Thursday, 20 September 2012

Painting with cocoa butter

Decorating with cocoa butter is a quick and easy way of getting a complex image onto a cake. All you will need is some cocoa butter, some edible dusts, a cup and saucer and some paintbrushes.

Your biggest challenge is finding cocoa butter as not many cake decorating shops sell it (when I asked in a large national kitchenware shop for cocoa butter, they suggested I try the Body Shop...)

Your best bet is the internet – a 100g packet from Squires costs about £5 and will last for ages. Or you could go mad and buy 3kg from a chocolate supplier. However there’s no chance you’ll use it before it goes past its use by date, unless you think of some alternative uses.
If you’re local to me and would like some of my ample supplies of cocoa butter, please just ask. I’ll put some in a little bag and meet you down a dark alley somewhere. It will look well dodgy.
You will also need some edible dusts, including white. Be careful to use the edible ones, which are clearly marked as such.
You will also need a blank canvas – ice a cake with sugarpaste and leave it to dry overnight. Once dry, the sugar paste has a smooth glossy finish that is ideal for painting.

Put a small amount of the cocoa butter on a saucer over some boiled water – the heat quickly melts it and you can mix in the dusts to create an oil-based paint. By adding white dust to any colour, you create an opaque colour. Without the white, the colour is more transparent.
See how the blue on the right of the saucer is much more opaque than the blue on the left.   
At this point it is handy if you have an artist in the kitchen. Here is my friend Kim Haskins painting one of her beautiful cats onto a fruit cake. You can read about her blog about it here
And here’s a cake that my cousin Helen Hancocks painted last year, copying the "Kate and William" she’d drawn on the invitations for our Not The Royal Wedding Tea Party.
Someone asked me if William was my husband. “Yes! Well, he’s my cat, but yes.." Christ.
If like me you are useless at drawing and your artist has escaped from the cellar, don’t worry: she's unlikely to contact the police and you can simply trace an image onto the cake . Take the image you need, trace it in reverse onto greaseproof paper, then lightly onto the cake. You probably remember this technique from school. Then colour it in. You probably remember this technique from nursery, or from when it was raining and we didn't have Xboxes.
You probably remember this too, eh? Here's a lightly traced image of the opening titles of TV's Rainbow. And some Zippy and George cakepops.
Start with dark colours first, wait for them to dry (this doesn’t take long) then add lighter colours and finer detail. It’s a useful way of getting logos, other languages, cartoons and patterns onto a cake.

The other thing I love about painting with cocoa butter is that it goes nicely on chocolate and doesn’t smudge. It’s what I use to decorate and add detail to cakepops.

I’d recommend normal watercolour paintbrushes, some of which need to be very fine for detail. While you’re painting, keep wiping your paintbrushes with paper towel to keep them from clogging up and once you’re finished, wash them in hot water and washing up liquid to get all the cocoa butter off. Have fun!


  1. Thanks so much for the explanation...
    Regards Maria....

  2. This was very helpful. Thank you.

  3. Hi.Could you use coconut oil instead. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thanks a lot for this information. New to cake decorating this will be helpful in many ways.

  5. Thanks, been wanting to do this on my cakes, no I know what to do! :)

  6. Thanks, been wanting to do this on my cakes, no I know what to do! :)

  7. My painting did smudge and and feels greasy if i touch it ! I was going for a water colour effect ! Did I use to much cocoa butter?

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