Brush embroidery cake designs are an elegant final decorating touch that can perfect wedding cakes or fine desserts for other special occasions. Though the embroidery techniques are usually used to form and decorate flowers, leaves, and vines on that crawl around the border or edge of a cake, the same techniques can be used to outline and embellish any kind of piped-on image or even abstract designs.
The Basic Technique
Making brush embroidery cake designs is an intermediate to advanced decorating skill. It takes a fair amount of practice to imprint, outline, and brush out designs, so beginners should take some time to experiment with different types of frosting and other decorating techniques before they tackle brush embroidery.
Some decorators imprint a pattern onto their cakes before they begin outlining and painting, and others do not. The brush embroidery process consists of a few steps.
- Outline the design with a pastry bag and small round decorating tip, starting with the deepest (backmost) layer.
- Use a small, stiff, damp paintbrush to pull the edges of the design inward, imitating the look of brush embroidery.
- Use long, delicate strokes to pull in the design. Dab at each small portion of the design with your brush before outlining and moving on to the next portion.
Though brush embroidery can be done with buttercream frosting, it's most often completed with royal icing. You can choose to do brush embroidery cake designs on a cake with any type of frosting, including buttercream or fondant.
Brush Embroidery Cake Designs
Most "embroidered" cake designs are flowers, so if you like using those, you have a lot of options from which to choose. Try piping on and brushing pansies, daisies, lilies, or your personal favorite type of flower.
Cover a cake with brush-embroidered flowers for an elegant design that's perfect for spring. If you're using royal icing or fondant to coat your cake, let the icing harden slightly before you pipe on your floral design.
- If you'd like to imprint the design, make it with royal icing several days ahead of time, and let it dry completely. Set the design on a piece of glass or another hard surface, and press it into soft fondant or royal icing to set it. Do this before you place the top layer of icing on the cake (you can let it dry and place it on later).
- Working from your design, use a pastry bag and a small round decorating tip to pipe tinted or white royal icing onto the top of the cake. Start with the deepest or backmost layer, and pipe only one object at a time.
- Keep firm, even pressure on the pastry bag as you squeeze it. Don't flood the outline with icing, but do apply enough to streak inward with a brush.
- Dip your paintbrush in water and dab off extra moisture with a towel. Use your fingers to bring the bristles of the brush to a point.
- Dab the brush on the outline of the flower and gently paint it in long strokes to pull the design inward. Repeat all along the outline of the design.
- Pipe another flower and repeat the process until the cake is finished.
YouTube has a very good video tutorial that shows an expert using this technique.
Add Fondant Details
Spice up your embroidered design by creating tiny fondant figures for the cake and placing them on top when it's finished. You can do this for nontraditional embroidered cakes by creating figures that go with the scene or design on the cake, or you can add figures that fit naturally with flowers, such as butterflies. A contrast of flat embroidered flowers done with royal icing and 3-D flowers made with fondant or gum paste will also provide visual interest and a variation in texture to your cake.
You can create a realistic effect with brush embroidery on cakes by layering colors and working from light to dark shades.
- Pipe on an outline color, and use another icing bag to pipe on an inner color.
- Use your paintbrush to pull in the lines of both colors together. They will blend slightly and form a layered effect.
- Use more frosting, luster dust, or edible powder to gently paint on additional layers of color.