Monday, April 11, 2016

How To Get A Gold Finish On Fondant

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Here's one of my most popular posts of all time. Just remember to check your gold paint for the non-toxic vs. edible issue if you're putting it on something that's going to be eaten!

10/31/2015 Edited to add: Since I wrote this I found Rainbow Dust paints and glitters, which are totally edible and give you a really good shine. This post contains affiliate links.

There are a lot of photos of metallic cakes floating around pinterest etc these days.  The metallic finishes are done with gold or silver luster dusts that are applied to fondant, but if you don't put them on right they won't look as metallic as you want them to.

I've done a lot of cakes with metallic details, but I don't think that I'd even done one that was as intentionally shiny as some of the ones that I've seen recently. I asked one designer how she had done the finish on one of her cakes, and she said that she used a big brush and diluted gold luster dust.

I wasn't sure that would work, since I was thinking about the brush marks, so I tried it, plus a few other methods, to see which would be more metallic. Keep in mind the non-toxic vs. edible issues, too...Some gold dusts aren't even non-toxic, so tell people not to eat things that aren't labeled as edible.

I used three pieces of gumpaste, vodka and gold luster dust. The brush was a soft one that's similar to a puffy makeup brush, so it wouldn't leave edge marks. I also used one piece of candy clay because the oils from that usually give a better shine than fondant or gumpaste does.

First, I brushed dry dust on the gumpaste. It was a lighter color, and not as metallic.

Next was the candy clay. This gave a good shine, but the color wasn't as deep. I could see the color of the clay through the dust, so if it was on white it wouldn't have been as dark a metallic.

The brush, used with a thick paint made of the vodka and luster dust, actually did cover well and didn't leave brush marks after I went over it a few times. The shape of the brush was the key to this, in my opinion...The rounded edge didn't leave a lap mark.

Last was the airbrushed gold. This gave as good a shine as the brush had, and it used a lot less luster dust. BUT...I think that the thick coat of "paint" that was applied with the brush filled in the tiny bumps and texture on the surface. The airbrush didn't do that, so it had a rougher appearance than the one with the brush did.

Now...After these trials, a thick coat of the luster dust mixed with vodka did give a good shine and deep color. But there's one missing element that hadn't come up in any of the discussions about the technique that I'd had, but I noticed when I started looking at all those photos. The lighting.....

Notice the difference in the strips that I was holding up in the photos? The light coming from the nearby window totally transformed the gold from flat to metallic and shiny. You can paint a cake gold, but if the lighting isn't right it isn't going to look as metallic as it will if there's a light shining on it.

This is actually something that I warn brides about if they want silver on their cakes. Without the right lighting, silver metallic details can look grey, not silver. With a camera flash the details on metallic cakes might make the photos look a lot more metallic than the actual cake did. If the bride is okay with pewter, not bright silver, this might be okay, but I always warn people anyway.

Using this gold cake as an example, look at how the camera flash and the lighting is reflecting off of the metallic and makes some parts of the gold look brighter. This makes the entire cake look metallic because your brain fills in the blanks and tells you to see the entire thing as metallic if part of it is reflecting that way.

So I think that the key to getting a very metallic look to a cake would be to use a thick coat of the luster dust in alcohol, and then make sure that the lighting in the venue is conducive to enhancing the shine. Suggest that the bride have a lighting person put a pin spot shining on the cake table if she wants a super reflective, metallic surface. If the room is too dark it will look gold, but it won't shine.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at and


Eva Farragher said...

Good article, Kara. I have a couple other methods I use for shinier gold and silver results. For small painting details, I like to mix the gold or silver luster powder with a bit of oil instead of vodka. You can't touch it after you've painted it, but the finish is superior I have found, to dried painted luster+vodka.

The second technique I use is applying gold and silver leaf - nothing can replace the real thing!! I have one silver wedding cake with a pure silver leaf tier, and am about to do one in a few weeks with gold leaf. I'll be happy to share pics after wards if you like :-)


Kara Buntin said...

Please do send pictures, Eva, I'd like to post them! I've done cakes with gold leaf before and you're right, the luster dust doesn't compare. Also interesting about the oil, I'll give that a try to see what happens.

Unknown said...

I've seen videos of diy gold leafing of different items. One thing that was suggested was painting a base coat of candy apple red before applying the gold leaf. With silver leaf, I believe they use royal blue as a base coat. Have you tired other colors of fondant underneath to see if makes a difference?

Kara Buntin said...

I've done one with a melon color under the gold leaf, and it might have made a little difference, but it wasn't super noticeable. It might have if the color was deeper, I'm not sure. I've seen people do a color wash on TOP of the gold leaf, which kind of roughs it up but does change the tint of the gold, so that might be a better choice if you want to give the gold a tint or make the color a little more vibrant.

Jennywenny said...

I usually have a gold color underneath, which helps. In australia they use a much stronger alcohol, around 98% so it dries completely and they can dust out the brush marks on the cake. I've found the strong ever clear available in some states provides a similar effect.

I'm curious about different brands of airbrush gold, the one I bought is super green, so I'm not a huge fan, we had to add orange dye to even out the color...

Dynamic cakes said...

Gold leaves are very expensive in S.A, I use the alcohol method but will definitely try the oil, is it a specific oil or can we use any cooking oil

Kara Buntin said...

No oil...Only vodka to dilute the luster dust. The oils that are in the modeling chocolate are there naturally so you don't have to add any extra to it.