Cake Decorating Patterns

decorating a cake

Using cake decorating patterns can help you create a fabulously finished cake without struggling to freehand any of the important elements. Patterns range from simple shapes like stars to complicated lace designs.

Free Decorating Patterns

Below are printables for several cake decorating patterns. To view and download the printables, use a PDF reader like Adobe.

Happy Birthday Saying

Writing on a cake is difficult for many people. Happy Birthday is a common sentiment and having a couple options will make your cakes stand out.

Block patterns work well on children's cakes or cakes with a busy background.

block Happy Birthday message
Block Happy Birthday pattern

A scripted version is a good option for a simple decorating pattern where the script can easily be read.

script Happy Birthday pattern
Script Happy Birthday pattern

Border Options

Drawing a decorative border around the edges of the cake can be difficult when you have trouble keeping the size consistent. Use these border options along all four sides, in the corners, or just along a couple sides.

border patterns
Border pattern

Flower Patterns

Three-dimensional flowers can take years to master. Instead of spending hours trying to perfect your icing rose or lily, use a pattern to draw one on your cake.

flower pattern
Flower pattern

Congratulations Message

Another common phrase on cakes, from graduation to retirement, is Congratulations. Use this pattern to write yours neatly.

Congratulations pattern
Congratulations pattern

Places to Download Patterns

For more decorating templates and patterns, you may find downloads at the following websites:

  • Cake Central's members contribute to a database of original sketches, ideas, templates, and patterns for cakes. To use the drawings for your own cake, right-click the image and select "Save Image." Save it to your desktop and then enlarge as necessary. Shoes, numbers, football-themed cakes and more are all available as patterns at Cake Central. Search by looking for "pattern" plus the one you want or simply look for "pattern" in the Photo Gallery.
  • The Icing Artist has multiple patterns and templates available to download for free. They range from butterflies to shoes to superheroes. Most of them are ones that do need a little bit of skill to pull off. Both template patterns and full tutorials are available to use from the websites for no fee.

While not a traditional list of patterns for decorating, members of have created a database of free cake decorating ideas, templates, and patterns. Since this is a large and dynamic community, you'll need to dig through posts to find usable patterns, or you may be able to create them by enlarging the posted pictures, printing them, and then tracing them to create your own pattern.

More Pattern Ideas

Ideas for your patterns can come from a variety of places. The pattern you place on your cake might be just one part of a larger design, or the main design element itself. It depends on the cake decorating picture you are trying to replicate.


Instructional books, like Wilton cake decorating books are a great reference tool for finding patterns. Other companies and cake decorating professionals also produce books with patterns, so check out your favorite supply store for ideas. Check out the selections at for a variety of options.

Writing happy birthday in chocolate
Writing happy birthday in chocolate

Additional Inspiration

Other places to find pattern ideas include:

  • Children's coloring books or coloring pages online
  • Within cake decorating instructions for shaped pans
  • Stencils (homemade or purchased)
  • Cookie cutters
  • Impression tools

Use patterns for making both buttercream and fondant cake designs. If you work with gum paste and other sugar decorations, patterns might also be helpful. Remember to follow all copyright and licensing laws if you plan to sell your cake with a trademarked image.

Methods of Cake Decorating Pattern Transfers

Two simple methods are used for transferring patterns from paper to cake. Both of these methods are helpful when cake decorating with buttercream frosting or fondant. As with any successful cake design, until you are an expert, it is best to test out your design before making the cake for a special occasion.

Toothpick Transfers

The toothpick method is good for tracing lettering onto cakes and other small and/or intricate images. To do a toothpick transfer, follow these steps:

  1. Tape the pattern to a hard surface, like a counter or back of a cake pan.
  2. Place wax paper over the pattern and tape so it does not move.
  3. Trace the pattern onto the wax paper using a permanent marker.
  4. After you finish tracing the image, place the wax paper with the marker side up onto the cake.
  5. Use a toothpick to poke small holes through the design, making sure you hold the paper in place.
  6. Pick up the wax paper and trace over the holes with a dark color in a continuous line.

Piping Gel Transfers

Piping gel transfers are a little more difficult to perfect than toothpick transfers are, but will take less time once you have perfected the method.

  1. Cake Made with Piping Gel Transfer
    Cake Made with Piping Gel Transfer
    Follow Steps 1-3 in the toothpick transfer instructions listed above.
  2. After you complete tracing the pattern onto the wax paper, flip it over on a flat, hard surface so that the side with markings is facing down.
  3. Use piping gel in a pastry bag with a very small, round decorating tip and go over the lines you made with the marker.
  4. Turn the wax paper back over so the piping gel is on the bottom of the paper and the marker are on top.
  5. Align your picture for placement on the cake.
  6. Carefully place the picture on the cake, making sure you do not shift it once it has been laid down.
  7. Lightly go over the top of the outline with your finger or a paintbrush.
  8. Pick up the wax paper, going straight up, to keep the lines from distorting.

After you get the piping gel transferred onto the cake, you can fill in with the frosting method of your choice. Some people like to do their gel transfers in clear and outline with a dark frosting color while other skip outlining totally. Others prefer to use a colored gel for the transfer; however, if you distort the image while removing, it is harder to correct. Depending on your frosting recipe, gels can sometimes "bleed" into the base coat, too.

Successful Cake Decorating

Cake decorating patterns make cake designs easy to make and prepare for even the most inexperienced baker. With a little creativity and practice, you can be successfully putting patterns onto your cakes in no time.

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