paints. When you first apply paint onto sugarpaste (fondant), it can look a little shiny but once dry, the edible paint takes on a beautiful lustre. 
  • How to choose a design: It depends on your skill level and also the speed at which you paint. Most people who are just starting off prefer to add a small amount of painted detail, maybe a ribbon of flowers or a few painted leaves with some 3D roses. If you find you prefer to paint slowly, then I recommend applying one large flower on the front of the cake or a trail of flowers up one side. As you work more quickly and gain more experience, you can attempt a more complex or detailed design.
  • How to paint flowers: When painting flowers, you should always find some kind of reference to work from. Make sure you choose the most beautiful flower you can find – this is because as you paint your flower onto the cake, it will be less refined and detailed than the image you’re taking inspiration from.
  • Applying, diluting or strengthening colours: What most people don’t know is that you can use water with the edible paints to create lighter tones and to clean the paint from your brush. You can also use the paint straight from the pot for a darker, more intense hue. The paints can be mixed together to produce different colours, and again water can be used to create tonal variations. Once applied, the colours should take around 10 minutes to dry.
TIP: If the area you’ve painted is very shiny and you can see a pool of water sitting on the surface, then you’ve used too much. This will also be true if the paint takes longer than 10 minutes to dry. If you find you don’t like using paint ‘dry’ i.e. without adding water, then try using clear alcohol instead, as it evaporates more quickly.
  • Making mistakes: If you paint and make a mistake, don’t worry! You can use clean water to paint ‘over’ it. Keep cleaning your brush and taking fresh water back to the mistake. When all the paint has been lifted off, wipe the area with some clean kitchen roll. Leave it to dry for a few minutes and then you can paint over it again.
TIP: To avoid colouring mistakes, change your water frequently because using muddy water will change the colours once you brush them onto the cake. 
  • Layering colours: Always start with the lightest, most diluted tone first. When it has dried, add the darker tones one layer at a time, and finally brush on the neat tones. Make sure each layer is totally dry before you paint on the next, or you may find that the paint will lift off if it’s still wet.

Natasha is teaching The Beginner’s Guide to Painting Cakes course on Friday 24th February. To find out more about the course and to book, click here. And to try some cake painting at home, Natasha Collins has created a range of edible paints exclusive to Squires Kitchen, which you can buy online.