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I'm Kendra, and I'm here to help you be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't. Welcome to your people.

How to Put a Picture on a Cake

How to Put a Picture on a Cake

The Benedict Cumberbatch cake I made for my own birthday. Don't mock me.

The Benedict Cumberbatch cake I made for my own birthday. Don't mock me.

Ryan Gosling drawn in icing as he should be.

Ryan Gosling drawn in icing as he should be.

A decorated 9-inch round cake from a bakery will cost you bare minimum $40. Sometimes the Lazy Genius way is to buy the cake; time is valuable, too. But if you're on a budget or just want to try your hand at making a cake for your kid's birthday this year, this method will be your savior. If you can color in the lines, you can do this. 

This (sadly) isn't about the men; it's about the method. Draw Mickey Mouse, R2D2, a bouquet of daisies... anything can go on a cake if you understand the basics.

I first saw this at Brass Tacks and Basics, and her tutorial is so detailed and awesome that I won't rehash it here; go read it and get the lowdown. She makes a Dora the Explorer cake, so you can get an idea of the cartoon execution of this, complete with photos. Here are the basics using my Ryan Gosling cake.

  1. Choose an image. Cartoons are easy. Ryans are harder but not impossible. Make sure you print the image so that it fits the size of your cake. 
  2. Make it traceable. Actual photos of people or places will have to be altered via Photoshop or Really Color, but it's not difficult to do. No matter your image, you want it to look like a coloring page with strong lines and no shadows. If you choose a cartoon, the work is pretty much done for you. 
  3. Trace the image on to wax paper. Place a piece of wax paper over your printed image, and trace. Keep it simple; detail doesn't translate in Icing World.
  4. Cover the tracing with Icing. Tape the traced wax sheet INK SIDE DOWN on something flat - a small cookie sheet, a plastic cutting board, whatever. Here's what will happen - you'll pipe your design with icing, freeze it, then FLIP IT on to the cake. THAT MEANS that whatever you pipe first will be the "top" of the design. So all of your details (especially if you're doing a logo or cartoon with more detail and layers) need to go first. Again, Brass Tacks and Basics displays this technique beautifully. Put the design in the freezer for an hour an up to several days, but be sure to wrap it in plastic if the icing will be exposed for longer than four hours.
  5. Assemble the cake. You have your cake baked and cooled, right? And you're not embarrassed if you used a box cake mix, right? That's a legit way to go, people. Cover the cake with icing of any color (store-bought if you want), and make the top as smooth as you can. Then place the frozen design on the cake and gently pull back the paper. If you have the one thick "piece" of frosting, it'll work like a charm. If you don't, half of the design will stick to the paper, forcing you to draw Ryan's right eye freehand and turn him into a stoner. 

Do you see the mistake I made? The chocolate icing design isn't attached to anything else, so when I pulled the paper off, Ryan's eye went wherever it wanted. It had no anchor. Even my love couldn't hold him still. 

See the difference with Mickey? One giant "piece" of frosting that easily stays together when the paper comes off. 

Sure, this isn't a 5-minute dessert, but wow is it doable for even the most novice cake decorators. Simply trace and color. Lazy Genius all the way for when you want to put a face on your cake. 

Have you ever decorated a cake before? What keeps you from trying?

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