Adding Sparkle and Glitter to Cakes

A cupcake topped with edible glitter

Jennifer A Smith / Getty Images

Cakes can look truly spectacular with a ​little added sparkle to highlight the design elements or just to simply create glamour and fun. Sparkle can be subtle or have as much impact as the ruby slippers in the "Wizard of Oz." Actually, those slippers can be created quite easily out of cake or on top of a cake with a little patience and a lot of red glitter. There are quite a few easy to use products available for cake designers for sparkle that are non-toxic and completely edible. If in doubt about the safety of a sparkly product do not add it to your cake or put the design element in an area that does not touch your icing and remove it before eating your creation. Some possible choices for shimmer and glitter are sanding and coarse sugars, luster dust, edible glitter, and metallic sprays. Each product will create a different look on your cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.

Types of edible glitter and shimmer
 The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole

Sanding and Coarse Sugar

These types of sugars have a bigger grain than standard granulated sugar and the visible edges catch the light to produce sparkle. They come in various pretty colors as well as clear which looks like tiny glass specks. This product can be simply sprinkled on cakes, cookies, and cupcakes if the icing is still wet. If you are applying sugars to a fondant element or hardened icing brush a little thinned icing or gel on the area of application and add the sugar in small amounts until the desired effect is achieved.

Luster Dust

Luster dust is a lovely subtle shimmery powder that can be applied to dried gum paste and fondant design elements such as flowers to create subtle realistic color and sparkle. If you need a deeper color from the luster dust, mix it with a little alcohol and simply paint it on. This product comes in a vast assortment of colors including gold, silver, and bronze. If you are applying luster dust to a single element already on a cake take care to cover the rest of the area with parchment. Anyone who has ever used a brush to apply this product knows it can scatter very easily and clings to the brush. Luster dust can also end up looking streaky when used on surfaces that aren't dry like fresh buttercream.

Edible Glitter

This is the most magical looking of the sparkly products that are used on cakes. It is the closest to what you might have imagined fairy dust looked like when you were small. Edible glitter is tiny flakes of shimmering colors or white and it can be sprinkled on cakes to produce lovely color that looks a little like the sun on fresh snow. Applying edible glitter is easy if your buttercream is still fresh because the glitter will stick. If the icing is hardened or the surface to be enhanced is smooth like gum paste, fondant or chocolate use a little brushed on gel or icing to create a base stickiness. You can also use a paintbrush to apply very small amounts to areas ou ant to make pop.

Edible Metallic Spray

This product looks very much like spray paint in an aerosol can and is used in a similar technique to create all over glittery metallic finishes on fondant or buttercream. It can also be used on gum paste. This type of gold, silver, copper and bronze finish are gorgeous on anniversary cakes, birthday and corporate cakes (roses, ribbons, swags, logos). The best way to achieve a successful effect is to start with fondant, gum paste or buttercream of a similar hue to the applied spray, such as gray for a silver accent. Then spray the metallic glitter spray about a foot from the surface taking care to cover it evenly and completely. Allow to dry and apply a second coat if necessary.