How to transfer a picture onto a cake

Updated July 20, 2017

If you like to bake and decorate cakes but don't have any artistic skills, learning how to transfer a picture onto a cake is essential. This skill is also called a frozen buttercream transfer.

Find a picture or design that you want to place on the cake. Open the picture in a graphics software program such as MS Paint, GIMP or Adobe Photoshop.

Print a picture of the design you want on top of your cake. Print it in the size you need by clicking on the "Print Preview" and selecting a scale percentage from 10 per cent to 100 per cent. Anything over 100 per cent may come out blurry.

Reverse the picture in a graphics program such as MS Paint, GIMP or Adobe Photoshop by going to "Edit" and flipping the picture "Horizontally." When it's complete, your design will be flipped onto the cake, so you must print out the picture in reverse.

Tape the picture onto the baking tray. Tape the wax or parchment paper over the picture.

Outline your design, using a low-numbered round decorating tip, such as a 2 or 3. The smaller the details, the smaller the tip that should be used. After outlining, fill in your design with a slightly larger tip. If there are large areas that need to be filled with few details, use a number 5 or 6 tip.

Fill a decorating bag with the colour of buttercream for frosting the rest of the cake, after all the detail is filled in. Use a tip size 10 or 12 to pipe all around the edges of your design, then on the back to cover it sufficiently. Take a frosting spatula and gently spread the buttercream, smoothing so that the entire picture is flat and filled in. After it's smooth, gently tap the baking tray on the edge of the counter to try to eliminate any spaces in your frosting.

Place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on the top of your design. Put it in the freezer for at least an hour. When your cake is baked and crumb-coated, take the wax or parchment paper off and gently flip your frosting piece onto the cake. Wait for your piece to thaw out, and then develop a crust. The time it takes for this to happen varies, depending on the temperature and humidity. After your frosting has crusted, place a paper towel over your design and gently smooth it with the palm of your hand. This may need to be done several times.

Apply borders, a message or any other finishing touches after your design is smooth.


Your entire frosting piece should be about a half-inch thick. If it's too thin, it may break, but if it's too thick, there will be too much frosting on your cake.

Things You'll Need

  • Buttercream, tinted
  • Baking tray
  • Picture
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Decorating bags
  • Round decorating tips, in sizes ranging from 2 to 10
  • Frosting spatula
  • Paper towels
  • Tape
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