Learn to Stencil like a Pro!
Patricia Moroz of Starlight Custom Cakes shares her tips and tricks for creating perfect stenciled details. Give your cake designs some wow factor with these gorgeous designs from Evil Cake Genius.
by Patricia Moroz
This past season I had a typical weekend with multiple wedding cake deliveries and as with each wedding season, too much to do with too little time! After spending several days working on cakes with more complex designs, I was relieved to have one last cake that required a very simple and quick design. The cake was to be airbrushed with a stenciled pattern and would have fresh flowers on the top. It was a welcome relief and took less than two hours to decorate. I used a beautiful contemporary stencil called the “Ramona” purchased from Evil Cake Genius for this cake. I simply airbrushed a white pearl design onto the white fondant covered cake. The bride wanted a clean, subtle background design without any piping or any other type of decoration. This turned out to be one of the easiest wedding cakes that I have had to create and happily left the bride and groom thrilled with the results!
Not only are stencils very easy to use, they are available in hundreds of designs and sizes. The stencils used for this tutorial were generously donated by Evil Cake Genius (http://evilcakegenius.com/) and Designer Stencils (https://www.designerstencils.com/). While most stencils are created using an acrylic type of plastic, there are also silkscreen mesh stencils which are available from Evil Cake Genius.
Acrylic Versus Mesh
While the acrylic stencils offer beautiful designs, the mesh silk screen stencils can offer a very fine detail that would be impossible to achieve with the acrylic stencils. If one is looking for a quick and simple design, they might consider a stencil burner and a package of acrylic stencil sheets that would enable you to create your own stencil. Both are available online and at most major craft stores and can be purchased for about $25. Evil Cake Genius and Designer Stencils both offer custom design services. Designer Stencils has videos on their website showing how to use stencils on fondant covered and buttercream cakes. Evil Cake Genius offers easy to follow videos on their website showing how to use their acrylic stencils with tulle as well as how their mesh stencils are used. Both are fantastic resources! When purchasing stencils from any company, be sure to look at the height and length for each. If you normally make tall tier cakes, you will probably want six-inch tall stencils but if you normally make shorter tiers, you will most likely want shorter stencils to fit your cake.
How to Use an Acrylic Stencil Using Royal Icing
Position your stencil up against the cake and hold it in place using a few sewing pins at either end of the stencil.
Cut a piece of tulle slightly larger than your stencil and place the tulle over the stencil. (See photo) Place a few sewing pins through both ends of the stencil and tulle to hold them in place. The tulle will keep the small, more detail pieces of the stencil from popping up and resulting in a messy design. Tulle can stretch a bit to make sure there are no ripples or creases so that you get a clean covering when the icing is applied. Once your stencil has been placed on the cake, be sure to cover the rest of the cake in saran wrap so that no excess icing will get onto the fondant.
Your royal icing should hold a peak so that it will be soft enough to run over the stencil but not runny. If it is too runny, it will bleed under the stencil and ruin your design. I always suggest that once your icing has been made, roll out a sample piece of fondant and try covering it with a stencil using the royal icing you have prepared. This will give you an indication as to whether or not your icing is the correct consistency. Once you have stenciled several cakes, you will find that you will not need to test the icing anymore.
Using your offset spatula, place some icing on the back side of the blade. Start at one end of the stencil and gently run the spatula from one side of the stencil to the other. It is important to not lift your spatula up at any point because it will tend to lift the stencil. Always run the spatula off the side of the stencil before lifting. It is also important to cover the stencil all in one direction in order to get a clean coating. Once the stencil has been covered, take a plastic bowl scraper, and starting from the same direction, run it gently across the stencil from one side to the other. This will remove the excess icing so that when the stencil is lifted there will be a nice clean and even covering.
When finished, lift the pins holding the tulle and stencil out from one end and gently pull the stencil and tulle away from the cake. While holding the tulle and stencil away from the cake, lift the other set of pins so that the tulle and stencil can be completely removed from the cake.
If you are using a design that covers the entire cake, let the royal icing dry before starting the next section of the design. Be sure to marry the pattern edges on each portion of the design so that they are evenly iced on the cake.
How to Airbrush with an Acrylic Stencil
In order to airbrush a cake when using an acrylic stencil, the stencil and the tulle should be attached to the cake in the same manner as described in the “Stenciling with Royal Icing Section.”
Be sure that the remainder of the cake is covered with plastic wrap so that the spray does not get onto the other portions of the cake.
Once the cake is ready to be airbrushed, lightly spray the stencil portions while keeping the sprayer approximately eighteen inches from the cake. If you are trying to achieve a deeper, more pronounced color, lightly spray it a couple of more times, leaving a minute or two in between sprays, to allow for some drying. Spraying too much and too heavily will cause dripping and will ruin your pattern.
If you do not have an airbrush, you can also use luster sprays that come in a variety of colors from several manufacturers. Be very careful handling the cakes after they have been sprayed because these sprays, especially the luster sprays, can be easily smeared.
How to Use a Mesh Stencil
Mesh silkscreen stencils are not as widely available as the acrylic stencils but Evil Cake Genius offers a large variety of beautiful designs. Mesh stencils offer a much finer, more intricate detail that cannot be achieved with acrylic stencils.
I recommend using them on a cake that is covered in fondant using the paneling method. To use this method, first, roll out a piece of fondant, cut it to fit the top of the cake, and place it on the cake. Roll out a strip of fondant and cut it to fit the diameter and height of the cake. Add a couple of inches to the length of the strip so that when placed around the cake, the two end pieces overlap. Take a Xacto knife and cut the portion of the seams that overlap from bottom to top and remove the excess. This will leave a very clean seam.
It is important to note that when using mesh stencils the royal icing coating on the fondant is very thin. This coating is so fine that the color of the icing will often appear much lighter than the color you see in your icing bowl. Be sure to test it out before stenciling your patterns, and be sure to mix your color darker than you desire in order to get the shade you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to use a white color on a dark cake such as black or purple etc. you will need to add some Whitener Food color gel to the royal icing in order for it to maintain the bright white.
Once you have cut the strip of fondant that will go around the cake, place your mesh stencil onto the fondant. (See photo above) You can use a strip of painters tape to hold it in place or simply use your fingers to hold one side of the stencil. Just as you did with the royal icing stenciling, take your offset spatula, place some icing on the backside of it and push it across the stencil in one direction. Because these stencils have such fine detail, be sure to spread it on softly but firmly enough to get thru the mesh. Immediately after, take a plastic scraper and run it across the stencil in the same direction to remove the excess icing. Lift your mesh stencil and you should have a clean design.
Let your fondant strip dry just for a couple of minutes, when dry to the touch, gently roll it onto a small rolling pin and unroll it around your cake. If your buttercream is stiff, very lightly spritz the edges of the cake with water so that the fondant will stick.
Using a mesh stencil directly onto a fondant covered cake:
It is definitely possible to use the mesh stencils directly onto a fondant covered cake. The cake just has to be firm enough that you are able to press the icing thru the stencil without making any indentations on the cake.
Position your mesh stencil directly onto your fondant covered cake with a couple of pins. (See photo) Please note that on this particular cake, I placed a two-inch wide piece of painters tape on the cake because I wanted a clean margin on the left side. I simply iced over the mesh stencil and tape with my offset spatula, lifted the tape and it left my clean margin for the design that I wanted to achieve.
Mesh stencils offer such beautiful detail and in the past, it was thought that they could only be used with royal icing. Airbrush sprays just are not able to spray through the mesh fabric well enough to achieve a clean design. Recently, Evil Cake Genius developed an amazing new method for using metallic colors on mesh stencils that produces a beautiful finish! In order to use a mesh stencil with metallic colors, simply mix your metallic color with vodka just as if you were going to use it with an airbrush. Once you combined, add some piping gel and stir the three together until you have a paste. Apply the paste with and offset spatula exactly the same way you would do with the royal icing. Once the mesh stencil has been covered with the paste, use a plastic scraper to remove the excess only to reveal a clean, wonderful metallic finish! There is a very clear video on their site showing how this is achieved.
Stencils are so versatile and can successfully be used by themselves with no other design elements or they can be used in addition with a multitude of other applications. When using stencils, think about piping on them, adding dragees, overlapping one stencil design on top of another, adding sugar lace designs, applying sanding sugars or adding molded or sculpted pieces as shown in the photo where the fern leaf stencil was used and so many other ways. There are also many two and three-layer stencils that offer fantastic designs! The possibilities are really limitless.
Royal Icing recipe:
One pound of powdered sugar
Three tablespoons of meringue powder
Three to five tablespoons of water (Use enough until your icing can hold a peak.
Mix for five to seven minutes
Be sure to keep the royal icing covered up due to the fact that it will dry so quickly.
I normally cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place a wet kitchen towel on top of the plastic wrap.
Patricia’s Top Tips
*I like to use painters tape because it does not leave any fibers and will not pull the fondant up unless it is wet or very moist. It can be used to mark areas on a cake that you do not want to be covered by the stencil design. It is also great to use for attaching plastic wrap when covering a cake in order to keep the over-spray from contacting the cake.
*When using luster and pearl dust for stenciling, you can use a dab of Everclear or vodka on the tip of a Q-tip to remove any dust stains that may have accidentally occurred from smudges etc.
*When using royal icing with an acrylic stencil, after applying the icing, you can spray the stencil with a pearl or luster spray if you are wanting to add a luster finish before lifting the stencil! The royal icing will pick up the beautiful luster finish!
*If you prefer to not use sewing pins for attaching stencils to your cakes, you can order acupuncture needles (available online) which leave a much smaller puncture in the fondant.
* Whether airbrushing or covering your stencil with royal icing, wash your stencil in warm water immediately after and place on some dry towels. I then place a couple of towels on top and press down to dry the stencil. If you scrub the stencil, you risk bending some of the smaller, fine detail pieces.
If you are using a repeating pattern, be sure to wash and dry the stencil between each use or you risk some excess that may have been left on the stencil smearing your cake!