Achieve a Glossy Finish, Come Rain or Shine!

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in Cake Decorating | Comments

Sometimes cake decorating and cupcake design demands a glossy finish to make a fondant element look realistic. There are a number of ways to achieve a sheen with fondant.

Here’s a look at the best high shines.

1. Steaming

Series of Cupcakes with Red, Black, and White Shiny Tops

Photo via The Royal Bakery

Treating a cake with a blast of steam serves a dual purpose. It’s a great way to remove traces of corn starch or powdered sugar left on fondant after rolling it out – especially useful for dark-colored cakes – but it also gives the cake a glossy finish.

Small items, like cupcake toppers, or setting the dusted color on gum paste flowers, can be held over the steam from a boiling kettle or pan of water. Just be very careful, as the steam can burn! For whole cakes, an electric steamer is needed.

The disadvantages of this method are that too much steam can cause water droplets and drips to appear on the surface of the fondant. In addition, the glossy finish does eventually dry out and the cake will need to be re-steamed to maintain the shine.

2. Shortening

Cake Shaped as Watering Can with Flowers

Photo via jessicakes

Rubbing a vegetable shortening (such as Crisco or Trex) over the surface of the fondant will produce a very convincing sheen.

Jessica Harris, instructor of Craftsy’s Clean & Simple Cake Design class, gave this perfect watering can cake a high shine with an application of shortening.

Jessica says, “I rubbed Crisco all over the outside of the cake and then used a dry paper towel and started lightly buffing that Crisco into the fondant. It gave it a shiny satin-like finish.”

Similar to the steaming method, the shortening is eventually absorbed into the fondant and may need to be reapplied before the cake is presented.

3. Egg Whites

Colorful and Shiny Fondant Flowers

Photo via Torta – Couture Cakes

The subtle sheen on these pale yellow hypericum berries was achieved by dipping them in egg whites. The egg white coating dries after a few hours to a sheen perfect for natural-looking berries or succulents. Further coats can be applied for a glossier finish. Use pasteurized egg whites from a carton to ensure you meet food safety standards for fondant decorations that may be eaten.

The disadvantages of this method are that the egg whites can drip and pool, so be careful to tap any excess liquid off your decorations before leaving to dry. Do not touch until dry to avoid fingerprints.

4. Corn syrup/alcohol

Pink Cake with Little Girl and Balloons

Photo via Peggy Does Cake

The doll and balloons on this adorable sheet cake have been glazed with a mixture of corn syrup and alcohol that dries to a permanent high gloss. Several coats can be applied to give the highest sheen, which doesn’t fade or become sticky, and is perfectly dry to the touch.

The disadvantage of this method is that brush strokes can sometimes be seen, so try to avoid brushing over the same area again once the syrup mixture has started to set. And do not touch until dry to avoid fingerprints.

How to make corn syrup glaze

Step 1:

Mix together equal amounts of corn syrup and clear alcohol. You can use vodka or a grain alcohol, like Everclear. The amount you make depends on how many decorations you need to apply the sheen to. Usually 1 tsp corn syrup mixed with 1 tsp alcohol is sufficient for any small items.

Bottles of Syrup, Oil, Paintbrush and Measuring Spoon

Step 2:

Create the fondant or gum paste element you wish to glaze.

Collage of Woman's Hands Making Fondant Sculpture

Step 3:

Leave to dry. The length of time this can range from an hour to overnight, depending on the thickness of the glaze. Additional coats can be applied for a super high gloss.

Paint Brush Brushing Shine onto Balloon

The glaze would be perfect for adding a high sheen to sculpted car cakes, like those possible made in Mike McCarey’s new Classic Car, Timeless Techniques Craftsy class.



  1. Toni says:

    Wow! What a greatly appreciated tutorial! You really covered all the possibilities of shine for cake projects. Thank you so much!

  2. Leslie Grant says:

    This is terrific, Lesley. Thank you for listing quite a few alternative methods. Love your writing style…clear and concise. I learned so much.

  3. Mary devadasan says:

    What can you use instead of corn syrup as its not available in London!

    1. Lesley says:

      As I don’t live in the UK any more it’s hard to say. But I know you can buy Karo corn syrup from Amazon.

      1. gill crowley says:

        Tesco do Karo syrup

    2. gill crowley says:

      Tesco sell Karo corn syrup

      1. Lesley says:

        Thanks, Gill!

    3. Judi V says:

      Perhaps Lyle’s Golden Syrup as that is what I use in place of Corn Syrup.

  4. Dawne says:

    Ocado do Karo too :) I now have two purposes for my corn syrup now!

  5. Diana Bencivenga says:

    Corn Syrup and Vodka will also make modelling chocolate shine.

  6. Anshi says:

    Can you please advice what can we use instead of alcohol for kid’s cakes?

    1. Lesley says:

      The reason we use alcohol on cakes is that the alcohol evaporates as the mixture dries. I would not hesitate to use this on a child’s cake.

      1. Anshi says:

        Thanks a lot..this was very useful.

    2. Angela says:

      This is a great post, thank you so much. I only knew about the shortening and steaming and was unhappy with how the shine doesn’t last. Cannot wait to try the corn syrup/vodka mix on my next project!

      In regards to Anshi’s question, most of the alcohol should evaporate off if left for a while to dry and it’s such a small amount to begin with…

      I calculated even without factoring in any alcohol evaporating the above mixture using 5ml of 40% vodka contains 1.58g ethanol which is about 1/9th American standard drink or by even stricter Australian standards 1/6th standard drink. Then when you factor in evaporation if you leave it to dry I hardly think it worth worrying over:-)

  7. yasmin says:

    hi there lesley thanks for sharing this lovely tips
    actually is there a substitute for alcohol as i`m muslim i`m not allowed to use it in foods or drinks

    1. Sadia says:

      ASA Yasmeen , try equal part of simple sugar syrap and veg.oil

      1. yasmin says:

        thanx sadia :)

  8. Rachel Paz says:

    Thanks Lesley, I knew only the vapor method and tried shortening and even bought some kind of mix for this purpose, now your post arrived and I instantly prepared your Caro syrup and vodka. Now I’m waiting for it to dry on an old fragment of figure that I made from fondant. Thanks again. You’re one of the kind!

  9. Katie D says:

    This is really great! For those like me in the UK, I’ve heard Tesco do an American product section in store and stock corn syrup!

  10. Shirley Wilson says:

    Peggy the corn syrup, alcohol glaze for gumpaste or fondant is brilliant! I tried it last night for the first time and was so pleased with the outcome. A nice sheen when dry and no tackiness at all. I will never buy confectioners glaze again, it smells awful and always leaves gumpaste items a bit tacky. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Lesley says:

      I will pass that on to Peggy! She and I are always getting mistaken for one another. :-)

  11. Gail says:

    Perhaps corn syrup can be diluted with filtered water for those who are not allowed to use alcohol…but the DRY time will likely be quite different…and it may be slightly sticky for longer….and more likely to get fingerprints from handling. I would say ….test it out before you need to do this for an actual cake project and see if it would work for you.

  12. Gitty says:

    Do you think the corn syrup/alcohol would work on royal icing too? It would be great on cookies.

    1. Lesley says:

      I have no idea – I guess that’s an experiment you’ll have to do – I’d love to hear how it turns out!

  13. Dre says:

    Awesome tips and love that they’re all in one blog!!! Thank you ;)
    I don’t have time go out and buy plain vodka. Can it be flavored, since it will evaporate anyway?

  14. glitters says:

    U r of great help to me.thank u for sharing

  15. glitters says:

    I tried the egg white,it did not dry fast

    1. Lesley Wright says:

      It does for me… make sure you tap a lot of the excess off – that will help it dry quicker.

  16. Lesley Wright says:

    DRE – I’ve never tried it, but I’m not sure. The flavoring will be sugar of some type, I’d imagine and that might not dry out so quickly. But for the amount you’re using, it’s unlikely to be a problem.

  17. Jumoke says:

    Ds is great,Can liquid glucose b used insted of corn syrup cos itsnt avalabl where I stay in Nigeria

    1. Lesley Wright says:

      Yes it can, Jumoke!

  18. I like the balloon! Will try to make it glanze directly at the weekend :-D

  19. Hazel says:

    I tried the glaze but it has a tendency to leave patches where the glaze doesn’t stick and adding a second coat makes the whole surface bumpy! Any suggestions?

    1. Lesley Wright says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Hazel! It does definitely work better on small areas than large. Are you trying to cover a large area? Did you wait for the first coat to dry before applying a second? I’ve not experienced the patchiness that you’re talking about. Are you using the corn syrup mixed with alcohol and not water? Try thinning with a little more alcohol so that the oil in the corn syrup doesn’t cause the glaze to ‘cling.’

  20. Jessie says:

    Hi: thanks for the info. To apply the corn syrup and vodka method. Should I leave the the cake o flowers to dry first.
    Thank you very much

  21. lustre says:

    can i use dark corn syrup or MUST it be light cos i noticed it calls for clear vodka too?

  22. Elroy Leep says:

    info I was looking for this info for my mission.

  23. Bree says:

    Can u do the glucose n vodka sheen on a buttercream frosting

  24. Does the corn syrup/ vodka mix also work on modelling chocolate? I’m planning on using this method on the sculpted car cake from Mike McCarey’s class and part of the car from that class (front fenders) is covered in modelling chocolate whereas the rest of the exterior is fondant. Thanks!

  25. Melody says:

    I used the corn syrup and vodka method on a themed wedding cake that had a tree, blossom and leaves made of gumpaste…absolutely brilliant!! thanks so much for posting this method:)

  26. yes , this works GREAT..made my shoe look like patent leather!

  27. yes , this works GREAT..made my shoe look like patent leather!

  28. yes , this works GREAT..made my shoe look like patent leather!