How To Make Gold Cakes: A Few Options


Gold wedding cakes are a popular choice, but it can be hard to get a good gold color that’s shiny, especially if you want to make a gold cake without using alcohol.

Making a cake gold can be done in a few different ways, but each method will create a different look, so you’ll need to choose based on what you want the final product to look like. 

If you don’t want to use alcohol to make the gold paint it can make the job a little trickier, but there are ways around that.


how to make gold cakes

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How to make a gold cake without using alcohol.

To color a cake gold without a paint that contains alcohol, you can use a gold colored cake wrap, a water or oil-based edible gold paint, or culinary gold leaf.

Edible paint works best on fondant, but can also be used to paint a chilled buttercream cake.

A cake wrap can be used to cover the cake without affecting the flavor of the icing because it can be removed before eating.

And for a true metallic gold shine, culinary gold leaf can be applied to the surface of a fondant-covered cake.

little gold wedding cake with fondant pearls and sequins
Gold painted fondant cake

Why to use fondant for gold cakes.

The best type of icing to use on a cake that will be painted gold or covered in gold leaf is fondant, for several reasons. 

Fondant gives you a firm and smooth surface to work with, and it can easily be removed from the cake if people don’t want to eat it. 

Buttercream that’s painted gold can have a strong aftertaste because of the paint that you need to use, and it can affect the flavor of the cake itself because of that.

It’s always best to put some kind of barrier between the cake and the gold color, whether that’s a layer of fondant or a sheet of wafer paper. 

The party guests won’t have to eat the gold coloring, and the cake flavor won’t be changed because of it. 

I have to say that the flavor of a lot of gold paint is just nasty, and I’m not a fan of painting directly onto buttercream because of that.


How to make gold wafer paper for cake decorating.

To make gold wafer paper or a gold icing sheet, print a yellow color onto the paper with an edible ink printer, then dust the colored sheet with an edible gold luster dust.

Dry gold luster dust is the safest way to add a gold sheen to wafer paper or icing sheets because it won’t add moisture to the surface, which could damage or melt the paper. 

Make sure to use an FDA-approved edible dust, not one that’s been labeled as non-toxic.


wafer paper gold and silver sequins cake
Gold wafer paper

If you’re starting with a white wafer paper sheet, apply some type of oil to the sheet by rubbing vegetable shortening, glycerine, or vegetable oil cooking spray into it. Rub the luster dust into the surface of the sheet and spread it out as evenly as possible. 

Allow the sheet to dry, (which may not ever completely happen because the oil will remain on the surface,) then dust over it with a dry coat of luster dust to even out any blotches if necessary.

The vegetable shortening paint method is probably going to be the best way to color a sheet of wafer paper, but it can get really messy. It won’t melt the paper, though.

To wrap the tier with the gold paper, you’ll need to cut the sheet to the height of the tier, then carefully apply it to the cake. 

Using rubber gloves to avoid fingerprints is a good idea, because the gold dust on the sheets can smear and become blotchy if the oils from your fingers touch the gold surface.

The easiest way to make sure that you don’t smudge the gold color is to make the strip that you’ll wrap around the cake first, then do the coloring and wrapping with the long strip that fits the cake. 

You’ll only have to deal with one seam, and it will minimize the danger of dinging the icing with your fingers while you’re trying to attach it to the cake.

The benefit of using a wafer paper cake wrap on a buttercream cake is that it doesn’t alter the icing itself, and the paper can be removed before people eat the cake. 

This also means that you can use colors and luster dusts on the cake that are non-toxic, and not just edible. If people remove the paper before eating it, and the colored side doesn’t touch the icing, it’s safe to use on the cake.

Using icing sheets in the same way will give you even more options, because you’ll be able to paint on the icing sheet with edible gold paints, then apply them to the cake when the paint dries. 

This will give you a more metallic gold shine than wafer paper can, because the icing sheets will take moisture and a heavier coating of color than wafer paper can.

You can attach wafer paper or icing sheets to buttercream cakes by pressing the sheets onto uncrusted icing, or by brushing a little piping gel onto the back of the sheet to press it onto crusted-over icing. 

If you’re using Italian meringue buttercream, or Swiss meringue buttercream, you can press the sheets onto room-temperature icing to get them to stick.



How to color buttercream gold using edible gold paint.

To color buttercream gold, it’s easiest to start with yellow icing that will act as a colored base coat.

The gold color can then be applied on the surface of the buttercream in a thinner coat that won’t affect the flavor of the icing as much as a thicker one will.

Make sure that the icing is cold and as hard as possible to prevent smearing, and paint an edible gold paint on with a soft-bristled brush that won’t leave marks in the icing.

You can also airbrush the gold color onto the cold buttercream in order to avoid leaving brush marks.

It’s important to make sure that the gold paint is made with an FDA approved edible dust, like Crystal Colorsand that it’s not too thin. 

You also want to avoid using a liquid that has any kind of strong flavor, or the buttercream can end up tasting terrible. 

I would avoid using lemon juice for this reason, even though it’s something that a lot of people suggest making edible paint with. There are better options that won’t ruin the flavor of the icing.

The easiest liquid to use would be water, but the downside of that is that it can end up looking streaky on the icing. 

One way to fix that would be to paint the cake as smoothly as you can, then go back later and dust the cake with dry luster dust. 

This might work, but if you’re not careful it can also cause streaks because the cake will have to be dusted when it’s cold. 

Too much water can also smear the icing a little, so make sure to mix the paint smoothly but on the thick side.


gold leaves cake
Champagne cake with gold painted fondant leaves

It’s also possible to airbrush the cake with water-based gold paint, but that needs to be done carefully because metallic paints can clog the airbrush and create splatters. 

If you use an airbrush, make sure to stop and clean the nozzle frequently to prevent any clogs from building up. 

You also need to be careful to keep the airbrush moving evenly so that the color is applied without getting splotchy.

Another liquid that can be used with gold dust is vegetable oil, and that can give a better result on buttercream than water does. 

It’s a little easier to paint on smoothly without creating streaks, and if you use an unflavored oil it won’t affect the flavor of the icing. 

You can also use butter-flavored popcorn oil if you want to add some additional butter flavor to the cake, but that’s usually not necessary!

Again, always make sure that the cake icing is hard from being refrigerated before you try to paint it, because soft buttercream will get smeared by the brush.  

This is a major risk that comes with painting onto buttercream, and if you’re not careful you can ruin the finish of your buttercream. 


How to make gold fondant without alcohol.

To make gold fondant without alcohol, start with a yellow base fondant if possible, and paint on a coat of thick edible gold paint made with water or vegetable oil to the surface, avoiding streaks. Apply the paint with a soft-bristled paintbrush to avoid leaving marks in the paint. When the paint is dry you can dust it with a light coating of dry gold dust to even out the surface and cover any lighter areas. 

When choosing your paint base, you can use either water or vegetable oil. The oil will take a lot longer to dry, but it will be smoother to paint onto the cake. 

Water will dry faster, but it’s more likely to streak and leave areas that aren’t as deep a gold color. 

As long as the paint is mixed to be on the thicker side, the water content won’t be enough to melt the fondant, and the gold color will be easier to apply evenly.



There are some benefits to using fondant instead of buttercream for gold cakes. Fondant will hold up better than buttercream when moisture is applied to it, and it won’t smear, so you can paint it much easier than buttercream. 

Fondant also provides a less porous surface than buttercream does, so the gold color will look more reflective on fondant than it will on buttercream.

Another benefit is that painting on fondant doesn’t affect the flavor of the icing under the fondant. If people don’t want to eat the gold, they can remove the fondant from the cake and just eat the unpainted parts. 

The gold paint on buttercream can’t be removed, so fondant does have the benefit of being removable!

There are also premade edible gold paints like the Rainbow Dust brand that can be used to color fondant gold, but it can take a lot of it to cover the cake. 

Making your own paint will work fine as long as you take care to only use edible gold dust to mix the paint. 

Non-toxic and decorative use only dusts shouldn’t be used on buttercream or on fondant that people will be eating.


How to make a gold cake with gold leaf.

Culinary gold leaf is real gold in sheet form that can be applied to a cake for a genuine metallic shine. It’s the most expensive form of gold for cakes, but when applied correctly to fondant, it’s the most impressive-looking, and it doesn’t require alcohol to apply. Edible gold leaf comes in loose sheets and in transfer sheets, and it does require some skill and practice to get it on the cake accurately.



To attach gold leaf to fondant, dampen the surface of the cake with a very slightly wet paper towel or spray bottle. 

It shouldn’t be very wet, just slightly damp to make the surface of the cake tacky to the touch. 

This will allow the gold leaf to attach itself securely to the fondant. Without the water the leaf will still stick to the cake, but to ensure that it stays on without tearing, the moisture will help.


pink and gold wedding cake
Wedding cake with a gold leaf tier

Gold leaf can be applied in large sheets, or on a single tier or in patches to create a random design on the surface of the cake. 

It’s often used to add some metallic shine to cookies, macarons, or other baked goods. If you use it on a single tier, you can use a dummy tier to prepare it ahead of time so that you’ll have time to fix any mistakes!


gold gumpaste peony

Using gold paint on gumpaste or other details on the cake

Another option to add gold to a cake would be to use gumpaste or other decorations that are painted gold that the guests aren’t expected to eat. That gives you a lot more flexibility as far as different types of gold paints go, since they won’t need to be edible if they’re on gumpaste that won’t be eaten and won’t directly touch the cake.


Painting a large gumpaste flower gold and using it as a focus flower is a good way to incorporate gold into the design of the cake without having to paint the icing. 

The flowers can be made ahead of time and don’t need to be edible. You can use water to make the paint, then dust them with a dry luster dust once the first layer of paint dries to cover up any thin areas.


pink and gold isomalt cake
Gold isomalt cake flowers

You can also paint isomalt gold to create a gold cake design that doesn’t need to be edible. 

Water-based paint, or premade edible paints that don’t have alcohol in them can be used for this.


gold pearls
Gold dusted fondant pearls

Dusting fondant pearls with luster dusts is also a good option to add some gold to the cake design. 

These should be done with edible dusts, though, since guests might actually eat them. No liquid is required to dust fondant pearls, so it’s an alcohol-free option.

The best gold shine is always going to be gold leaf, but other types of gold paint can be good options, and less expensive. 

Make sure to tailor the look that you’re trying to achieve to the right medium to make it, and to your customer’s budget!


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