How to transfer a design onto a cake

Updated April 17, 2017

A cake can take on nearly any design when you learn how to transfer a pattern to your dessert. Designs will be transfered onto the cake with the use of a sheet of waxed paper, a piping bag and some piping gel. Once you learn the basics, you can begin to select more ornate pictures. The best designs to transfer onto your first cake are simple cartoon characters, animals and patterns you can find on wallpaper.

Ice the cake with buttercream icing and a cake spatula. Smooth the surface of the icing in even motions all over the cake. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. If the cake's surface is not smooth, then dip the clean spatula into a glass of warm water and run it over the surface of the cake.

Select a simple design from a colouring book or a magazine. Cut a piece of waxed paper the exact same size as the cake and lay it on top of the desired design. Center the design on the piece of waxed paper so that when it is transferred onto the cake it too will be centred. Keep in mind that this will be a mirror image of your design, so any wording will be backwards and is best left to freehand onto the cake later.

Attach the #2 round tip and fill the piping bag with two and a half tablespoons of piping gel. Twist the top of the bag three times and hold it in your dominant hand. Trace the outline of the design with the piping gel on the waxed paper. Squeeze the bag with a minimal amount of pressure, following the outline until you have completed the whole design.

Find the centre of cake and place the waxed paper piping gel side down. Rub your finger tip gently along all of the gel lines and peel back the waxed paper gently. If there are any small gaps, you may fill them in with a small amount of piping gel while looking back at the picture for reference.

Outline the piping gel with a coloured buttercream frosting and a #3 round tip. Pipe numerous small stars with a desired colour of frosting and the #16 star tip to fill in the entire design. Dot each star with the piping bag by squeezing a small amount of icing slightly above the cake and then lifting. Pipe the stars very close to each other so that you will not see any base colour of the cake through the colour of the stars. Fill in the entire design and accent with different colours for eyes, outlines, and writing. Use the star tip to pipe a row of stars along the bottom edge of the cake to form a finished border.


Colouring books for kindergarten-aged children have wonderful basic designs with simple lines that work best for character cakes.


This recipe will only work with buttercream icing. Store-bought tubs of frosting will not work because of their consistency.

Things You'll Need

  • Unfrosted cake at room temperature
  • Cake spatula
  • Buttercream frosting
  • Child's colouring book
  • Magazine
  • Waxed paper
  • 3 to 5 piping bags
  • Round piping tip #2
  • Round piping tip #3
  • Star piping tip #16
  • Wilton gel icing colours
  • Small bowl
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About the Author

Daniel Potter has a bachelor's degree in business administration with an emphasis in management as well as an associate's degree with an emphasis in English. Potter has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and several other private ventures. Potter prefers to write for eHow about all topics.