Cake Decorating

>Tutorial: Frozen Buttercream Transfers


I learned this technique from the Wilton blog where they posted a video tutorial not too long ago. I’ve been having lots of fun with this technique since then. I asked some loved ones if they would be interested in me doing my own tutorial on this decorating technique with step-by-step photos and of course they said yes! So, here we go!
First things first: Make sure that you have some room in your freezer! If you don’t, either make room or wait to do this some other time because – as the name of this technique implies – you will need to place your decoration in the freezer before it can be put on the cake. 
Other than a cake that has cooled completely, you will need:
1. A batch of buttercream icing (I use Wilton’s recipe)
2. A flat work surface to place your design on – it has to be able to go in your freezer! I use a cake board cut to size.
3. An image that you want on your cake – print this out using the “mirror image” option on your printer. It’s best to start with very simple designs to learn this technique – as you get better you can choose more complex designs.
3. Wax paper
4. Scotch tape
5. Piping bags
6. Food coloring
7. A plastic paint brush – from the arts and crafts department, make sure this is a new brush! Wash it with dish soap and let it dry, and do not use this brush for non-food purposes. Ever. 
8. A coupler ring
9. A size 1 or 2 tip
10. A tube of black Wilton Decorator Icing
11. A spatula (off-set is best but if you don’t have one a straight one will work. If you have neither, use a butter knife.)
Step 1: Trim the paper with your image and tape it down to your working surface. Then trim a piece of wax paper to size (I like to make it a little bigger than the paper the image is on) and tape it over the image. Make sure the paper is flat when you tape it down so that your finished decoration is nice and smooth. 
Step 2: Fit your number 1 or 2 tip onto the tube of Wilton Decorator Icing with the coupler ring. (You can use either size tip but it will largely depend on your preferences as well as the complexity of your design. I used a number 2 tip because it’s the only one I have at the moment.)
Step 3: Begin outlining your design with the black icing. Be sure to use slow but steady pressure. You may find it’s easier to use shorter lines to trace over the outlines of your image – practice to find what works for you. Always lightly touch the tip to the wax paper at the beginning and end of your lines to ensure it stays in place.
Continue outlining until you have completed the outlines of your image.
Step 4: Now you can begin filling in your design! Tint small amounts of buttercream icing the desired colors and use piping bags to fill in each section of your design. You can fit each bag with a number 1 or 2 tip, or if you don’t have enough tips for all the colors you will be using (like me) just snip the bags so that there is a small opening and pipe without tips.
If necessary, use the paint brush to gently work the icing next to the outlines you made earlier.
Continue on until you have filled in all areas of your design.
Step 5: Using whatever color you will be frosting your cake with, pipe along the outline of your image. Try to stay just on the edge of the design and layer directly over the black icing you initially outlined with. But if you go over a bit, it won’t be a big deal. (I promise!)
Now, fill the whole thing in with your main color of icing.
I know, right now this looks like it’s quite a mess. Stick with me ok? 😉
Use your spatula to gently smooth out the icing. Be very careful with this step – and yes this step IS necessary. (I speak from experience!) Smoothing it out will ensure your design sits nice and flat on your cake later!
Now. Pop your design into the freezer. 
Step 6: While you’re waiting (depending on the size and thickness of your design you have a minimum of half an hour to kill) frost your cooled cake with the remainder of your main color of icing. For this you can do whatever you like – make it nice and smooth or put some pretty swirls in, whatever. For this cake I wanted a nice, smooth surface. Check out this cool trick I have for you. (Yeah that’s right, you are learning TWO great techniques in this post!)
Frost the cake as smoothly as you can, but don’t worry about making it flawless. 
Now, go find something else to entertain yourself with for 20 minutes or so until the frosting has developed a crust. (This obviously does not work with icings that stay soft so you need to do this with buttercream or cream cheese icing etc… any icing that gets a light crust on it after sitting a while.)
Take a sheet of a paper towel that has a very smooth texture (I use Viva) and place it over the cake. Now very lightly rub your hands over it. (Or use a fondant smoothing tool. Up to you.) You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure – a very light touch will get the job done.
Then lift the paper towel away. Marvel at how smooth your buttercream (or whatever) now looks. =D (It may not be 100% smooth, this method does take practice, and regardless it’s still gonna be some of the smoothest looking buttercream you’ve ever seen!)
By now your design in the freezer is probably ready. You’ll have to work quickly for this part so be ready to go! 
Step 7: Remove your design from the freezer. Remove the tape from the wax paper so your design is now free from the board. (You might want to get some scissors to help you out. This is why I like my sheet of wax paper a little big – I just trim it down to release it and worry about removing the tape from my board later.)
Quickly but carefully peel the wax paper away from the icing. 
Step 8: Place your design on the cake.
Add any finishing touches. I added some white dots to the eyes and I also gently patted some white (clear, really) Wilton Sparkle Gel onto the eyes and pink part of the ears with the paint brush.
Step 9: Proudly admire your amazing work of edible art! I’ve been told some of my cakes are too pretty to eat. My theory? Take some pictures and then dig in! Afterall, cake IS meant to be eaten. 😉 
This method does have a slight learning curve, especially if you’ve never decorated in any way before. But it truly is quite simple and provides you with endless decoration options. Your results may not always be completely perfect (I can see some boo boos on the cake featured in this post…) but honestly? People are going to be so amazed by how awesome your cakes look they are not going to notice any tiny mistakes you may see and be worried about. 

7 thoughts on “>Tutorial: Frozen Buttercream Transfers”

    1. Have you had a chance to try this yet? I am looking forward to seeing how it turned out for you. =)

      I forgot to mention when I wrote this post that, as with pretty much everything, there are numerous ways to do a frozen buttercream transfer. This is just the way I do it, and I like the results from it and I think it’s suitable for most cake designs. If you find that you don’t care for this method or you have trouble with it, don’t be afraid to try another method. A similar method was posted to Cake Journal (which is a FABULOUS blog that I read regularly!) – you can find that tutorial here:

      And of course there are other tutorials to be found on Google or YouTube for other ways to do the transfers. Experiment around to find what works best for you – regardless of the method you prefer, the transfers are a fabulous technique to learn!

    1. Hi Karina,

      If you don’t want to use the paper towel method, you can use the edge of a large icing spatula or Wilton makes an icing smoothing tool ( Smoothing icing with this tool or an icing spatula does take practice so if you need to make a cake for a special occasion I would suggest making a couple practice cakes before that one so you can get a feel for the process. Good luck!

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