December 2020


Cake Decorating Tips

What is Palette Knife Painting

what is palette knife painting

Palette Knife painting is an abstract, modern and beautifully textured way to decorate your cakes. All you need is a little buttercream, a cranked palette knife and your artistic flair.

Palette knife painting was first introduced by artists such as Monet and Cezanne in the impressionist period. The beauty of this type of painting is that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it is meant to capture the moment, light and essence of an object so it doesn’t have to be precise. 

what do you need for palette knife painting?

The Palette Knife:

We would recommend using a cranked handle palette knife to allow you to paint with ease. It helps your hand lift from the cake and so ensures no smudging of your work (although this may not be seen as a bad thing!) 

There are a whole host of palette knife sets that you can get online and it is beneficial to get a range of shapes and sizes so you can create different looks. For example a larger more rounded palette knife is good for bigger strokes for creating flower effects and the smaller more knives are good for adding detail to your work.

The Buttercream:

Much like oil paints, Swiss Meringue buttercream has an oily quality and is therefore our chosen medium for palette knife painting. Made using a meringue base, you then add your butter and whip the two together. It colours up well, has a smooth texture and glides onto your cakes with ease. Just be aware that it doesn’t last forever and can become quite sticky if it gets too warm so make sure you keep it fairly cool or refrigerated. 

Your Canvas:

A cake! Obviously a smooth covering on a cake would be your final canvas for palette knife painting but we would recommend painting on a cake board to begin so you can get a feel for your knives and perfect your technique. Then just paint away!

The finishing touch:

To finish your cake off you can add sprinkles, nonpareils, macarons and even some fresh flowers to really make your cake sing. Palette knife painting is meant to be arty and abstract so have fun with it!

about Impressionism and palette knife painting

Palette knife painting was first used by artists such as Monet and Cezanne. It was the beginning of the impressionist period and was a step away from the very realistic and detailed paintings that you now see covering ceilings of stately homes.

Impressionism was all about light and capturing a fleeting moment, it was less about the specifics of a scene and was a refreshing take on art that we now know and love. 

Although we can now appreciate the works of impressionist painters, at the time, the painters were ridiculed. The term “impressionist” was originally meant as an insult by art critics and some went as far to describe the artists as lunatics. A far cry from how we view them today.

The impressionist artist did not paint in a studio and instead went outside to paint. They used large strokes of thick paint that gave an “impression” of an object and really focused on the ever changing light. Below are some examples of impressionist art, ready to inspire your palette knife painted cakes.

Monet Lily Pond

The Water Lily Pond by Monet is one of the most famous of the impressionist paintings.


La Mont Sainte-Victoire by Cezane is another beautiful and bright painting from the impressionist period. 

some cake inspiration

We love the palette knife painting and the impressionist period. It is arguably even better when portrayed in a cake! Just a little buttercream and a palette knife and you can make a really beautiful piece. It’s so simple yet really effective. Have a look at some of our favourites below.

Emma Page Cakes

This first cake is truly a work of art and is made by Emma Page Cakes. Emma specialises in buttercream cakes, has developed her own stable recipe and loves all things buttercream.

This is an amazing cake, the textures she has managed to create using this technique is exquisite. We also just loved the layering of buttercream mixed with bright colours, it looks just like a painting. This is a stunning cake and one that would really impress at any party.

Sweet Bloom Cakes

This wedding cake is made by Dewi Kurniadi from Sweet Bloom Cakes. She is based in Sydney and is originally from Indonesia. 

This wedding cake is just perfect. The soft colours, the impressionist flowers and even the tiny nonpareils. We love it!

Clare Anne Taylor

This cake is by Clare Anne Taylor Couture Cakes. Clare Anne attended Ballymaloe cookery school in Ireland and then went on to train further in the UK. She is now based in Ireland and makes couture cakes.

This cake has such beautiful colours and we love the finer details of the butterflies, and sugar flowers. The slight shimmer in the buttercream also adds to this amazing wedding cake.

A Sweet Life

This two tiered cake is from Leigh at A Sweet Life. Originally in technology, Leigh has now entered the world of cakes to satisfy her creative side.

The pink flowers are so perfect on this cake and the design is really clean. A very impressive triumph when working with buttercream! The sugar flower also sets off the whole cake really well.

Ponona Cakes

Ponona Cakes based in Spain is responsible for this buttercream masterpiece!

This final cake is a colourful masterpiece! The different bold colours and delicate layering of buttercream is so impressive and works really well on this two tiered cake. It would be perfect for any birthday or celebration.

final words

We really hope you’ve loved this tutorial all about how to Palette Knife paint and a little insight into the impressionist period. It’s a great way to decorate your cakes, fairly simple and doesn’t use too much equipment. Just pick up your palette knife and paint away. If you want to learn more there is a full step by step tutorial inside the Academy.