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How to Make Custom Cake Stencils

How to Make Custom Cake Stencils main article image
Posted on January 18, 2022 by Carrie Christenson
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Hello fellow crafter and bakers!  I have a fun tutorial for you today showing you how to make your own stencils for buttercream on cakes.  Now you can make bakery style masterpieces without the high cost of buying pre-made stencils.  They are really easy to make and you can create your own custom designs for one of a kind creations.

Supplies Needed:

  • Food Safe Stencil Material
  • Electronic Cutting Machine (I’m using a Silhouette Cameo)
  • Scraper Tool
  • Design Files or Fonts
  • Cakes
  • Buttercream
  • Cake Decorating Tools
  • Food Coloring

How to Make a Patterned Stencil:

Create your Pattern:

To create your own pattern stencil for decorating the side of cakes you’ll want to start by opening up a pattern design.  You could also design your own from scratch, but I’m using this design to start with.

Open the design file in Silhouette Studio.

Open File in Silhouette Studio

When the design first opens it’s going to come in very large.  You’ll want to use the scale tool to resize it smaller, I’m going to make mine 10” x 10”

Large Heart Pattern

Once it’s resized you’ll want to open up the trace panel so you can create the cutting lines for the pattern.

resized heart pattern

traced heart pattern

In order to edit the design, you’ll first need to release the compound path, right-click to bring up the shortcut menu.

traced heart pattern

I want to make the hearts larger so I’m deleting a few of the rows to make the pattern larger while staying on the 12” x 12” sheet.  

deleting some hearts from pattern

deleting more hearts

Select all of the hearts and scale the design larger by dragging a corner and pulling outwards.

selecting all of the heart pattern

Now that you have the images traced you’ll need to edit them, with stencils you can’t have open designs that aren’t connected to the main sheet.  To prevent this issue I’m going to delete some of the larger outside rings of the hearts and some smaller inside rings of the hearts. 

creating the new heart pattern

Once you’re done creating your pattern you’ll want to select them all and create a new compound path.  You’ll right-click to bring up the menu and select “make compound path” this links all of the designs into one object so you don’t accidentally move parts around.

new heart pattern

Next, I like to fill them with a color to make sure I like the final design.  It just helps you see the complete design easier.  This step is purely for visualization so the color you choose doesn’t matter.

adding color to pattern

In order to have the pattern perfectly centered on the stencil, you can go to the transform panel and select the icon that says center to page.  This will automatically center the complete design to the overall page in one easy step for you.

colored in pattern centered

Now you’re ready to send the design to be cut!  Head to the send panel and adjust your material to be stencil material.  Select the type of blade you’re using and then select cut edge.  The cut settings for the material I’m using is blade depth 3, force 33, speed 5, and it takes 3 passes to get a clean cut. 

cut settings for pattern

If you’re using a material for the first time it is really worth the effort to do several test cuts to find the best settings before cutting your full project. This will save you a lot of heartaches and wasted materials in the long run!

Make Your Cake:

For this cake, I made a 6” round vanilla cake with a blackberry buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream for the outside.  

I like to start by cutting my 2 larger layers into 4 smaller ones so I can get a better cake to frosting ratio.  Score around the edges of the cake with a serrated knife and then keep spinning the cake while slowly cutting deeper towards the center.  It takes a few spins but you’ll end up with a perfectly sliced cake for keeping a flat top with stacking.

cutting cake

Build the cake and then give it a quick crumb coating to lock in all of the loose crumbs.  This is a very thin layer of frosting.  Now pop it into the refrigerator to firm it up, this will make the final frosting layer go on smoother.

crumb coat layer

Once you have your final layer of buttercream smoothed onto your cake pop it in the refrigerator again.  The colder the cake the easier it is to work with for this final step.

While waiting for the cake to chill, color some extra buttercream with your food color of choice. Since I’m making Valentine’s day themed cake with hearts I wanted to use a soft pink.

food coloring

Stencil the Cake:

This is the fun part!  Take your newly created stencil and lay it up against the side of the cake, you don’t want to press too hard, just enough to help it stick to the side.

Next, take that colored buttercream and add it overtop the stencil with your spatula.  You’ll just need a thin layer but it helps to add a little extra and then you’ll use your scraper to smooth and remove the excess buttercream at the end.

stenciling the cake

You can choose to stencil as much or as little of the cake as you want!  I chose just to do about 1/3 of the edge of the cake and then spread streaks of the colored buttercream over the rest of the cake to make a watercolor effect. 

final stenciled cake

How to Make a Word Stencil:

Open Silhouette Studio and make sure that the font you want to use was installed before opening.  If you already had Silhouette Studio open when you loaded the font onto your computer you’ll simply need to close out and reopen it.  The software will automatically add any new fonts as it opens.

word stencil 1

Type out your phrase using the text tool.  Then select the words and pick your font to have it changed over.  You can also center align the words if needed.  I’m using Beautiful Natalie for this project, it’s part of a Valentine’s day bundle.

word stencil font

Next, scale the design to the size you want by dragging a corner to expand it.  I’m making mine 6” wide since it’s a 9” round cake.

scaled up font

I’m worried this font is a little thin, so I’m going to use the offset tool to make it a little thicker.  Select the complete design and then click on the offset tool.  I’m using a distance of .025 just to make it a tad bit thicker without losing the overall shape of the font.

offset the font

Now you can delete the smaller words which will leave only the offset design.

One more step before we can cut the design.  You’ll need to connect the inside portions of the letters to the main stencil.  The easiest way I know to do this is to use the knife tool to make slices.  Make sure it is solid, straight, and I made mine .050 thick.  I also have auto-apply selected to save me from having to click apply each time.

knife tool

We are ready to cut the design now!  Head to the send panel and use the same settings as above for the patterned stencil.  Make sure to carefully remove the cut design at the end so you don’t accidentally tear the delicate letters.

ready to cut design

Make Your Cake:

For this cake, I’m making it a naked cake on the sides.  I was inspired by the bakery in California called Butter& for this project and that’s how they make their message cakes.  Besides, I really don’t care for a ton of buttercream with my cake so I usually never eat the edge frosting anyways!  Does anyone else like that??

I’m getting really fancy with this one and I’m using a cake collar to help keep the sides even.  It’s really just a roll of acetate you shape around the edge of the cake which helps hold in the layers.

Stack your layers like you did before and try to get the top layer as smooth as possible since this will be our stencil surface.

stacking cake layers

You’ll want to stick this cake in the refrigerator or possibly even the freezer to get the buttercream super cold.

Once your buttercream is really cold and hard to the touch, take off the acetate edge and use your scraper to clean up the edges.  To create a smooth top I used hot water to heat up my offset spatula and dried it off then scraped the top trying to get it as flat and clean as possible.

smoothing buttercream

Pop the entire cake back into the freezer, you’ll want it nice and cold before you attempt to stencil the top.  I learned this the hard way!!  I might have had to fix my cake a few times in the making of this tutorial. 

Now that your buttercream is nice and cold again, take your stencil and gently place it on the top of your cake.  I’m using a glitter spray to make the message.  You could use colored buttercream or if you’re really fancy you can use your air sprayer.  Then carefully lift the stencil off the cake and you’re left with a fun message!  I used a toothpick dipped in the glitter spray to fill in the stencil gaps.

stencil on cake

glitter on stencil

final word cake

You now have 2 beautiful cakes that are sure to impress your special Valentine this year!  They will think you went to the local bakery and spent top dollar on sweets for your sweetie.  

final 2 cakes 1

final cakes 2

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I can’t wait to see your cake creations, tag me on Instagram if you make them!  @designedtobecrafty.

Here’s a pin to save for later as well!

pin graphic for stencil cakes

Happy baking and crafting everyone!

-Carrie Christenson


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