How to make a frozen buttercream transfer (Recipe)


My favorite cakes to decorate are children’s birthday cakes, which often revolve around a theme or a favorite character. In my quest to figure out how to get these characters onto my cakes, I discovered the frozen buttercream transfer. The “FBCT” is a great method for transferring any image to the top of a buttercream cake. If you can trace, then you can make one!

Tips for making a frozen buttercream transfer:

  • Use an American buttercream recipe that has approximately 50/50 butter to shortening ratio. I’ve had good luck with this recipe by Peggy Does Cake.
  • Search online for coloring page images to find clear designs.
  • Place your transfer in the freezer for a minute in bewteen piping each color to keep outlines firm and strong.
  • Make your transfer level so it will sit nicely when flipped onto your cake. If the back is not level, it may settle as it thaws.
  • Make your transfer the day you are decorating or up to a week in advance and store it in the freezer.
  • Use a crusting American buttercream (like the one referenced) so you can smooth the final transfer with a Viva paper towel.

This is what I used:


Flat work surface that will fit in your freezer (I like plexiglass)

Parchment paper

Image printed to desired size

Fine-tip marker


Gel icing colors

Piping bags with varying sized tips

Small offset spatula

Small paintbrush

Iced cake


Viva paper towels (not pictured)



Place the parchment paper over the image and trace it with the fine tip marker. I also drew a 7-inch circle around my image because I planned to have it fill the top of an 8-inch round cake, leaving room for a border.



Step 2:

Flip the traced image over and tape it, drawing side down, on the flat surface.



Step 3:

Trace the outline of the image with black buttercream. I used a #1 tip for a fine outline.


Step 4:

Begin to fill in the other colors. Remember the final product will be flipped so you are working in reverse order. For example, this chick has an orange blush on her cheek so I applied that color before the yellow background color.


Step 5:

Occasionally hold your plexiglass up to check your work from underneath. If you see thin spots, add a little more icing. If you see bare spots where light is peeking through, use your small paint brush to gently press the icing against the outlines.


 Step 6:

Continue filling in all of the colors on the image.


Step 7:

Since I wanted my transfer to be a 7-inch circular shape, I piped my desired background color all the way out to the circle and smoothed it with my offset spatula.


Keep checking from underneath during the process to make sure it looks good. Adjust with your small paint brush as necessary.


 Step 8:

Pipe an even background on your transfer that will blend in with the cake color. Then smooth it gently with your offset spatula and place it in the freezer for at least 90 minutes to overnight.


Step 9:

When it is frozen, gently place it on your cake and move it to the desired spot.


Step 10:

Gently peel off the parchment paper to reveal the frozen buttercream transfer.


Even with all of the careful work, I’m still not happy with the line marks that are visible in my transfer. These are from air bubbles between the piped icing.


Step 11: (Optional)

If you’d like to refine the look of your transfer and eliminate those lines, there is a solution. Wait for your crusting buttercream to thaw, then gently smooth it with a Viva paper towel. Thank you to my friend CorrieCakes for this tip! It makes a huge difference.


Much better!


 Step 12:

Add your border and any final piping or embellishments. I added some tiny fondant flowers to my design for added interest.


Serving time is fun since you can cut right through the frozen buttercream transfer and serve your guests the part of the picture they’d like to eat!

Happy Caking!


*Vintage Easter chick image purchased from Peggy Loves Vintage for use in this post.

Reneé caught the cake decorating bug seven years ago when she made her son's first birthday cake. Since then, she's created hundreds of custom cakes and cupcakes. Her work has been featured on various baking and party blogs. In her free time, you'll find her planning the next baking project or sharing her knowledge on CakeJournal.

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  1. says

    That’s a very beautiful cake..I’ve one question, can I use a buttercream recipe without shortening and all butter for this technique, as I don’t wanna use shortening. Will it work?. Please reply me as I want to use this technique to make a Doreamon cake for my daughter’s birthday in August. Your reply would truly be helpful.
    Thanks for the lovely post.

    • Jonas says

      Cherry, Great question. You can substitute shortening for approximately 8-10 Tablespoons of condensed milk. Be careful to add a little at a time to avoid adding too much and your icing being too thin. Hope this helps.

  2. says

    This is awesome. It’s just the time that I need to transfer my design to my new cake and I was thinking a way for it. Thanks a lot. Wow this is a great Tutorial! I’ll have to try this one day.

  3. Lauren says

    Can you pipe flowers and then transfer them to a cake, my mamaw’s birthday is in March and my little sister, cousin and I want to make her a cake and have all of her kids and grandkids celebrate with her, she’ll be 65 this year, but I have tried and failed at actually piping flowers or transferring roses onto a cake, I can make them, I just can’t make them on the cake, or when it comes to roses, I always destroy them before the get on the cake. I have thought about just making them on parchment paper and refrigerating them, But I wasn’t sure. One other question, when the decoration defrosts, will it still taste the same, like it won’t taste like watered down butter cream will it? Reply back if possible, Thanks a million!!

  4. Lauren S. says

    Thank you so much for this awesome tutorial! I made a cake for my son’s second birthday this week using your directions. I have never frosted or decorated a cake. It came out pretty good for my first time thanks to your directions!!

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