Hand painted lettering is so in right now, and its so much easier than you might imagine! I certainly find it easier than hand piping writing (major props to White Flower Cake Shoppe ??), and its easily adaptable to any ‘font’ you want to use. Now if you are familiar with fondant, you might be expecting to transfer the lettering using graphite. Sorry, your gonna have to work a little harder than that!
When it comes to painting on Buttercream, or any kind of working ON Buttercream, I prefer to use Basic Buttercream. Not only is it easy to make and super tasty, its a ‘crusting’ Buttercream, meaning you can get a nice dry surface to work on, which makes the process easier. Even so, its best to work on a chilled cake, because while the crusting will give you a smooth surface, the chilling will give you something to push against.
It probably also goes without saying, but if you have a lumpy cake, this will be much harder. Try to get your cake as smooth as you can.
Different artists will recommend different paintbrushes, but I don’t have a preferred type, other than what’s cheap! The brush needs to be clean, never used o anything other than food, and free of rust and loose fibres.
I understand those much better at this than I, prefer Sable brushes.
Edible all the way
When it comes to painting your cake, or creating lettering, you have the option of using dust in its powdered form, or reconstituted with spirit (I use Lemon Extract), or using a premixed paint.
Whichever you use, PLEASE make sure its EDIBLE, not just non toxic. Glue, pet food, and some cleaning products are non toxic, edible is intended for consumption. Even if you want to roll the dice that the customer won’t eat the fondant, if you are painting buttercream, they absolutely WILL consume it. Its not a big deal to most of us, but for those with compromised immune systems for example, it could be fatal. Don’t mess with ya health.
I use and recommend Blossom Tint dusts from Sugarflair, and Edible Art Paints by Sweetsticks (my favourite).
The surface of your cake MUST be chilled. Yes, you can paint on crusted buttercream, but the surface tension is so soft, you are way more likely to dig up the cake, then paint accurately. Chill your cake in the fridge, until the cake is firm to the touch. You may have to put your cake back in the fridge a few times, depending on the room temperature, and how quickly you are able to work.
You can paint on Swiss Meringue and Italian Meringue, but the process is easier, and usually with better results, on crusting Buttercream.
You can’t touch this
How long until you can apply a second coat? It depends on the paint you have used, and the conditions the cake is stored in.
Edible Art Paints dry, and stay dry. I have not had one run yet, even with storing my cakes in the fridge. It should be noted though, that drying time, especially with metallics, is longer when the cake is in the fridge. You can paint multiple coats of Edible Art Paints, but I recommend waiting until the first coat is dry before reapplying.
With reconstituted dusts, you can repaint almost immediately, as the alcohol evaporates rapidily, which also means you need to work really quickly. The hitch with dusts though, is they do have a tendancy to run, either being applied with too much alcohol, or from condensation once they are taken out of refrigeration. If your cake NEEDS to be heavily refrigerated, I would strongly suggest Edible Art Paints be used.
I hand paint all my cakes freehand. I’m not gifted in any way, I’ve just learned how to break down the task into pieces. For example, ‘Ameila’ as you see above. There’s no stencil available in most of the words you want to paint, and honestly, you’re more likely to scratch your cake than get a small piece of writing accurate.
I go to my word processing program, type up the word I need, and print close to actual size. This gives me a guide not only for how big the word will be, but also where each letter starts. Pro tip: Brush Lettering might look tricky, but the letters are all different sizes and all over the place, its very kind to the inexpert hand!
Making your mark
First thing to do is work out where your word needs to go, and where it will fit. If you are writing a series of words instead of a single word, start from the middle, and fill out from there, nothing worse than the last word being 1/2 the size of the first so it would fit!
Using a brush lightly filled with paint, ‘sketch’ your writing, starting with the first letter (we will fill it in neatly later). Next, look at the nest letter. Where does it start? Is it shorter than the previous letter? You can actually use previous letters as a placement guide (as per your printout, see I told you it would be useful). This hugely reduces the writing leaning down the as you get to the end.
Once you have sketched the word, come back with an overloaded paintbrush (this allows you to impart paint without applying as much pressure), and fill in the letters.
What if i stuff up?
Bad news, the only sure fire fix for a proper stuff up, is to scrape out that bit of Buttercream, and re-ice it. It might seem like a lot of work, but stuffing up on fondant is much harder to fix, so yay for Buttercream.
You can gently scratch the edge of a letter if its a little boo boo, but for big oopsies, be nice, re-ice. And as always, you can always eat the evidence 😉
Viva La Buttercream xx