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. Cathy says

    Thanks for the easy to follow instructions. This is exactly what I was looking for! I’m in South Africa, so we don’t have fancy Viva paper towels, will experiment with what’s available here.

  2. Shirley says

    Is it possible to take the transfer out of the freezer, keep it on the plexiglass and put it back in the freezer when I get to my destination.
    I have to fly to visit the grandchildren and would like to have this part of their cake ready before I get there.
    Thank you

  3. Katie says

    When you transfer the image onto the cake, do you peel the parchment paper right off or should you wait until it’s thawed a little?

    • says

      When you carefully flip the image onto the cake, you should remove the parchment paper right away, while it’s still frozen. This gives it the best chance of staying intact. Good luck :)

  4. Sarah McKenna says

    Hi! Great explanation! I am wondering if you can tell many how many recipes of that crusting buttercream you made to have enough to do the whole transfer? I’m thinking of making two recipes just to make sure I have enough. Should I do more?

  5. Anonymous says

    Hi! This is wonderful! How do you use the paper towel? Do you press on it? Im sorry Im just a bit confused. lol…

    • Melinda Agnew says

      Just lay the Viva on the cake and rub gently. Do not move the towel while rubbing. If you need to move it to another spot, carefully lift the Viva and ay it on the new spot. This does not work for other paper towels. Viva is the best.

  6. says

    I tried this last year for my son’s bday but the tutorial I followed didn’t say to add the layer of white buttercream. Needless to say, the transfer did not peel off the parchment :( I’m hopeful that your version will work this year! Thanks!!

  7. debbie says

    That’s a great blog! I’d love to have a go. Can you describe what a viva paper towel is? Is it a kitchen towel?

    • Renee says

      Thanks Debbie! A Viva paper towel is a brand of paper kitchen towels that are very dense and smooth. They work very well for smoothing crusting buttercream.

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