If you're trying to make a homemade cake this year or simply don't have it in the budget to buy a custom-made cake, then you're going to want to keep reading this step-by-step tutorial for making a character cake with a buttercream transfer.
My kids have been obsessed with Among Us (the video game) and have been begging me to make them a cake featuring the characters so I figured that this was the best opportunity I had to showcase this awesome trick for making character cakes even as a novice baker.
You can use this same technique for any character design but for the sake of the conversation, we're going to continue to talk about it as if you were making your own Among Us themed sheet cake.
What is a buttercream transfer?
Buttercream transfer is a term given to this technique. Made with buttercream frosting your design is made mirrored and upside down so that when flipped onto your prepared cake it is right side up and perfect. While it does take a little patience and planning, it is quite easy and fun.
Once you know how to transfer a design onto a cake, you'll be ready for every occasion.
What you'll need to get started
- A sheet cake baked and cooled
- Buttercream frosting prepared
I have recipes for both of these on the card down below.
You will also need tools that include:
- A pen or marker
- A printed image of your characters (I usually search for "character" coloring page)
- Wax paper (parchment paper could be used if its thin enough to read through)
- Toothpicks or thin paint brush
- Flat sided surface for spreading frosting
- Frosting bags
- Frosting tips
- A baking sheet or flat sturdy surface that will fit in your freezer
- Paper towels (a whole roll if not more) to help clean off frosting scrapers between color usage
After getting your stuff ready start planning the colors. My kids wanted a pink Among Us character and a dead Blue one so I did my best to match colors with the gel food colorings that I had on hand.
Divide your prepared buttercream into bowls and add coloring as needed, stirring until well mixed.
Depending on your image you may not need much of each color. I made roughly ½ cup of each color to blend but only used a fraction of each.
Make the mirror image
If you're lucky you have a computer that will allow you to mirror image things as you print them and save you from this step. If not, do as I did and flip the paper over.
Use a marker or pen to draw on the lines that you see so that the image facing up is a mirror image of the one you want to use.
Find a sturdy portable surface
You will need to place this image in the freezer later so make sure that you use a surface that can remain 100% flat and still fit in your freezer.
Small cutting boards, baking sheets, etc. are all good ideas.
Tape your image down onto the surface.
Tape a piece of wax paper over the top of the drawing. Make sure that the wax paper is cut to be the same size if not just a tiny bit bigger than your image.
Pipe the outlines
Place your outline color (usually brown or black) into a frosting bag with a writing tip.
Pipe the outlines of the drawing onto the wax paper.
After the image has been outlined, go over it with a toothpick or flat tipped paintbrush and poke bubbles and push down the icing that might be not touching the paper.
You want no gaps under the frosting or else the colored icing will fill it in later. This will show through when the image is flipped.
Fill in your design
Place all of your frostings into bags and snip the corners off or use a writing tip to help squeeze even amounts over the drawing, filling in the picture.
I find that its easier to do a ring of color within the lines and then fill it in from there.
Level the frosting
After your drawing has been colored in, take a flat-edged tool and level the frosting so that it is as flat as you can make it.
It's okay if the black outline smears a little but try to avoid unnecessary smearing as you go. The frosting picture will be thick. Your goal is to push it down into crevices to remove air bubbles, fill in gaps, and make it look smoother.
Add the backing
Which ever color you want the background of the cake to be, use it here to cover the back of the drawings.
Start by making an outline around the picture to help seal in the black (this can help to reduce color bleeding). Then, go over the top of the drawing with more of the same color and spread it out flat and even.
Freeze your art
Take your completed picture to the freezer by lifting the baking pan or flat surface you taped it down to and place it in your freezer.
Let it remain in the freezer until solid. This should be about 1-3 hours but leaving it overnight is okay too.
Keep in mind that condensation will appear on your frosting as it thaws later and will take a few hours to go away on its own but leaving the cake in the freezer for a shorter period of time seems to reduce the condensation that happens.
Remove and Flip
Remove your frosting art from the freezer and remove it from the flat surface.
The picture should be solid and flat making it easier to handle.
Take the art and flip it onto your already frosted cake, right where you want the design to go. The wax paper should be touching your hand and the frosting should be directly on the frosted cake.
You might have a little wiggle room for rearranging the image, but the less handling you do the less likely it is to break.
Remove and level (again)
Remove the wax paper and behold your art in all of its glory. You may notice gaps and air bubbles or lines between where you piped frosting (as shown).
You can easily remove these minor distractions while the frosting is still frozen by using a flat surface and gently scraping over the frosting.
You can see how the next photo compares with the finished results as I took and leveled it to remove the imperfections.
Add finishing touches
Now that your Among Us character cake art is complete you can take the cake and add your finishing touches.
Add borders, sprinkles, writing, etc.
If desired you can add a little more frosting around the edge of your drawing to make it blend a bit more into the background frosting. This is optional and not really necessary as the cake will look incredible.
Want more easy cake recipes? Check these out:
- Cherry Coke Cupcakes
- Peaches and Cream Bundt Cake
- No Bake Oreo Icebox Cake
- Layered Tres Leches Cake
- Pastel Rainbow Unicorn Cake
- Summer Raspberry Cake
Easy DIY Among Us Sheet Cake
- A printed image of your characters
- A baking sheet or flat sturdy surface that will fit in your freezer
- 1 box (15.25oz) Cake mix
- 3 large Eggs
- 1 cup Water
- ½ cup Oil
- 2 cups Butter, softened
- 4 cups Powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
- 1-2 Tablespoons Milk
- Gel food colorings in desired colors
- Sprinkles *if desired
- Make cake mix according to box instructions by adding in the water, oil, and eggs.
- Pour into a large greased baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean. Alternatively, you can also make the cake in a 9x13 baking dish or in cake rounds if using a smaller image. Bake for the time specified on the box.
- Cream together the softened buttwer with the vanilla and then slowly add in the powdered sugaar one cup at a time.
- Continue adding powdered sugar until all has been added and add in a little milk if needed. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all is incorporated.
- Divide your frosting into small bowls and add food coloring. Stir until well mixed and then transfer the frosting to piping bags for easier use. Set aside.
- Take your printed picture and flip it over to reveal the clean white backside. Use a pen or marker to draw the lines so that it shows up as mirrored.
- Tape the picture down to a flat portable surface. Then cut your wax paper to be the same size if not a little bit bigger and tape it down over the top.
- Use a fine tip for the black icing and draw the outlines of your image with frosting on top of the wax paper.
- Use a toothpick or fine tipped paint brush to push down air bubbles and gaps in the black icing so that it lines up perfectly on the wax paper and that no frosting can go underneath.
- Fill in the image with your colored frostings as desired.
- Use a scraper tool to flatten the frosting and make it look more level. Try to push down the frosting to remove gaps and air bubbles as you go. Be gentle and avoid smearing colors if possible.
- Use a bag of frosting that is the same color as the background of your cake. Frost an outline around your image to trap the black icing so it's less likely to bleed.
- Now cover the image with that same frosting and spread it out so that it's flat and well covered/sealed.
- Place your image in the freezer by picking up the flat portable surface that it is taped to and moving it all to your freezer. Let chill until solid (about 2-4 hours).
- Remove image from freezer and cut the tape holding it down. Pick up the frosting transfer and carefully flip it over onto the cake in the place where you want it to be. Remove the wax paper from the top of the image to reveal your creation.
- If needed, use a flat surface scraper tool to help gently scrape bits and pieces on the image to remove any gap lines or bubbles.
- Add the finishing touches to your cake and then serve. Enjoy!