How to use cake and cookie transfers: Easy breezy celebrations

celebrate

We’ve all had it happen to us. The last-minute phone call… the desperate party host… “HELP! I NEED A CAKE!”

Or maybe it’s your grade-schooler, reminding you at 7 p.m. that cupcakes are needed for the class gerbil’s baby shower tomorrow morning.

Most home bakers like you and I have earned a bit of a reputation for lovely and delicious baked goods, and when the call comes in it’s your street cred that’s on the line. So, what’s a baker to do?

For me, I’ve discovered these great, easy to use and surprisingly lovely cake transfers. They’re some of the hottest new cake decorations on the market right now and man, they can be a life saver.

What are cake transfers? Basically, they’re thin, flexible, edible wafers covered in edible ink designs. Think of them as peel-off stickers that you can eat. Could life be any easier?

Let’s start off with these small, round transfers, perfect for cookies and cupcakes.

Each sheet has several transfers, often in different designs to help you unleash your creativity.

Up close, you can see the white edible wafer edge. Notice how it’s not perfectly smooth around the outer edge. This helps it blend into the background icing a bit more. Genius!

When fresh, the transfers are very flexible and sturdy. I’ve used dozens in my baking, and have yet to tear one fresh from the package. Be forewarned, though, that they will dry out and become brittle if you don’t keep them sealed in the package.

To use the transfers on cupcakes, ice the cuppie as you normally would, smoothing the frosting down fairly evenly.

Peel off a transfer and center it on the cupcake.  Smooth down any wrinkles and press the thin edge into the icing.

You can even add a little colored sugar or sprinkles around the transfer if you like. Presto!

The sugar will stick to the icing but not the transfer, leaving you with a decorated edge.

Simply smashing!

To use the larger transfers on layer cakes, first you’ll need to make a layer cake. Mine is our Golden Vanilla Cake mix filled with pink whipped cream.  (I’m guessing the class gerbil will have a girl).

To ensure a smooth final coat of icing, you’ll want to apply a crumb coat of icing first. This is a very thin coat of icing meant to seal in the crumbs so that they don’t get stuck in the final coat of icing.

Freezing the crumb coat for 10 to 15 minutes helps it set up, and really allows you to lay on a crumb-free layer next.

Finish icing your cake and smooth the top well.

To help peel off the transfer, use the edge of a table or workbench to help get started, just like peeling off a sticker.

Center the transfer over the cake top before pressing it down. Once the transfer is on the icing, it will begin to soften.

When you’re happy with the placement, smooth down the transfer,aking sure the edges are pressed well into the icing.

If you’d like, you can use more icing to pipe decorations over the edge of the transfer. This really gives the cake a finished look. If you’re short on time, a sprinkling of colored sugar will do the trick, too.

To pipe a rosette, use a flower or star tip in a medium large size.  This one is a closed star tip, so it pipes slightly curved rosettes.

Place your tip at 9 o’clock and pipe clockwise in a small circular motion. You don’t want a gap in the center of your rosette, so don’t make too big a circle.

When you reach 9 o’clock again, lift the tip slightly…

…and pull the tip to the center of the rosette. Stop squeezing and pull the tip away.

Repeat around the entire edge of the cake, beginning each rosette right next to the one you’ve just finished.

Wow! That’s a pretty fancy cake in no time at all.

For a little extra splash, try sprinkling rainbow sparkling sugar on top of your freshly piped rosettes.

Repeat the row of rosettes along the bottom of the cake, sprinkle on the bling, and you have a spectacular cake ready to go in no time. Not only that, but your rep as a hotshot baker may just shoot up a few notches. Like the kids say, it’s all good.

Have a special occasion coming up? We’d love to hear about the cake/cupcakes/dessert you plan to make! Send us a Tweet, post on our Facebook page, or leave a comment here. Happy baking!

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. corig123

    That is indeed a nice looking cake!
    I don’t have a particular event, but I just got a bunch of cereal marshmallows in the mail, as well as a piping kit and fondant rolling pin, so I’m going to try some sort of decent looking marshmallow cake one of these days soon!

    (Also, that’s awful optimistic if you think a gerbil’s going to have ONE baby. We used to trade at least 8 babies back to the pet shop every month for more food/shavings when I was growing up.)
    Ohh, have fun with your new cake toys. I guess I don’t have much gerbil experience. Maybe I should have done pink and blue, and pink, and blue, and pink and… ;) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. Cyn

    Both sets of transfers are lovely! But in checking the cost of both items, they are expensive given the small amount per package (two large transfers per package, or 36 small transfers per package.) You’d have to wait until a very special occasion to use these, I fear, in this tight economy. I’m more interested in the frosting decorations you describe so well in this blog entry. (It’s also expensive to purchase cake decorating items the first time around…but they are reusable!) Thanks for some good ideas, particularly if/when this economy improves. And of course, the transfers are still less expensive than purchasing a decorated cake or cookies that may be pretty much inedible.
    Hi Cyn,
    I’m glad you liked the piped decorations, I’m hoping to do more blogs on decorating over the next few months. PJ and I have been talking about a short series on easy ways to jazz up a cake that don’t involve a lot of time or months of piping practice. Great for no-fuzz bakers like PJ, but pretty enough for decoration lovers like me. I found a great idea last night but I’m keeping it a secret for now. Stay tuned! ;) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. Rebecca

    Beautiful! Do you know of a way to get your own custom images printed onto transfers?
    I know that some grocery stores can do this for you if you buy one of their cakes, but I don’t know if there is a company that will print just the transfers. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one out there though. Anyone know?
    ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. Mrs. Cox

    Lovely!! Such a great item to have for decorating in a pinch. Was curious though, are these transfers certified kosher?
    Hi there,
    Looking at the packaging, they are Circle U kosher. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. Embossed Edibles

    How do they taste? When you are going to eat a cupcake would you leave it on or remove it?
    Thank you.
    The transfers soften up on the icing, so you don’t have any crunch or crisp. They don’t really have a lot of flavor, just a mild sweetness. I’ve eaten about 4 of them on cupcakes, cookies etc. and they were just fine. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. fhodges52

    Great cake….very fun and festive!!! I have taken all three Wilton cake cases and I still can’t get a smooth iced cake. I do crumb coats on all my cakes. What are your tricks to get such a smooth iced cake? Thanks for a great blog. It’s one of my favorites to read. (As a PS….can you do more recipes using the lemon bits that you used in the pudding cake? I brought some and need more ideas on how to use them.) Thanks.
    HI there. Sorry I didn’t see the questions sooner, thanks for your patience. For a smooth coat, I really think a large offset spatula and turn-table are indispensable tools. Think of icing the cake as putting on too much frosting, then removing what you don’t need until you have a nice, even coat. Once in a great while if the icing seems to be fighting back, I’ll wet the blade with hot water, wipe it dry and use that to smooth down the rough spots. Hope this helps!

    I’ll see if we can find some new ways to use the lemon bits. I’ve been putting them in muffins, and they are great. ~ MJ

    Reply
  7. bjsyumbuns

    For the question on custom images, as suggested, I called a few of my local grocery store bakeries (Spokane Washington) and found that some of them would print custom transfers for me. It was about $6.00 a sheet, 8 x 11. The sheets looked a little thicker than the ones frm KA but they worked wonderfully!
    That’s great, and good to know. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Maria S.

    Re: printing edible images, I have never done this but I know it can be done at home with an ink jet printer (preferably a printer you use solely for this purpose). You can purchase sugar sheets that go through your home printer and on them you can print any image you desire. You then just place it on your cake. Kopycake.com is one source for the sheets and edible ink. If you do a google search I am sure you would find others, too. Good luck!

    Reply
  9. "K.B. Owen"

    I love your tip about the crumb icing layer. Crumbs in the icing has been the bane of every cake I’ve frosted, and I never knew what to do about it. Can’t wait to give that a try, thanks!

    Reply
  10. DKS

    Something similar that I have used are cake and cupcake stencils.You have to use them while the frosting is still fresh. You can pick up all kinds of designs and they can be used over and over again. There are tons of holiday stencils out there too. You use colored sugars, frosting, sprays, colors, etc. They look very similar to the above when you are done. Then when you are finished you just wash and dry them and store the stencil for future use. You also can buy plain wafer paper and put you own design on them too and use as above. If you are really artistic you can cut out your own stencils from wafer paper or plastic sheets.
    There are so many cool ways to decorate cakes and cookies and cupcakes now, I wish I had more time! I tried the stencils on cookies a long time ago, it’s definitely time to try again. Thanks for the reminder. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. penneycasy

    I love this idea and may use it for my Dad’s 80th birthday cake – so professional looking – my normal cake decorating skills are not :( Can you tell me though on a more general cake subject. Using the KA mix and frosting described, would you keep a cake like this refrigerated or at room temp and if so, for how long? I’ll have to transport Dad’s cake to Pittsburgh which is about a 6 hour drive for me. Thanks – keep up the great work – love King Arthur!!
    Hi there,
    I’d love to help you out with getting Dad’s cake all set. So, this is how I would do it, you can adjust to your time table. Let’s say the party is Saturday. On Thursday I would bake the cake, cool and freeze it overnight.
    On Friday I would make the icing, layer the cake, do the crumb coat, freeze for 15 minutes, then apply the final layer of icing, but NOT decorate yet.
    Put the cake in the fridge Friday night, then on Sat. morning I would add the transfer, pipe the decorations and pop the cold cake into a cooler for the long drive. When you get there, the cake can be served right away, or remain on the counter for an hour or two. Add the candles, make the wishes and you are done and happy!
    Hope this helps!
    ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. lbortolotti

    I purchased and used KA’s transfer sheets this last Christmas on sugar cookies. They were of snowmen, snowflakes and mittens. They made a nice accent to the other royal icing cutout sugar cookies I boxed for each of my husband’s co-workers. I received my order of your new summer flower transfers and I am going to use them for an upcoming wedding for a dessert table! Thanks for all the great stuff!
    Great job! Those cute little winter transfers will be returning this holiday season, so keep an eye out for them. I’m gunning for some hot pink leopard stripe transfers, wish me luck! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. Aaron

    In addition to the crumb coat putting the cake layers in the freezer for a bit makes icing them easier as well. I usually double wrap them in plastic wrap and let them get solid. The wrap keeps them from drying out in the freezer. Then apply the crumb coat as in the blog.

    Soft icing and hard cake make it easier.

    Thanks!
    Too true Aaron. Slightly frozen cake is much easier to slice as well. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. Aaron

    Hi,

    Can I add to your advice to PenneyCasy?

    If you can, wait until you get to your location to do the final decorations. We would usually make everything and then assemble the cake on-site whenever possible.

    If you cannot, MaryJane’s advice is spot on. The one extra thing you might want to do is make and bring some extra icing to repair smudges or glitches that happen along the way. Icing can hide a multitude of sins. I had an over-excited guest take a slice of wedding cake before the bride and groom sliced it. Fortunately we were able to hide it with extra icing.

    Aaron
    Thanks for chiming in Aaron. I did forget to mention about always bringing extra icing, piping bags, etc. You never know when you’ll need to make a touch-up. Great story about the wedding cake too. ~MaryJane

    Reply
  15. Itsalulu

    I bought the cookie/cupcake transfers for my son’s birthday. I made two different sugar cookie recipes to put them on but I have been afraid they might be too “bumpy”. (One was a KAF recipe from your Baker’s Companion)…Any suggestions on recipes other than a mix?
    I like the Guaranteed Sugar Cookie on the website. Soft, tender, and pretty flat. I think they would work well for transfers. Have fun for the B-day! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  16. mariacc2

    I’m so glad you showed how easy it is to use these. How amazing does that cake look?!!! It truly spells “Celebrate!”
    I’m so glad you like it, hope it makes you smile all day. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  17. krisbarlow

    You can use your home ink jet printer to print transfers. Google it. You can buy the edible sheets and order edible ink. Just sounds like a cleaning mess to me??? But I have friends who do this and they say there is no mess…just like running paper through your printer. They just change out the ink cartridges. I have considered purchasing a cheap printer for this use exclusively. Basically, this is how the grocery stores make the transfers and at $6 or $8 a pop, if you do it a few times and spend $50 at Sam’s Club on a cheap HP printer…you recoop your cost pretty fast. I love the idea of using these transfer sheets for quick or special projects…they are festive and professional.
    Too funny. I’ve tried to talk my husband into this several times, but no luck yet. If any of you find an argument that really does the trick, let me know! ;) ~ MJ

    Reply
  18. Irene in TO

    For “food grade” ink jet printing, you really have to have a dedicated printer. NO NO NO to swapping cartridges…not if you are taking that cake to work.

    The cost of custom transfers is threefold–the cartridges, the edible paper, and the time/effort involved. If you are doing this for a fundraiser, you pay for the printer, the paper, and the cartridges yourself.

    PS the ink cartridges that come with the printer usually have a retail price tthat adds up to the price of the printer. Sell them off and the printer is free.

    Reply
  19. Irene in TO

    Steps to a flat cake top:

    –Mix up icing with a little extra butter or use a meringue-buttercream–it must be soft and smooth textured to give a perfect finish. Adding too much icing sugar and milk won’t work as well.
    –Level all layers with a long bread knife or leveling knife
    –Use the BOTTOM that baked next to the pan for the top
    –Chill crumb coated cake 4 hours in FRIDGE not freezer
    –Use extra icing on top and use a long metal spatula to scrape the excess off with one steady pull. The offset spatula can’t do this action.

    When the cake is well chilled, you can practise the top finish a few times for every cake you ice. You will gain the skill soon.

    Reply
  20. Alysha @ She's on the Run

    That cake is absolutely adorable. And frosted absolutely perfectly (jealous :)

    -Alysha @ShesOnTheRun

    Reply
  21. bonnie

    Can the cake transfers or tattoos also be used on white chocolate to be used as decorations?

    While transfers do exist for chocolate, they are made from cocoa butter and not sugar. As such, I fear that the sugar will not “stick” to your chocolate quite as well or at all.-Jon

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I’m sorry to say that these were products that we no longer carry. I would suggest to try a bakery supply website or perhaps a local bakery can sell some to you. Happy baking! Jon@KAF

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