Exchanging Paint for Fondant: Picasso’s “Three Musicians” in Cake Form

Well, Picasso, I used to think you were one weird dude. But after piecing together this painting shape by shape, my view of you has changed. I now see that there is beautiful overall balance and symmetry to your composition that I hadn’t really noticed before. For example, take this guy on the left:
Picasso cake man on right
He has a very wide white belly area, along with a white hat. Just weird, right? But as I pieced this together, I realized, hey! That’s just one big white triangle, from the sides of the belly to the tip of his hat. So Pablo, while I won’t deny that I anticipate nightmares involving the guy on the right (see below), your geometric cubist designs have won me over.
picasso cake face 1 close up        picasso cake face 2 close up        picasso cake face 3 close up

Ninth in my series of ten “Art” cakes, and I’ve just about saved the worst for last. Not because of the subject matter or artist, but because of the cake material. Fondant. Ugh. All along, I had planned to use fondant with this cake, and all along, the dread was building up. Mixing each bit of fondant to match the painting’s color exactly…rolling it out and cutting it and adhering the pieces juuuuuust so, and then cutting off the imperfections with the precision usually reserved for brain surgery. I repeat: Ugh.

I’d like to say that I was wrong, but unfortunately, I was not. Except for the bit about brain surgery: I should hope that surgeons watch a little less Netflix than I while performing their dissections.

Sighing, I decided to suck it up and get to work. I began by covering the cake in white fondant, and then put a square of black fondant on top of that.starting picasso cake blank fondantHere’s a fun Vine of the process! (This is my first Vine. I now know that embedded YouTubes do not play for those of you who receive this blog in your emails. Since I’ve never put a Vine in a post before, I don’t know if this will work in an email, either… so if nothing comes up directly below, click on the blog title at the top of the email and you’ll be taken directly to the post, and it should play there!)

The most important tool: an exacto knife. I don’t always use one for cakes, but this cake required very fine slices.picasso three musicians cake exacto knife to cut fondantFor a few portions of the cake, I used a food coloring marker to draw the designs.

picasso cake three musicians Here’s my cake with the print of Picasso’s for comparison. (The painting is on top and the cake’s on bottom. Obviously. 🙂 ) Picasso three musicians painting made with fondant cake If you like art, you may enjoy these other cakes in the series. Eight different artists/paintings with eight different cake mediums.
– Michelangelo’s “Pieta” in modeling chocolate
– da Vinci’s “Self Portrait” in food coloring
– Monet’s “Winter Haystack” in Nerds candy
– Monet’s “Sunset in Venice” in royal icing
– Cezanne’s “Still Life with Apples” in apples
– Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in buttercream
– Ansel Adams’ “Moon Over Half Dome” in chocolate
– Dalí’s “Meditative Rose” in gum paste

Do you have any other ideas for art you’d like to see recreated in a cake? Leave a comment below!

picasso three musicians cake fondant in frame

“That Rose Looks So Real!” – “No, it’s Surreal.”

How does Salvador Dalí start his day?

With a big bowl of surreal.

I’m sorry, I saw it on the internet and I couldn’t resist.

Ok, back to the cake! This one, called “Meditative Rose,” by Salvador Dalí, is the 8th in my series of Art cakes, each representing both a different art style/era, as well as a different cake medium. Here is my attempt at Surrealism, using gum paste for the rose.

STEP 1: Create Rose
Since this rose was so big, I didn’t use the formal “rose cutter,” which is available at your local crafting store. 🙂 I just cut pieces out of gum paste, softened the edges, and stuck the pieces on.

how to make gum paste rose I used balled up pieces of wax paper in between the petals. Cut out a petal, stick it on, put some wax paper around it while it hardens, repeat.

step by step gum paste roseSTEP 2: Paint background.
Using gel food colors mixed with clear vanilla extract- paint away! These meditative rose painting on cake with food coloring vanilla extractcolors are very tricky and don’t act like real color, so beware. For example- when brown is mixed with the vanilla, its base color becomes green. And black’s is purple. So- mixing these colors together becomes a little tricky. That’s why my version of this painting is much more vivid than Dalí’s- I had trouble softening the colors, especially the blue, and basically just used the blue straight from the tube. My apologies to Dalí! 🙂

Here are some step-by-step photos of the background painting process:

step by step meditative rose dali painting on a cake gum paste rose food coloring Comparison of the two paintings side by side. My little food coloring brushes didn’t allow for long strokes, so the background is pretty choppy compared to his:


Here’s a super-zoomed-in pic of the bottom of the painting. Like I’ve said before- it’s impossible to add white. So in this case, to make those highlights on the two people, to make the path on the right, and to make the little village in the distance, I just used a sharp tool and scraped off the color. White fondant underneath: viola!

close up of bottom of meditative rose painting on a cakeThe rose really jumps off the page! It reminded me of a Harry Potter photo that comes to life! 🙂     meditative rose painting on a cake with gum paste roseDo you like art? Take a peek at the other art cakes I’ve made here, in timeline order:
Michelangelo’s Pieta, sculpted with modeling chocolate
Leonardo da Vinci’s Self Portrait, painted with food coloring
Monet’s Haystack, Nerds candy
Monet’s Sunset in Venice, royal icing
Cezanne’s Still Life with Apples, apple peels
Van Gogh’s Starry Night, buttercream frosting
Ansel Adams’ Moon and Half Dome, chocolate shavings

meditative rose dali painting on a cake food coloring gum pasteHave other art ideas? Leave them in the comments below!

How to Paint on a Cake: A Short Timelapse Video

Have you ever wanted to see how a cake can be painted to resemble a beautiful Van Gogh?

Well, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This shaky video, filmed with my iPhone hanging with rope off a light fixture, accompanied by a sample of YouTube’s free music that, though inexplicably labeled “If I Had a Chicken,” brings to mind a black-and-white 1910s flick featuring a Vaudevillian duo comically arguing in a dusty saloon…. well, let’s just say this is my first try, and in the future, I shall be purchasing an actual camera and a tripod. Or something.

If you’re interested in seeing some still-photos from the last time I tried this cake, please click here. I promise, it looks nicer and you won’t feel quite the same need to break out your Flapper beads and bust out the Charleston!

I recommend you watch this video, though- you can count the amount of times I hit my head on the light by the amount of times you see the screen shake. 🙂

Painting a Stained Glass Cake

food coloring paintbrushes for painting cake Warning! If you attempt this cake, it will take you longer than you think. And whatever you think that means, double it, at least. And if you happen to have an afternoon Easter gathering to get to, well, then, you’re just outta luck.

As I’ve made more and more cakes over the past year, that is honestly one area in which I’ve improved: I can give myself a fairly accurate timetable for how long a cake will take. So I was feeling good on Easter morning, my cake all made and covered in fondant the night before, ready for the vibrant splashes of color from my paintbrushes. I meandered to the kitchen, giving myself four entire hours to paint this, but was almost certain it would take around three. It took five. And I was late for Easter. 😦

And, shhhhh… I didn’t even finish the back, something that caused me, the Ultimate Perfectionist, physical pain and anguish.

It really is quite simple: all you need are the gel food colors, a brush, and some clear vanilla or lemon extract (or any clear alcohol, like vodka!). Put a little food coloring on the plate, mix a little extract so that it becomes the shade you want, and paint away. My steps are photographed below: cover cake in white fondant, sketch design with yellow food coloring, paint in the sections, and outline with black food coloring. Ta-da!

how to paint a stained glass effect on a cakeHere’s what the top looked like! Some of the sections are a bit streaky, but like I said, I was running really late!   stained glass cake with food coloringEaster cake painted stained glass I also tried this neat jello dessert I saw on this blog: http://robbygurlscreations.blogspot.com/2012/04/diy-easter-egg-jello-molds.html

I CAN’T STAND HOW CUTE THEY ARE! Easter egg jello with colorful rainbow layers

Painting on Fondant

materials for da vinci painted cakeQuestion: How on earth can I recreate a Renaissance art piece using cake materials? I’ve been putting it off for months. Impressionism, post-impressionism, surrealism, cubism… those are so much more forgiving. But the precision of those Italian masters would be impossible to recreate, and I resigned myself to skipping that period.

But then I thought, really, Kath?! You’re going to do an art series and skip one of the most well-known periods? So I devised a compromise. How about I do a famous drawing instead of a painting? That would be easier because I wouldn’t have color troubles. A sketch would be even better than a drawing- a nice, rough, one-tone sketch that maybe looked like it was scribbled in five minutes, as opposed to, say, the Mona Lisa.

After looking around a bit, I found a print of a Leonardo da Vinci drawing that is suspected by some to be a self-portrait. Pretty simple- brownish background with brownish chalk. (Well, simple for Leo, I mean, haha!) I set to work with the fewest materials ever: brownish fondant, one fine paintbrush (that would be a paintbrush that has a thin tip, not a paintbrush that you look at and say, Dang, that paintbrush is fiiiiiine!), brown gel coloring, and lemon extract. That is literally it.

The process is simple enough- cover a rectangular cake with brownish fondant, put a little food gel coloring on a plate, add a splash of lemon extract (or you can use vodka, just sayin’), and paint away. The more extract you add, the lighter your color will be. The less you add, the bolder the color will be. Sounds easy, right? Not exactly, because:

Brown food coloring is apparently not brown, it is green at heart. And black is actually blue.

This is a weird phenomenon to me, and I do not understand the chemistry behind the process. But here is what happens, according to my simple observation: If you use brown coloring in fondant, royal icing, buttercream, gum paste, or any other medium I’ve ever used, it makes it brown. (Duh.) However, when you add lemon extract, it separates into individual colors, with the predominant one being green. ??? Why? I don’t know! I don’t get it! And the black coloring turned blue! Check out the evidence below!

difference between black and brown food coloring

In a way, this is a sort of beautiful plate. But in another way, it’s extremely annoying when your Leonardo da Vinci comes out greenish and seasick. And as I could find neither a cause nor a solution, I present to you: Leo: His Life on the High Seas.

It is hard to paint for hours while leaning over and not being able to support your hand.

Sounds like I’m being lazy, which is something I usually specialize in- but this is a serious problem here. Pick up a pen for a sec and try to write something without placing your arm on the table. I bet your handwriting isn’t very nice, huh? This is the way cake decorators always have to work, because obviously, one cannot rest her arm on the rest of the cake. Now, I’ve been taught a few different ways to anchor my piping hand (you get SUCH a better, cleaner result if you anchor your hand!)- but this was impossible to anchor for so many hours. Normally, the longest thing I would need to anchor for would be “Happy Birthday!” It would have been super nice to set this cake up on an easel, but again, that’s not something you can do with a cake. (Think: “cake-sliding-down-broom-handle” from Sleeping Beauty!)

As always with food coloring, you cannot add light color on top of a darker one.

Therefore, if you paint over an area that should be lighter, you are in trouble! You must be careful! Working with paint is quite different because yellow paint can be painted atop black, but since food coloring is clear-ish, that doesn’t work. For example, using the third photo below- with regular paints, I would paint the pupil the desired color and add a dot of white in the center of the pupil to make it look like it was glinting. But in this case, a little area for the “dot of white” must always be preserved and not painted on. It’s a backwards sort of way of thinking.

Here is the in-progress photo compilation, featuring the cake as well as the speck of dust that is inside my phone’s camera lens (anyone know what to do about that?):

in process painted da vinci cake 1in process painted da vinci cake 2leonardo da vinci cake painted with food gel coloring self portrait

leonardo da vinci cake painting with food coloring self portraitClick below for other art-inspired cakes:
Van Gogh (painting with buttercream), Monet (painting with royal icing), Monet (Nerds candy), Cezanne (apple peels), Michelangelo (modeling chocolate sculpture), and Ansel Adams (chocolate shavings)

Do you have an idea for an art-inspired cake? Leave me a suggestion in the comments below!

Impressionism with Royal Icing

supplies to paint with royal icing cakeNext up in my attempt at recreating famous works of art with various cake supplies: Monet’s “Sunset in Venice.” Which reminds me- who’s with me for a trip to Venice? The only place I’ve ever had an attempted pickpocketing take place- and it was by an American. I mean, come on. Luckily the bag was twisted around my wrist so the grab only succeeded in nearly dislocating my shoulder. Apparently the thief did not know of my special shoulders that can dislocate at a moment’s notice. If he’d asked, I would have demonstrated how I can play the piano backwards.

In this series so far, I have used buttercream, modeling chocolate, fruit, and candy. In an effort to use as many different types of cake decorating techniques as possible, I now turn to royal icing. (Royal icing is that type of icing that is usually on cut-out cookies. It dries hard and shiny.) Since royal icing dries incredibly fast, I knew that blending was out of the question, so I needed an art technique that was more… dabby. And so it happened that I fell again to Monet, again to Impressionism- but what can I say! It’s a nice era and lends itself to sugar! 🙂

Once the cake was covered in fondant, I separated the royal icing into several small bowls and tinted them various colors. Once a dab of color was painted on, it was dry within 15 seconds, which caused a bit of a conundrum. Not only was the cake itself drying rapidly and with little time for blending, but the icing in the bowls themselves was hardening. One way to help stop this is to keep a wet paper towel across the rim of the bowl- it slows down the drying. But you’ll need to keep moistening the paper towel. 🙂

After that, it’s time to paint! Here are the “in progress” photos:

in progress sunset royal icing painting cake 1in progress sunset royal icing painting cake 2in progress sunset royal icing painting cake 3  And here is the final product, with a nice lovely frame to make it look like a real painting!

painted sunset cake royal icingI am running out of ideas for techniques! I have a plan for a fondant cake, and that is it. Please leave a note in the comments below if you can think of a different decorating idea. And a different artist. 🙂 I’m missing the 1600s-1700s completely, and can’t even fathom a decorating technique that would allow me to create such realistic figures. HELP!!!

Painting with Buttercream

Kathryn Favorite Things(1990:)
“What is your favorite subject?” – Art.
“What is one thing you know a lot about?” – Art.
“What is one thing you are really good at?” – Drawing.
“What is one thing you’d change about school?” – Have art every day.

Out of the mouths of babes, as the saying goes- these are the real answers of an 8-year-old Kathryn. My mother, the family’s Keeper of the Memories, saved my “All About Me” worksheets from second grade, and one thing was abundantly clear: I loved art class! (Notice that there is no mention of math. :/ )

(Side note!! If you zoom in on this worksheet, I just realized you can see that my (fabulous) choice of “stretchy black pants” was actually covering a previously erased answer, “School U-” I’m gonna guess that was going to say, “School Uniform.” Nice to know I was already a full-blown nerd at age eight. The only person alive who liked Catholic school uniforms.)

Anyways: crayons, colored pencils, paint, play dough- you name it, I played with it. My mom even kept some of my first drawings, as you can see below! Though missing some important features (like bodies), the most notable thing of all was included: my dad’s fantastic mustache.

kathryn old drawingsFast forward a few years: the love of art has remained the same, and the drawing capability has marginally improved (I’ve started to include arms and legs in my figure drawings). A few weeks ago, I saw a photo of Van Gogh’s famous painting, “The Starry Night.” It occurred to me that this was the perfect opportunity to “paint” a cake using buttercream! Though making cakes is a huge creative outlet, I’ve been missing real art- drawing, painting, and the like. Painting a cake seemed a like a bit of a compromise, and this art style seemed perfect since it uses dabs rather than blended strokes.

First thing’s first: the cake! I wanted the “dab” effect to run throughout the cake, rather than just on the surface, so I purchased a Duff tie-dye mix. The mix comes with lots of colors, but I didn’t use the reds (since there are no reds or oranges in the Van Gogh).

DSCN9901 DSCN9902

Attention: This next part was great fun! 🙂 I used a spoon and dropped the colors in the pan in a random and assorted manner. I had to fight an extremely intense urge to run a toothpick through it all and create The Greatest Swirl Ever– but I was afraid the colors might run together.

Duff cake mix before baking

And the cooked result- how cool is that?! cooked Duff cake mix 

Though unusual to first cover the cake in fondant, and THEN buttercream, I wanted to have a smooth surface to “paint” on. So: on went blue buttercream, and then fondant. Man, that is a lumpy fondant job- I really stink at covering with fondant. I have watched just about every youtube help video out there, and I still have a hard time. Luckily in this case, the frosting totally covered up the lumpiness- but still. A skill to practice. :/


The next step was to create a color palette. Simply tint the buttercream various colors!

color palatteThe photos below show the painting progress, step by step. (Hey! Did someone say “Step by Step?” As in, my favorite song from second grade, as listed on the worksheet above? Check out the music video here! An unusual soundtrack to listen to while contemplating a buttercream Van Gogh, that is true. Perhaps you’d rather listen to this beautiful performance of “Vincent,” performed by Josh Groban.)


As you can see, I very faintly sketched out the major portions of the painting- mainly the large swirl and the beginning of the hill.

DSCN9918 DSCN9919 DSCN9921 DSCN9923 DSCN9924 DSCN9927

The final step – just for fun- was to lay a picture frame around the cake and create the illusion that it was hanging on the wall. I laid out a white tablecloth, taped a string to the back of the frame, and stuck a pin in the tablecloth- as if the frame were really hanging on the wall.

Van Gogh starry night painting cakeClick here to watch a 3-minute timelapse of a different time I painted this cake!

Now for the fun part! As you can imagine, I was DYING to cut into this cake! I really wanted to see if the layering would come out- and wow, did it ever! This Duff cake mix is an amazing product. Check out some close-ups below!

duff cake mix van gogh cake 2

duff cake mix van gogh cake close up of van gogh cakeI had a lot of fun working on this cake. If you could recreate one work of art using a different medium, which would you choose?

(Next up for me is “La Sagrada Familia” – a cathedral in Barcelona (architect: Gaudí) – I want to build it with sand! 🙂 ) la sagrada familia