How To Make A Spatula Painted Cake

colorful buttercream cake by sugar and sparrow

A few months ago, I got the opportunity to try this spatula painted buttercream technique on a wedding cake and it was so much fun! I had a beautiful buttercream color palette to work with (terracotta + blush + cream + burgundy) and wanted to create something eye-catching and different. Using this technique turned out to be so easy and beautiful and I couldn’t wait to try it again. So naturally, after getting my hands on this amazing AmeriColor Nifty Fifty color gel kit, the first thing I thought to do was create a spatula painted cake with another fun color palette!

I am absolutely over the moon for these color gel pastes and they deserve an entire post all their own. The kit comes with (you guessed it) fifty different colors, and they’re all so good that I probably will never have to spend time mixing custom colors ever again – something I had to do all the time before. Here’s a little video I whipped up to show you the color palette I chose with the spatula painted technique before you read all about it:

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You Will Need:

  • A cake that’s been frosted with smooth buttercream and chilled
  • A few cups of tintable buttercream (like vanilla or another light-colored flavor)
  • Food color gels of your choosing
  • Small icing spatula (I use this one)

Step 1: Start With A Chilled Buttercream Cake

This technique looks beautiful on top of a smooth buttercream surface, especially when you’re only doing it partially down the sides like I am. If you’re planning on covering the entire cake with swipes of buttercream, you could technically start with a crumb coated cake since the entire surface will be covered. Either way, starting with a chilled cake is essential.

how to get wrinkles out of buttercream

Make sure the cake you’re decorating has been chilled for at least 30 minutes and is firm to the touch as a starting point. This way, the swipes of buttercream will adhere perfectly without affecting the buttercream underneath.

Step 2: Mix Up Your Color Palette

Divide your buttercream into separate bowls and tint them with food color gels until you achieve the perfect color palette. The color palette for this specific cake consisted of just five AmeriColor colors that I thought would look pretty together: navy, turquoise, lemon yellow, electric purple, and fuschia. I love the way it turned out!

americolor gel pastes and buttercream

Feel free to get creative with your color palette, because you can’t really go wrong with this technique! I’ve seen it done beautifully with a monochromatic color palette and the first time I created a cake like this I used varying shades of terracotta, blush, cream and burgundy. Total magic.

Step 3: Apply Your Paint Strokes

One color at a time, use your icing spatula to swipe paint strokes onto the cake in an upward motion. You’ll want them to overlap some, but all in a random pattern.  

painting buttercream onto cake

buttercream cake decorating techniques

how to paint a cake with buttercream

When you’re applying the buttercream paint strokes to the top of the cake, swipe the spatula from the outer edge toward the center of the cake and keep the strokes pointed toward the same direction. Like this:

spatula painted buttercream cake by sugar and sparrow

In this particular cake design, I stopped my buttercream paint strokes halfway down the side of the cake with the exception of some smaller, random strokes further down. You can use this technique on the entire cake as an alternative, or just do the sides of the cake and decorate the top with other elements, like a floral arrangement. Whatever look you’re going for, this is such a fun and easy way to add an eye-catching artsy effect! It’s one of my new favorite techniques, and I can’t wait to try it in other color schemes.

painted buttercream cake by sugar and sparrow

Ready to give this technique a try? Tag me on Instagram and show me what you end up creating. I can’t wait to see what fun color palettes and designs you come up with!


  1. Hi Whitney! Could I get you advise if this technique works using Italian Meringue Buttercream? Your recipes usually call for American Buttercream, but these don’t work very well in Singapore’s hot and humid climate.

    Am looking forward to decorate a cake (for a baby shower) using this technique if it works with the Italian Buttercream. 🙂

    • Hi Janice! It would most certainly work with Italian Meringue Buttercream! Just follow the exact same steps and you’ll be good to go 🙂

  2. Hi Whitney,
    What can you use to spread and smooth the buttercream if you don’t have a metal/plastic smoother please?

    • Hi Ashley! I have never tried using anything to smooth buttercream except for an icing smoother/bench scraper. You can try using something like a butter knife, but it’s almost impossible to get an entirely smooth buttercream cake without the right tools.

  3. hey can this be done with whipped cream instead of butter cream icing over the cake?

    • Hi there! I’m not sure if whipped cream alone would be stable enough to frost a cake. Instead, I would find a stabilized whipped cream frosting recipe and the technique should work fine with that. I would share a recipe if I had one! Something to add to my list for developing 🙂

  4. Hi! Have you ever made and/or seen a cake using this technique that starts off with a cake that has been frosted with chocolate frosting, rather than white?

    • Hi Lynn! I haven’t seen that done (yet!) but I think it could look really cool in a color palette that includes chocolate as the base!

  5. Hi Whitney,
    Would the whole cake need to be kept chilled after the spatula strokes are added or can it be kept ambient?
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Freya, the cake doesn’t need to be refrigerated after the spatula strokes are added unless you’re using a frosting that requires refrigeration. The buttercream recipe I link to in this post doesn’t require refrigeration. Enjoy!

  6. Hi,
    In order not to get the colors mixed, do we need to chill after each color before adding the next color? Thank you so much

    • Hi Bahar! I don’t chill the cake in between colors. They don’t mix too easily when you layer them one at a time.

  7. Thank you we are having trouble with the strokes. The tutorial was so fast it was hard to tell how you applied it. Is it more of a swiping stroke

    • Yes, the strokes are like a swiping motion. You’ll add some buttercream to your spatula/palette knife and press it to the cake while swiping upward. Hope that helps!

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