Stenciling onto buttercream isn’t as hard as you might think, but you do have to take a few precautions.
I did a few stenciled wedding cakes that were covered in buttercream recently, so I took notes on things that I would tell other bakers who were going to try it.
For both of these cakes, I used buttercream to stencil onto buttercream. If you stencil onto fondant you generally use royal icing, but you could use buttercream too.
Tips for stenciling on buttercream
1. Make sure the buttercream-covered cake is totally cold when you’re stenciling on it, or the icing on the cake can stick to the stencil.
2. Stencil each tier individually before stacking, then refrigerate them to harden the stenciling before you stack the cake.
3. If you smear something, don’t try to remove it before refrigerating the cake. Hard icing is easier to deal with than soft icing.
4. Clean and dry the stencils well before you use the stencil a second time on the cake. If the stencil is wet it can make the colored icing run around the edges of the stenciled shape.
5. Do the stenciling, then refrigerate the cake. When the icing is hardened, go back and use a knife or another small tool to remove any icing that’s in the wrong spot or to neaten up the edges.
6. Try to keep the icing relatively thin on the stenciled part, or it will be more likely to pull off when you remove the stencil. It has to be thick enough that it leaves an opaque coating, though.
For an article about whether black icing will bleed onto white icing, click here.
7. Starting at one edge (or at the part of the cake that will be where you want the “seam” to be) place the stencil against the cake. If you have a medallion or another design that needs to be centered at the front of the cake, make sure to start there.
8. Using a small amount of buttercream and an offset spatula, spread the icing out over the stencil. When the buttercream touches the cake through the stencil it will stick the stencil to the cake, so it will be easy to hold the stencil in place.
9. Smooth out the buttercream over the stencil and try to get it pretty flat, but you don’t want to be able to see the base icing through the colored icing that’s being applied for the design.
10. When you remove the stencil, peel it from one edge and carefully lift it off of the cake. If you have to continue the pattern around a corner, hold the stencil in place at that corner when it’s being lifted and press it onto the next section of the cake.
11. Clean the excess icing off of the stencil and continue the pattern from where you left off.
12. Remember to wipe the stencil clean after each pass. Doing it each time will prevent smearing.
13. Put the cake back in the fridge and when it’s hardened up, bring it back out and touch up any places that smeared, or flatten out any ridges that you created when applying the pattern. When you’re working with buttercream it’s a lot easier to remove mistakes when it hardens up, as opposed to trying to remove it when the icing is soft.
14. Store your stencils between two pieces of cardboard so that they won’t get warped and ruined!