If you are looking for realism and depth, you gotta add some texture.
Its not as hard as it sounds, and it doesn't even require expensive tools! Have a look around your kitchen or cake room, you probably have most of these already!
Silicone Basting Brush
Silicone basting brushes are food safe, easy to clean, and come in a variety of bristle styles.
They are perfect for fur, grass, woodgrain, concrete, and a host of other strand like textures.
To use a silicone brush to texture buttercream, you need to create this effect BEFORE your Buttercream crusts. If your buttercream is getting a bit too dry, dip the brush into some warm water, shake off the excess and try again.
Step 1 - Ice your cake or cupcake as smooth as you can, unless you want a ‘lumpy’ texture like hills and rocks.
Step 2 - Brush the buttercream in a gentle back and forward motion, applying gentle pressure. Increase pressure , or brush in a ‘flicking’ motion for a more jagged result. If you tear up your buttercream, brush in the opposite direction to smooth it back down. There’s literally no precision required for this technique, so its PERFECT for beginners!
There’s really no limit to what texture you can create with a paintbrush, from smooth ridges, to recessed filigree and scroll patterns. You can use them to blend Edible Food Paints into your buttercream, hand paint lettering, the works!
When choosing a paintbrush for use with food, be sure the brush is clean, free of rust or chipping paint, and has never been used on non edible materials like acrylic paints (I pre wash all my brushes with dishwashing liquid before use).
For texturing, use on buttercream that has not crusted, but for hand letting and precision work, chill your cake first.
Step 1 - As with the silicone brush, frost your cake or cupcake as smooth as you want the surface to be, but don’t worry if you can’t get it perfectly smooth, the brush will help to smooth it out.
Step 2 - Using gentle pressure, brush the paintbrush across the buttercream, creating smooth, even channels. This can also be used horizontally around your cake. If you want deeper ridges, apply more pressure, and be sure to wipe off the excess buttercream between brushings.
Create your own texture roller with Aluminium Foil!
You can create pretty much any style you can model, but I have chosen to go with a rough texture, perfect for grass. You can also use foil to create rough shaped stamps, and even texture combs!
For best results using all kinds of texture rollers, mats and stamps, let your buttercream crust BEFORE you texture.
If your Buttercream does not crust, chill slightly until the surface of the cake is not sticky.
Step 1 - Frost your cake or cupcake as smooth as you would like, although keep in mind that rollers work better on flat surfaces. If you have a lumpy surface, a stamping action would yield a better result.
Step 2 - Applying gentle pressure, roll the foil across the buttercream, until you are happy with the texture. If your Buttercream is sticking, you may want to chill your cake briefly until the cake surface is no longer sticky.
Kitchen Paper Towel
Its not just for cleaning up after you!
Paper towel makes a perfect disposable texture mat. Its food safe, its paper so it doesn’t create a suction like some plastic and silicone mats can, and there’s usually lots of interesting textures available.
Its important to mention here that this is NOT the 'Viva Paper towel method' popular in the states. That kitchen towel is perfectly smooth, and used by some to smooth out buttercream. Here in Australia, we have a brand of paper towel called "Viva", that is textured. Let me know if you want to buy a vowel.
You can also use fabrics, but be mindful that some fibres or dyes may be unsafe for food, so stick to un-dyed and natural fabrics like muslin or cotton.
For best results, use on crusted Buttercream.
Step 1 - Frost your cake however you like! You can even use this technique on globe cakes and sculpted cakes, as you can form the towel to your cakes shape.
Step 2 - Apply gentle, even pressure to your towel, and gently rub the paper in a smooth motion. Ironically, fondant smoothers are perfect for this, as you avoid digging your fingers into your frosting.
Step 3 - Gently peel back the towel. If you have missed any spots, reapply the towel, and repeat the process until you have an even texture. If you pull up any buttercream, reapply the buttercream, and let it crust before trying again.
There are some many amazing textures just waiting in your kitchen draw! Pretty much all tools and gadgets from Homeware stores are food safe, so go to town! You never know what you’ll create until you try, and making a mess is all part of the fun!
Viva La (textured) Buttercream xx
Here's some more ideas:
L to R: Cookie Cutter, Impression Mat, Offset Spatula, Texture Roller.