How To Paint On A Buttercream Cake

I’ve seen some stunning painted cakes this summer, and it inspired me to try my hand at painting! I have no artistic background (seriously, I majored in accounting!!), but I’ve seen Bob Ross on TV, and decided to try my hand at creating layers of “paint!”

I fell in love with the floral pattern on a sundress I found at H&M, and used it as my inspiration for this cake design.

me painting blue cake-2

Most of the painted cakes out there are done on fondant! As you know, I rarely work with fondant, and have found it’s possible to paint directly onto buttercream, as long as it’s properly chilled. Thank goodness!!!

I frosted a small cake made with ombre blue layers, using a half match of my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe and a half batch of my american buttercream.

cake layers stacked

I allowed the cake to sit in the fridge for an hour, to allow the buttercream to really firm up, and crust!

I know it sounds strange, but because of the frosting’s high sugar content, it crusts as it sits and is exposed to air.

frosting smoothed

Once the frosting crusted, I mixed together some gel food coloring and vodka to create my paint!

The vodka helps the food coloring dry faster, due to it’s high alcohol content. It also helps thin out the food coloring, to help create different shades of blue.

If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can also use lemon extract!

painting cake in the beginning

I started painting the sides of the cake, and lightly outlined my flowers. I ended up using two different shades of blue gel food coloring for this. One was a navy blue, the other was a royal blue.

I was able to get about a quarter of the way around the cake before the frosting began to soften, and started to smear as I was painting. I chilled the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes, and then continued my painting.

painting cake

Taking breaks also allows the paint to dry, to enable you to layer the “paint” to create more depth and shading. It also it good for your back and your hand to take breaks šŸ˜›

me skinny with cake-2

While I did my best to use the flowers on my dress as a guide, I definitely went a bit rogue on a few flowers!

I tried to just have fun with it, and not fret over the flowers that turned out a bit different than I planned.

sliced painted cake

This cake ended up taking quite a bit of time to complete, but was such a fun change of pace! It was so fun trying a new technique, and challenging myself in a new way.

I have painted on my cakes in the past, but really just stuck with streaks! I had never attempted a pattern, or anything this detailed. I was lucky this was such a forgiving design šŸ™‚me smiling with painted cake-2

If you do have a section that goes awry or smears, simply chill the cake, then use a warmed bench scraper to carefully remove a thin layer of frosting.

If you’re more of a visual learner, you can also see the full video tutorial below:

Small Batch Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

This recipe is a half batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe! It's perfect for making smaller cakes, and I usually use it to make 3, 6-inch cake layers.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword 6 inch cake recipe, small layer cake recipe, vanilla layer cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 1 six inch layer cake


  • 1 1/2 cups flour (208 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder (7 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (113 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (5 grams)
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (122 grams)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temp (180 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (13 grams)



  1. Preheat oven to 350Ā°F. Line three 6 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

  3. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

  4. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

  5. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter. This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.

  6. Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8 inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Recipe Notes

If baking a sheet cake using this recipe (one batch makes two 9x13 layers of sheet cake), be sure to place one of two flower nails upside down toward the center of the plan, to help the layer bake more quickly and evenly. Layer cakes take 38-40 minutes to bake, but can vary based on the size of sheet pan you're using.


Small Batch Vanilla Buttercream Recipe

This is a smaller batch of my favorite vanilla buttercream! It's great for a batch of cupcakes, or a smaller cake (6 inches or less).

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword american buttercream recipe, small batch frosting, vanilla frosting recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 6 inch cake


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (217 grams)
  • 4 cups powdered sugat (454 grams)
  • 1 pinch salt (2 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (15 grams)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8 grams)



  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.

  2. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 

  3. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

Recipe Notes

If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

7 thoughts on “How To Paint On A Buttercream Cake

  1. Once you complete a painted cake how long does it keep? Will it start to weep after a day or two?
    Your cake turned out beautifully!

  2. I’m going to make the smaller version of your white cake but noticed in the ingredients that it says butter versus using unsalted butter. Was this an error?

Let me know what you think!

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