How to make a watercolour cake

Behold the cake of watercolour dreams, the latest cake trend taking over our Pinterest and Instagram feeds. These artistic cakes look more like three dimensional watercolour paintings, as the icing is painted on with a brush or sponge to create different patterns and effects. Painted with a soft ombre effect or with more bold and vibrant brushstrokes, watercolour cakes come in many different styles. Paired with edible gold leaf or even fresh flowers, they look more like works of art! Although there are many different methods to achieving this watercolour effect, they can be surprisingly easy to make at home. Like, SUPER EASY. All you need is a little food colouring to mix in with buttercream or cream cheese icing and you can get painting!

Another way to achieve the look is by using fondant icing, and then literally dipping a paintbrush or sponge into the food colouring and use it as a watercolour paint. When your cake is a blank canvas, there’s no limit to how you can decorate it!

I made mine similar to my funfetti pinata cake earlier this year, with three tiers of cheat’s Victoria sponge cake layered with cream cheese icing, filled with M&Ms (piñata-style), but covered in dyed cream cheese icing.

To make this cake at home, you will need:

watercolour cake


1. Cook the three sponges in the same sized baking tin (even if you have to do them one by one) to create three identical layers, and let them cool. If they are slightly dome shaped, carefully cut along the top so that each cake is flat on top.

2. Cut an equal shaped round hole in the middle of two of the layers to fill with M&Ms in the next step (leaving one layer of cake completely intact).

watercolour cake

3. Place the first layer of cake (with a hole in the middle) on your cake plate. Use one tub of cream cheese icing to stick the second layer with the hole on top of it, and spread the rest of the cream cheese on top of the second layer.

watercolour cake

4. Fill the double-tiered hole with M&Ms, pressing them down to fit as many in as possible (without squashing the cake), then place the last layer on top as a lid.

watercolour cake

5. Use the second tub of cream cheese icing and spread around the outside of the cake, making sure to fill any gaps or holes around the sides, so that you have a smooth surface for your coloured icing.

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6. Divide the rest of the icing (including the third tub) into small bowls (as many as you have food colouring that you want to use), and add a different drop or pinch of food colouring into each bowl. If you want the colours brighter then add a drop more, but be careful not to go overboard as you only need a little bit!

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7. Once you have a few bowls of different coloured icing, splodge a dollop of two of the colours all over, and use a cake spatula or other flat object (a large knife for example) to spread one colour into the next, throwing away the excess that comes onto the knife or spatula. Try not to go over the same spot more than once, as the colours will start to blend into one mush rather than two leaked colours.

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8. Now take the next two colours and splodge them randomly around the cake, and repeat the above by gently scraping your cake spatula over the colours to blend them with the background, throwing away any excess.

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9. Once you’ve finished adding all your coloured icing to the cake, you can finish it off by adding pops or accents of louder, brighter colours by adding a little more of the food colouring to any leftover icing to create brighter colours, and dabbing the colours onto the cake. You can also use edible gold leaf or gold dust in areas to finish off the look.

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10. To create a more blended, watercolour effect, I got a bowl of water and dipped my fingers in it to then gently brush some water over the icing to better blend the colours and make smoother lines.

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I made this for a friend’s baby shower (I figured it would be perfect to have it multi-coloured as she’s keeping the sex of the baby a secret), and although my photos aren’t great, they will hopefully give you a general idea of the outcome!

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