How to use cake and cookie transfers: Easy breezy celebrations

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

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 ...


  1. "Lynette Bakes"

    I have used several of these cake transfers, and they are truly a time saver when time is of the essence! But I have another decorating question, Mary Jane. Once you applied the transfer, and then piped the rosettes, you applied the rainbow sugar to the rosettes on the top and bottom of the cake…PERFECTLY! How do you avoid getting ANY sugar on the cake sides themselves??? It seems that whenever I try to add decorating sugar or nonpareils, I end up with some on the cake sides and in my opinion, that ruins the look of the cake. Any suggestions?

    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi Lynette,
      I usually use a very small measuring spoon, like a 1/2 teaspoon for sprinkling on sugar in specific areas. I have also been known to use tweezers to pick off stray decorations, but not usually sugar 🙂 ~ MJ

    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

  2. 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

  3. Alysha @ She's on the Run

    That cake is absolutely adorable. And frosted absolutely perfectly (jealous 🙂

    -Alysha @ShesOnTheRun

  4. 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.

  5. 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.


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