How to Make a Watercolor Cake

A watercolor cake tutorial complete with step-by-step photos and an animated GIF!  Happy 3rd Blog Birthday!

How to make a watercolor cake + video.

Excess cake and leftover buttercream in my freezer, more dirty dishes than anyone wants to record, and a few to many sugar highs later, Style Sweet CA turned 3!

When I started writing this post, I thought I should share my thoughts on blogging and what year 3 meant to me.  I talk a lot about my personal life as it is, so this time I decided to skip straight to the goods (if you want the sappy stuff, head to the bottom).  You asked so you shall receive (or rather I asked with this Reader Survey, lol) – a NEW cake tutorial!  The results from the reader survey were pretty clear: you all LOVE cake!  There was a lot of love for more recipes and stylish photography, but there was a heavy push towards cake decorating and tutorials.  Year 4 won’t entirely consist of how-to posts, but I will certainly try my best to listen YOUR wants and add more when I can.

In honor of Style Sweet CA turning 3, I put together an updated version of my watercolor cake tutorial.  The first version is still a hit, but this new way if even easier.  Most importantly, I’ve added new photos and even an animated GIF!

How to make a watercolor cake + video.
How to make a watercolor cake + video.
How to make a watercolor cake + video.
How to make a watercolor cake + video.

How to Make a Watercolor Cake

1.  Frost the Cake – Using your favorite buttercream of choice (I used Swiss meringue buttercream, but American buttercream is fine, as well), smoothly frost the cake about 90% of the way.  It does not need to be absolutely perfect yet since we will be adding more buttercream in Step 3.

2.  Color the Buttercream – Divide any remaining buttercream into two or three bowls.  Using gel food coloring, tint the buttercream the color of your choice.  I used pink, peach, and yellow – all colors that when mixed together are still pretty ( see NOTES).

3.  “Paint” the Cake – Using an offset spatula, smudge the frosted bake with swipes of the colored buttercream.  The step can be as random or as calculated as you’d like.  There really is no right or wrong way.  However, I recommend stacking the colors more vertically instead of right next to each other horizontally – since we will be smoothing the frosting around the sides of the cake horizontally and you’ll want to leave a bit of room to allow the colors the “blend.”

4.  Smooth and Smear – As you would when smoothly frosting any cake, take an icing smoother and begin smoothing out the bits of colored frosting.  Stop after each time around the cake to add more frosting when needed. Please note that this process should be quick yet deliberate.  You will only be able to smooth over the frosting a few times around before the colors begin to blend together too much. 

5.  Finish the Top – Similar to the sides, add a few swipes of color to the top of the cake.  Use the long, flat side of an icing smoother held parallel to the top of the cake and gently press and spin to smooth and blend the color.

6.  Clean – Like finishing any smooth cake, go back and clean up the sides and edges.  A few, gentle passes should suffice, but again, don’t over-blend or the “watercolor” effect may get lost.

7.  Embelish - Use any remaining buttercream to add decorative borders around the cake.  I prefer a spiral pattern using a star tip to match the whimsical, watercolor design.  A handful of sprinkles is never a bad idea either. 

NOTES
–  Be mindful of your color choices and think about how the might blend together.  To be honest, the first time I tried this design I used pink, orange, and green/teal.  The greenish orange sections blended together to create an ugly brown.
–  As mentioned in the tutorial, smooth only as much as necessary.  The watercolor effect is certainly up to intertation, but keep in mind that the more you fuss with it, then more it tends to all blend together.  So instead of a watercolor pink and yellow cake, you might just get an orange one. 
–  I’ve successfully made this cake design with both Swiss meringue buttercream and American buttercream.  Swiss meringue takes a lot more gel food coloring to get the desired colors, FYI. 
– Reserve a bit of plain, white buttercream to add as needed after smoothing or if you over-blend.

How to make a watercolor cake + video.

Okay, cue the sappy stuff.  You guys!!  Thank you for three years of love, support, and enthusiasm for this little corner of the Internet.  Because of you all, I feel equally comfortable sharing my life musings and tidbits about my son as I do decorative cakes and French pastry.  I read and appreciate all of your comments ranging from parenting/life advice to sharing my recipes that you’ve made your own (even if I sometimes forget to respond until weeks later).  Thank you for allowing me to have this space where I can be myself, find my voice, and express my creativity through sugar and flour.  

Lastly, it’s not too late to take the Reader Survey!  Let year 4 be about ALL of us!

How to make a watercolor cake + video.
How to make a watercolor cake + video.