It’s true — our obsession with all things watercolor knows absolutely no bounds. We’ve tested the vibrant-colored waters with these DIY watercolor notebooks and honed our skills with our Intro to Watercolor Painting online class. For this next DIY, we’re moving things in a culinary direction with the help of our good friend Heather Baird of Sprinkle Bakes who has designed this dreamy watercolor cake complete with flecks of edible gold leaf!
To make this simple technique even easier, we teamed up with Heather to bring you this Watercolor Gold Leaf Cake Decorating Kit which includes four food colors, edible gold leaf, sponges, brushes and clear vanilla extract to turn a plain cake into an edible masterpiece! Grab one for yourself and we’ll walk you through the steps from start to finish.
– gel food colors
– edible gold leaf
– clear vanilla extract
– sea sponges
(or grab everything HERE in our kit!)
Additional Supplies Needed (not included in kit):
– paper towels
– cup of water
1. Cover a cake in white fondant or purchase a pre-made, fondant-covered cake to decorate at home.
2. Place a drop of each food color onto four separate shallow dishes and then pour about 1/4 teaspoon of clear vanilla extract over each color.
3. Dip your sea sponges in a cup of water and wring them out until they are barely damp.
4. Dip a sponge into the food color “paint” and gently tap the paint onto your fondant-covered cake.
5. Pour a little clear vanilla extract into a small cup or bowl and dip your paintbrush in it.
6. Brush the extra clear vanilla extract over the sponge-painted surface to dilute and spread the color.
7. Blot away any excess vanilla extract with a paper towel to give your design more texture.
8. While the cake’s surface is still slightly tacky, add the gold leaf using the tip of your paintbrush handle.
9. Gently tap the gold leaf onto the cake with your fingers so that it flattens.
10. Let the cake completely dry for about 30-45 minutes before serving.
To begin this project, you’ll need a cake covered in white fondant (otherwise known as your blank canvas!). At the end of this post you’ll find instructions for making your own fondant-covered cake from scratch at home. If you’re not inclined to make your own, purchasing one from a bakery is not breaking any of our rules — go for it!
Decorating the Cake
Grab all of your decorating supplies and a white fondant-covered cake and let’s get started.
Place a drop of each food color onto four separate shallow dishes and then pour about 1/4 teaspoon of clear vanilla extract over each color. This is not an exact science — you can always dilute your color with more clear extract if desired. Before you begin painting the cake, you need to prep the sea sponges by dipping them in a cup of water and wringing them out until they are barely damp. The sponge will expand a little in size and become soft. Reserve the cup of water to clean the sponges and paint brush between colors.
Pour a little of the clear vanilla extract in a small condiment cup and have your paintbrush ready to go next to you.
Lightly dip a sponge into the food color “paint” and gently tap the paint onto the side of the fondant-covered cake. Then dip your paintbrush into the clear vanilla extract and brush over the sponge-painted surface to spread and dilute the color a bit, creating a watercolor wash effect.
Repeat this process with a few more colors, then use a paper towel to blot excess extract from the surface. Patterned paper towels will leave an interesting texture on the cake, while plain paper towels will leave behind a matte surface.
Continue this process with additional colors, blending them together at the edges until the entire cake is painted. Remember to intermittently clean the sponges and paint brush in the cup of water and wring them dry between colors.
While the cake’s surface is still slightly tacky, add the gold leaf. Be very careful when opening the book of gold leaf, because the slightest breath will cause it to crumple and fly away. To avoid an accident, fold the protective tissue back halfway so only half of the gold leaf is exposed. Using the pointed end of the paint brush, pick up some of the gold leaf; it will cling to the paint brush and tear off easily.
Gently touch the gold leaf to the cake’s surface. The gold leaf will instantly adhere.
Using a finger, gently tap the gold leaf onto the cake so that it flattens.
Allow the cake to stand until completely dry, about 30-45 minutes, and then serve it to your delighted guests. It seems crazy that something this beautiful can be eaten, but trust us — it tastes as as good as it looks!
Fondant-Covered Cake Recipe
Makes one triple-layer 8-inch cake
– 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
– 2 1/2 cups sugar
– 5 eggs, at room temperature
– 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
– 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
– 2 ½-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– milk or heavy cream, optional
– 1 pound ready-made rolled fondant, white
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and lightly flour three 8-inch round cake pans.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until lightened in color and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk; begin and end with the flour mixture. Beat until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined.
5. Fill the pans about 2/3 full and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to wire cooling racks and let them cool completely before frosting.
6. When the cakes are completely cool, level the tops with a serrated knife or cake leveler.
1. To make the frosting, mix together the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin on low speed until crumbly, then increase to high and beat for three minutes.
2. Add vanilla extract and beat again for another minute. If you find the buttercream is too stiff, add milk or heavy cream one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is spreadable.
3. Top two cake layers with 1/2 cup buttercream each and spread evenly; stack them beginning with a frosted layer and ending with the unfrosted layer. Cover the entire cake with buttercream frosting using an offset spatula and refrigerate the cake, uncovered, until the frosting is firm.
4. Use leftover icing to fill in gaps or uneven surfaces on the cake. It’s important that the buttercream layer is as smooth and even as possible. Chill the cake again in the refrigerator until the frosting is firm.
5. While the cake chills in the refrigerator, knead the fondant and roll it out on a smooth surface using a rolling pin until it makes a large circle about 1/8 inch thick.
6. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Lift the fondant onto the cake and allow it to drape naturally.
7. Gently smooth the fondant around the edges of the cake with your fingers and trim the excess fondant away from the bottom of the cake.
And there you have it! The perfect blank canvas for your edible watercolor masterpiece.
Grab a Watercolor Gold Leaf Cake Decorating Kit — complete with four colors, sponges, brushes, clear vanilla extract and edible gold leaf — and show off your artistic skills!
What other techniques would you use to jazz up a plain cake? Tell us in the comments below.
Food Production and Styling: Heather Baird
Photography: Heather Baird