Cocoa butter is an amazing, versatile edible product with seemingly magic properties. As soon as you warm it, it melts into the most fabulous clear oil, yet remove the heat source and it almost instantly sets back into a solid state.
Mix with edible dusts and you have your very own super opaque, super strong edible oil colours to play with!
You will need a metal plate or dish that easily transfers heat and a heat source to sit the plate on. You can either use boiling water in a mug, a tealight and tealight holder or an electric warming plate. The water will cool gradually so you’ll need to keep boiling the kettle every 20 minutes or so to keep the cocoa butter in its liquid state. The tealight will last longer but its literally messing with fire though. The electric warmer is safest although still burny and the most expensive option. So be mindful as all methods do carry risk.
Cocoa butter is my absolute go- to and favourite method of painting because you can layer and blend colours like oil paint meaning it’s very flexible and forgiving. Great for beginner or none-confident painters.
Why not give it a go yourself with this easy step by step guide to painting a simple poppy onto sugarpaste. I’d love to see you results so do make sure you share them with me in my free community cake group here.
The total list of kit of everything you’ll need is posted at the end of this blog for you as well so you have zero excuse not to give it a whirl! Happy painting.
[Quick step by step cocoa butter poppy]
- Heat your cocoa butter until it is in liquid form and mix together some white dust, touching a darker colour into the white will give you a light grey to work with. Use this to loosely sketch out your basic petal, bud and stem shapes. You can sketch with a pencil if you prefer as it’s non-toxic, however I prefer to keep full edible. Try and get the idea of any curved petals and create a three dimension by creating the inside of the petal as well as the outside.
2. Mix some cherry red (or similar) dust into your melted cocoa butter and begin blocking in some of the main areas of your petals. Add a little yellow or orange dust to the colour if your red tone is not quite a poppy red and to keep this first shade of red a little lighter. If you start with lighter tones you have the opportunity to shade down. Start with the deepest red and you are left with nowhere to go.
3. Now add some more yellow and white to the edge of your red in the palette and block in the highlighted areas of the petals to begin creating a more three dimensional / alive feel to your petals, painting in where the light would hit each petal and using the lighter red to begin separating each petal from the other. Start blocking in the bud petals as well.
4. Create a darker red by mixing in shades of blue into your red and paint / blend in darker areas of the petals, using blue will keep the tones vibrant where as adding black or brown will muddy it. Work on that curved petal, painting the top outer edge darker to highlight and give distinction to where the lighter inner petal curls. Darken further in between the petals to define the petal edges.
5. Shade darker again building up the petals. If you want to go back to highlight an area or paint lighter colours create a pool of clear liquid cocoabutter in the centre of your palette as a ‘wash bath’ to clean your brush before wiping it on kitchen paper.
6. Mix in a little more brown/ blue to your red to create a dark grey and lowlight once more, now working into the centre of the flower to create a ring around where the pistil will be and working into the corners of the darkest areas of each petal.
7. Mix a soft dull green using forest green dust and superwhite white dust, paint in the pistil. If your green is too vibrant dull it back with a little brown. Keep your tones soft.
8. Using the same base green begin to paint in the bud and flower stem.
9. Mix in more brown and a touch of blue to the edge of your green and add shading and depth to your green stem, flower centre and green edges of the bud.
10. Use a small amount of black to paint in the lines on the pistil and the work in thin stamin lines, adding tiny dots to the top of each stamin.
11. Clean your brush using the pool of clear cocoabutter in the centre of your palette and wipe it clean. Dip into your white and touch the green. Use this to the pistil highlights in each tiny section of the pistil. Next add final light highlights to the edges of each petal and work into you bud. If the white is too stark touch it into your red to create an off white/ slight pink highlight.
12. If you want to add a poppy leaf go back into your muted greens and paint on main stem with feathered shoots off each side.
13. Finally use your darker shades to add depth and detail to the centre of the stem and middle of each leaf branch, leaving the tips lights and that’s it! One perfectly beautiful hand-painted cocoa butter poppy perfect for that wildflower wedding cake or remembrance day celebration.
I used cocoa butter in conjunction with sugarflowers to create this amazingly three dimensional effect on a British Wildlife themed wedding a couple of years ago. The overall effect was absolutely stunning.
Ready to give it a go? Here’s what you need!
- Food grade cocoabutter
- Aluminium artist palette
- Heat source / tealight holder /hot water / warming plate
- Dusts: Cherry red, yellow, black, brown, mid-blue, forest green, superwhite
- Sugarpaste or edible surface
- Rolling Pin
- Icing sugar/ corn flour to dust
- Wider pointed paintbrush / narrow pointed paintbrush (do not use your best brushes as cocoabutter is not forgiving)
- Poppy reference images to copy (I like using illustrations as I can see the flower shapes easier and the highlights and shadows are exaggerated which makes it easier for me to follow. )
You can use your cocoa butter paints to paint anything you like. One of the many advantages being that it goes on thicker than gel colours so you can create beautiful oil painting effects, palette knife styles and layer up colour easily that would usually be lost. If you need to put strong highlights over dark colours you’ll find your gels or dust and waters not powerful enough to hold against the colours underneath, they’ll absorb in or paint on faint. Throw on a cocoa butter plus superwhite mix though and your highlights will sing. Simply add more liquid cocoa butter to thin it right down into a colour wash.
Another great advantage of cocoa butter painting is that it sets as soon as it cools. So any deep colouring you add to your cake will set almost immediately. That means even if you paint the darkest colours, layer up the blackest blacks – when you (or your client) takes a bite they will not find themselves with black teeth.
It’s a winning combination! So what are you waiting for? Time to explore hand-painting!
I hope you enjoyed this mini-step-by-step tutorial and are feeling all inspired to give it a go yourself! Please do come show me what you are creating, I’d really love to see. If you want more tips, tricks, tutorials and business mindset training in your life, hit the subscribe button!