Cake Paints: A World of Possibilities

Cake paints are to a cake decorator what watercolor is to a painter. This medium allows a cake decorator to create stunning masterpieces.

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Painting on cake is a decorating technique that started some years back and has fast gained popularity with cake decorators. It doesn’t seem in a hurry to become extinct but rather grows more popular.

Some of the reasons why cake decorators love cake paints include the following:-

You can achieve more detailing on cakes with cake paints than with most other techniques or materials. Similarly,  with little effort and cake paints, you get stunning results. And finally,  cake painting is a relaxing pastime.

Be Inspired

Just like every other creative art, you can get ideas for your cake decoration in nature. Everywhere you look, there’s inspiration; from the dimpled smile of a cute baby to a mind blowing architectural masterpiece. Cake paints are media that allow  you to give free rein to these inspirations.

For what it’s worth, a hand painted cake is a delicate piece of art that makes the recipient feel special. If this is so, then why do most cake decorators shy away from hand painted cakes? Because it looks more complicated than it really is!HomeHere Gold Luster Dust Edible Cake Gold Dust, 1ozClick here to check this out and buy on Amazon



What to Expect

In this write up, we would (1) help you understand cake paints better (2) introduce you to different methods of cake painting and (3) show you how to make cake paints work for you.

Henri Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954), a renowned French artist said that creativity takes courage.

So we dare say that cake paints are not for the fainthearted. If so, what’s the worst that can happen?
Reflect on that while we move on to understanding cake paints.

What is cake paint?

Cake paint is any medium that is used to add color to cake. That simple? Yes!

It is also called edible paint or food coloring. You use cake paints to color your icing be it fondant, royal icing, butter icing or any other type icing. It is also used to decorate cakes or any other baked goods.

Types of Cake Paints

There are basically five types of cake paints or food coloring. They are Liquid food color, Liquid gel color, Gel paste color, Powdered color and Natural food color. All these have their advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s quickly touch on that…


 Liquid Food Color

This is the most common and inexpensive variant of food coloring. It is water based and made with synthetic dye.

Most beginners like to use it because it is very forgiving; it’s hard to add too much color using this type of food coloring. The advantage is that it is not expensive and it’s readily available.

It’s also great for pastel coloring and works well for dough and cake batters. Disadvantages include: (1) it is the weakest of all food coloring because of its water base,(2) the lack of intensity requires that you use a lot if you need a darker hue which would thin out your recipe (3) doesn’t work well for fondant, sugar/gum paste and other detailed cake decoration.

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Liquid Gel Color

Though also a liquid form of coloring, its consistency is thicker than that of the ordinary liquid coloring. It is also made with synthetic dye and its base is water, corn syrup or glycerin. This coloring is more concentrated than the ordinary liquid coloring.

The advantages include the following: (1) it is highly concentrated which makes a little go a long way (2) it is great for achieving darker colors and vivid accents (3) The concentration helps you maintain the integrity of your recipe (4) works well for fondant and other icing that you don’t want thinned down.

The disadvantages include (1) it is not readily available (2) it is easier to add more color than needed because of its concentration (3) it is not easy to work into dough or cake batter.

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 Paste Gel Color

Just as the name implies, these cake paints  come in gel form. They are made with synthetic dye with a water, glycerin or corn syrup base. This food coloring is also highly concentrated.

The advantages include: (1) It is great for coloring large batch of dough, fondant or icing (2) it is spill-proof (3) a little goes a long way (4) it helps you achieve vivid colors and darker shades of color.

The disadvantages include (1) it is not readily available in grocery stores (2) it can be tricky to work into dough (3) it isn’t very forgiving; doesn’t give room for trial and error.

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Powdered Food Color

These are colors made out of synthetic dye without water, corn syrup or glycerin. They are usually sold in powdered form. Powdered color can be used either dry or diluted with water, clear alcohol or edible spirits. It all depends on what you want to achieve.

The advantages include the following; (1) It works well in recipes where even the tiniest drop of water/liquid makes a lot of difference (2) The powdered form gives it a long shelf life (3) because of the lack of liquids,It doesn’t dry out (4) it can be used to achieve darker shades .

The disadvantages include: (1) It can be tricky to mix to get the right consistency.

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Natural Food Color

This is made from organic and plant sources with no corn syrup or glycerin. The advantage is that it is good for allergy free cooking/baking.

The disadvantages include (1) it is the most expensive type of food coloring (2) it is not readily available (3)the colors are subdued and not as vibrant and intense as synthetic coloring.

Note that when you go shopping, you may only see edible paint, icing colors, or food coloring.

Have no fear; edible paints, food coloring and icing colors are cake paints. Your choice would be determined by the kind of cake painting or decoration that you want to do.

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Different Cake Decorating Techniques that Require Cake Paints

From piping and stenciling, to airbrushing and hand painting; all these and more techniques require one type of edible coloring or the other.

Piping on a cake and painting

Some cake decorators think that piping is no longer in vogue but that’s not entirely true. Some veteran cake decorators have taken piping a notch higher; this they do by piping intricate designs on cakes and painting with edible colors.

The results are stunning work of art that looks like molded sugar craft. You too can make stunning cakes like the masters; all you need is  royal icing, piping bags and nozzles, brushes, gold or silver dust (or whatever color you desire), and edible spirit/vodka. And they are readily available online .
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There’s so much you can do on a cake with this technique. The limit to this technique is your imagination and… maybe your budget lol. You can either use gel food color, powdered food color or cake oil paint.

You can make your cake oil paint by mixing powdered food color and vegetable shortening.

The effects you get from the different media are different but all beautiful. You can try out any of these media on a covered cake dummy or scrap of white fondant before making the actual cake.


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This is a technique that brings your cake to life! You can’t go wrong with it especially for ombre cake designs and detailed coloring and painting. Most sellers or suppliers of airbrush guns stock cake paints that are appropriate for airbrushing. However you can purchase these colors alone; all you need to know is which brand works best for you.

Hand Painting

This is really where so many cake decorators falter and begin to back off. But like we mentioned earlier, with the right tools and attitude you can cakes that would wow the recipients.

There are different methods to hand painting all of which require different types of cake paints. If you are a beginner, there are many resources online that can and would help you to get started. A good place to start would be with some resources from Amazon

Making Cake Paints Work For You

Cake paints can mean any food coloring and can be used for a thousand and one culinary ventures. However, for us, once cake paint is mentioned, hand painting readily comes to mind.

Like earlier stated, hand painting on cake is an art form that takes your finished product to a whole new level.

Hopefully we have been able to stir your curiosity and fired you up to try hand painting on cake. If so, let’s give you some tips that would help you on this venture.

Prepping Your Cake

Before you get to the decoration stage of your cake, there are pitfalls you need to avoid. One of these pitfalls is inadequate preparation of the cake for decoration.

When you prepare your cake well, you avoid hassles and the need to cover up mistakes. We would give you a list of pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Uneven cake layers

This is caused by cakes that are not properly leveled before they are staked. Your cakes have to be leveled; if you have a good sense of symmetry, you can eyeball the leveling of your cake. But if you are like most of us who need help, don’t hesitate to reach out for a cake leveler. Ensure that you allow the cake to cool properly before you trim.

You can also torte the cake; this means cutting into layers and sandwiching with any filling of your choice. Hopefully with either trimming or torting, you would get a cake with an even surface to work on.

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Bulges between layers

These are those ugly rings you see that show where two layers of cake is joined. This is one pitfall that could ruin hours of painstaking effort.

This shows up hours after you have covered the cake; sometimes even the next day. You can avoid this pitfall by (1) building a dam for your filling and (2) letting your cake sit for some hours after crumb coating before you cover with the final coat.

This means that you cannot be in a hurry to get your cake done. The reason you let your cake sit is so that it can settle; this allows all the air bubbles that push out the filling to dissipate. Also ensure that your filling is the right consistency.


Cake crumbs in your final coating

This is one thing you should endeavor to avoid especially when using royal icing, butter icing and similar frostings. To avoid this, all you need do is give your cake a crumb coating; some decorators call it dirty icing. This first layer of frosting would help catch all the crumbs.

Allow the cake to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or longer if not refrigerated.

Smudges and dents on the cake

This happens when your cake surface is not dry. Allow the fondant to dry before you start painting on it. It is advised that you let the covered cake sit for 12 to 24 hours. This is so that the fondant is dry enough for you to work on without denting the cake.

On To Decorating With Cake Paints 

Now that we have a perfect surface to work on, we can confidently proceed to decorating and painting our cake. However there are also pitfalls to look out for as you set out your cake paints and brushes.

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Taking on complicated designs

In your first attempts, one thing you shouldn’t do is start out with complicated designs. Even if you think you can do it, the wise and safe thing to do is always start out simple.

Shapes and flowers (especially roses) are a good starting point as they are fairly straightforward designs. Also do not also start out with combining too many cake paints.

Starting with free hand painting

First  start out by learning how to copy and transfer images to your cake. This makes your painting easier as you have a template to guide you.

Painting your first cake  free hand is not a good idea. This is  because you might be disappointed. What you expect from your cake paints might be way different from your final result.


Let me reiterate that cake paints give free rein to your imagination. Do not shy away from trying out new techniques and cake paint combinations. Most great cake decorators became so by trial and error.

You can also read some of our previous articles for more information on other cake decorating techniques:-

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