This post is courtesy of our Sunday Sweets contributor Shayna…We had some fun playing with Marshamallow Fondant in my last post but this week we are going to talk buttercream. One of the most versatile and, I think, most fun ways to decorate a cake is using a frozen buttercream transfer. They are really great for doing a kids cake and can save you from buying shaped pans that you will never use again. You know, like My Little Pony…
What you need:
- A picture to trace
- Buttercream icing
- Food coloring
- Wax paper
- A cutting board or other portable flat surface bigger than your picture
- Piping bags (or sandwich/Ziploc bags that you can use for piping bags)
- A small decorating tip (like a #3)
- A cake
You don’t need a special buttercream recipe for transfers, the standard recipe will do BUT I do recommend that you use a ratio of ½ butter ½ vegetable shortening. You can use all butter (I still prefer ½) but you cannot use icing made completely with shortening, as shortening does not freeze.
Frozen Buttercream Transfer Tutorial:
The first step in making a frozen buttercream transfer is finding a picture. If it’s your first time making a transfer you might want to start with something not overly complex until you get a feel for it. Print the picture out in the size appropriate for your cake. Make sure you print the picture nice and dark so you can see it well enough through a piece of wax paper.
Once you have found your picture and printed it out, tape it on a flat surface (one that will fit in your freezer). A cutting board works well. I have a piece of plexiglass that I like to use so I can take a peak at the underside of my transfer when I am working on it but it’s not a must.
If your picture has any writing on it make sure you print it in reverse! Your transfer will go bottom side up on your cake.
Now tape a piece of wax paper over your picture. You’re now ready to start. Take a good look at your picture – I actually suggest that you print two copies of the picture because under a piece of wax paper the details might not stand out all that well so it’s nice to have a second, clear image to reference. When you start piping you need to pay attention to what order the colors are in so what’s on the “top” of the picture is done first. For example, the cutie mark (the stars) are on the top which means those would be the first thing I do (except in this case I actually didn’t put the cutie mark in the transfer and chose to add those on the cake later after I placed the transfer).
Start by tracing the outline of your picture in whichever color you prefer. I definitely recommend using a dark color (and even black if it suits the picture) to make the transfer really pop. Use the small (#3 or smaller) tip and make sure your icing is not too thin. For tracing you want your buttercream about the same consistency that you would use to ice a cake. Once you’ve done your outlining pop the transfer in the freezer while you get your next color ready to go.
If you are doing a picture that has several colors, I recommend using a sandwich bag instead of a decorating bag. Just snip a corner off and put in your coupler and icing tip and you’re set.
Take your transfer out of the freezer. Now you are going to start filling in your picture. You are going to want to thin your icing a bit for this. Using a few drops of milk at a time, thin your icing until is spreads very easily. Depending on your picture and the size of the spaces you need to fill you can use a slightly bigger tip. I kept using my #3 for this transfer because there were several smaller spots to fill but for the larger parts – like the pony’s body – I could have easily used something larger.
When you are filling in the picture make sure the fill icing completely touches the outline on all sides. If it doesn’t you will end up with small holes in your transfer. If the outline is between sections of the same color go ahead and ice right over the frozen outline.
Each time you change a color, or fill a section that will be covered by another color make sure you put the transfer back in the freezer for a few minutes (2-3 minutes is plenty) so the icing freezes and your colors don’t bleed.
Once you have filled in the picture stick it back in the freezer for a couple more minutes. Take it out and cover the entire picture with a layer of buttercream the same color you are going to ice your cake with. Don’t worry about being perfectly smooth but it should be fairly level so it sits nicely on the top of the cake.
Put the whole thing back in the freezer for at least an hour. You can make your transfer up to a week ahead of time if you’d like and just keep it in the freezer (once it’s completely frozen cover it with another sheet of wax paper) until you are ready to use it.
When you are ready to use your transfer make sure you have your cake iced smoothly and ready to go. Take the transfer out of the freezer, gently peel away the top layer of wax paper and place your transfer on the cake. Make sure you have the placement right because once you put it on there is no moving it!
Now peel away the bottom layer of wax paper and take a look! If you see a few small imperfections (holes) have a cup of warm water handy. Dip your finger in the water and then scrape your finger along the rim of the cup so your finger is just barely damp. Then very gently dab any small holes to fill them in with the surrounding icing. Let the transfer thaw a little before doing this so the icing blends well.
To make your transfer blend in a little better with the cake I like to pipe (using a small star tip) around the entire transfer using the same color that I have iced the cake with. This is entirely optional and some pictures lend themselves well to it and some don’t. Once you’ve placed your transfer you can determine if you need a border or not.
Finish your cake with whatever other details (borders, etc.) you want and you are ready to go. Store as you would any other cake covered with buttercream being aware that your colors may bleed if you keep it in a room that is too warm.
That’s all there is to it! If you’ve never made a frozen buttercream transfer before don’t be intimated by it! As I mentioned, start with something simple – kids coloring pages make awesome transfers – and after you’ve tried it once or twice you will probably get pretty comfortable with it and be ready for bigger challenges!
Thank you to Shayna for providing this delicious tutorial! You can find more delicious recipes over on Shayna’s blog Mommy Outside The Box. Not only is she talented in the kitchen but she’s an excellent writer and photographer too! Be sure to follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google + for even more creative inspiration.
Looking for more delicious tutorials by Shayna, check out this chocolate cupcake bouquet with edible leaves!