Creating Realistic Natural Effects

Knowing how to create realistic effects like soil, water or sand on your cake can really make a difference to the end result. For example, you could use pale brown icing for a beach and it would look fine, but using light brown sugar actually looks like real sand!  Here are some more ideas:

Soil  I use Oreo cookies to make soil.  Scrape out the filling so you are left with just the biscuit parts then crush the biscuits by placing them in a plastic bag and giving them a bash with a rolling pin.  You want crumbs, but don’t crush them too finely – some slightly larger crumbs will help the soil look more realistic. I tend to sprinkle my ‘soil’ on last; the sugar paste vegetables won’t stick on to the soil so they have to be stuck down first, then the soil sprinkled around them. It is a little fiddly but the odd bit of soil landing on the vegetables just adds to the realistic effect.

Vegetable Garden 80th birthday

IMG_5051Water  Piping gel creates a great water effect for things like swimming pools, ponds and the sea but also for dew drops, tears etc.  To give the effect of deep water, you can either add blue colour to the gel, or paint clear gel over blue sugar paste.  See my blog post ‘Piping Gel – 10 Jolly Good Uses’ posted 3 September, for more information on piping gel and its uses.

Grass  Use a grass piping nozzle with a piping bag filled with green coloured buttercream. I tend to pipe the grass onto a thin coating of green buttercream which helps the piped buttercream to stick, and helps avoid any gaps or the cake showing through between the grass. You can also pipe the grass on top of green sugar paste.  Royal icing also works well for piping grass but dries much firmer.

Fur  Use the same grass piping nozzle as above but with buttercream or royal icing coloured appropriately. Great for cute teddy bears or scary monsters!


Sand  Light brown sugar makes excellent sand. In fact it couldn’t look more like sand! Sprinkle on top of buttercream, or if using on sugar paste, paint on a thin layer of piping gel first to help the sand stick.


Snow  Obviously any white icing will make a snow effect, but what to do if you want to use buttercream and it is slightly yellow from the butter (never eat yellow snow!!)?  Adding a whitening powder to buttercream turns it a much whiter white.  I have always used ‘Sugarflair Superwhite Icing Whitener’ but there are others such as ‘Wilton White White’.

Blood  Colour glace icing (icing sugar mixed with a small amount of boiling water) or piping gel with red food colour. Great for Halloween!

Rocks  For my mermaid cake pictured, I stirred sweet popcorn into melted chocolate then poured it over my cake for a rocky effect. It also tasted pretty good!

Amelia's starting school mermaid cake

Hair  I used to think that the best way to make hair was to roll tiny strands of sugar paste or to pipe thin strands on, both creating a rather woolly-haired effect!  Then one day I read about this method which I think can create more realistic, less crazy looking hair.  Start by rolling out a small rectangle of sugar paste which is deep enough to cover from the forehead to the ends of the hair at the back, however long you want it to be, and wide enough to reach over the top of the head with enough spare to create the length you require at each side. If you want to create a fringe, some cuts at the front are best done first. Then carefully mould it around the head and trim off the bottom to the right length, cutting into the icing around the bottom to create the effect of hair rather than a solid edge. Dusting with a little edible dust colour or lustre dust can give the hair more tones and stop it looking so flat.  I’ve even used a little gold dust on blonde hair to give it shine!


All of these effects are easy to create and lots of fun to do! Don’t forget that you can upload your own photos in the comments box! ♥






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