I’ve always been inspired by painterly textures when it comes to my cakes, and although watercolor buttercream has been around for quite some time, it hasn’t gotten old in my eyes. It works in all sorts of color palettes and is so freeing to create because you really can’t go wrong. I do the technique a little differently because I tend to like bigger blobs of color in my watercolor finish, so I wanted to whip up a quick tutorial to show you my way.
Watercolor buttercream is the perfect base for all sorts of cake designs, whether you want something simple or elegant. The cakes shown below are actually the same cake decorated two different ways! And as far as buttercream types go, any kind of buttercream that you can tint to your desired colors will work with this tutorial (I’m using my favorite Vanilla Buttercream Recipe).
Most of the watercolor buttercream tutorials out there show you adding all of the colors at once and then smoothing them all together. With this technique, I find that the result ends up being more streaky in nature than I like. So, I usually start out with that technique and then go on to add and smooth the colors one by one to better control the outcome. All of this is shown in the video below, so give it a watch before you move on to the written tutorial below:
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You Will Need
- A cake that’s been crumb coated and chilled (mine is a three layer 6 inch cake, but any size will do)
- 1.5 batches of vanilla buttercream
- Food color gels of your choice (mine are varying amounts of AmeriColor Fuchsia and Orange)
- Bowls and spoons for color mixing
- Angled spatula
- Icing smoother
- Cake turntable
Step 1: Frost the Cake with a Base Color
First, frost the cake. You don’t need to worry about getting it super smooth this go round, but you will want to make sure it’s nice and level to serve as a base for the colors that will go on top. With your chilled and crumb coated cake on the turntable, add some buttercream to the top and smooth it down with your angled spatula until it’s level and reaches beyond the edges of the cake.
Next, add a thin layer of buttercream to the sides of the cake and smooth it with your icing smoother as you turn the cake on the turntable.
When the sides are level and smooth, you should have a little crown of buttercream that has formed along the top edge. Use your angled spatula to swipe that buttercream toward the top center of the cake to create sharp edges all around.
If you want to improve your cake frosting skills, check out this guide that shows everything you need to know about creating a smooth buttercream finish.
Step 2: Color the Buttercream
Divide the excess buttercream into bowls, one for each color you’re planning on mixing. Add your desired amounts of food color gel to each bowl and mix it up until you’ve got the color palette you’re imagining.
I mixed up four different colors using AmeriColor Fuchsia and Orange. The lighter pink is just a tiny amount of AmeriColor Fuchsia, while the darker pink is a little more of that added. I did the same with the Orange color – added a tiny amount for the light orange and more for the dark orange. If you want to learn more about buttercream color mixing, here is a post on how to get the colors you’re going for.
Step 3: Add and Smooth the Colors
I start off the traditional watercolor buttercream way by adding all of the colors at once and then smoothing them with my icing smoother.
With this technique, the colors end up being pretty streaky, but make a good base for the next step where we’ll add more color and definition.
Step 4: Add More Colors One by One
To turn this streaky watercolor cake into a masterpiece, we’ll need to add the colors one by one. I like to add big blobs of one color (I started here with the dark fuchsia on top of those streaks), and smooth it all down before moving onto the next.
After smoothing down the dark fuchsia, I moved on to adding big blobs of dark orange wherever I felt like, then smoothed those colors down. Don’t even worry about mixing colors on top of one another here – blending those colors is what makes the finish look like a watercolor masterpiece.
Next, I added the light orange and smoothed it down, followed by the light pink.
You can continue adding and smoothing colors until it looks just right.
Step 5: Continue Decorating (Optional)
From here, you can keep on decorating the cake however you want! This watercolor base is perfect as-is or with some simple piping on top (as shown below using Wilton Tip 4B).
It’s all up to you! This watercolor look can be dressed up or dressed down depending on what you want to do.
Did you make this watercolor cake? I want to know how it went and what colors you used! Let me know in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram to show me. I love to see what you create!