Awesome Party Trick: How to Make Glow-in-the-Dark Buttercream

Want a party trick that will really knock your friends’ socks off? All you’ve got to do is (1) pretend you’re in college again and buy some black lights, and (2) learn how to make glow-in-the-dark buttercream. Your cake decorating may never be the same.

Title Image: How to Make Glow in the Dark Buttercream

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This is a method originally dreamed up by blogger Recipe Snobs, and it’s fantastic for causing a stir. The icing looks like it has a candy coating or glaze — interesting, but an otherwise unremarkable buttercream technique. But then, when you turn out the regular lights and cue the black light, the buttercream will take on a ghostly glow. Amazing!

So what’s the magic trick?

Alas, no magic, but certainly science. The trick lies in tonic water. Turns out, the bitter quinine in the brew glows blue-white under a black light. So when the quinine-containing tonic water is used as an ingredient in buttercream, and then on a glaze to coat it, your confection will glow.

Tip: A few other substances will glow under a black light, too, including, but not limited to, vitamins A and B, chlorophyll, and oddly enough, brown spots on bananas.

Packet of Jello and Tonic Water

How does this science experiment translate to buttercream?

This buttercream gets its glow in two ways, because the tonic water is used both in the buttercream itself and a viscous Jell-O and tonic water glaze to brush on top. For best results, use both the buttercream and the glaze.

Dry Green Jello

Is it dangerous?

Not at all. Everything in this recipe is a food-safe item, so unless you have an allergy or aversion to tonic water or Jell-O, it’s 100 percent safe. And though tonic water is frequently used in cocktails, it doesn’t actually contain alcohol itself, so the buttercream is safe for kids, too.

Can I use diet tonic water?

Yes, as long as it contains quinine, diet tonic water will work in this recipe, too.

Can I tint it any color?

We tried this experiment in green and white; the white definitely glowed brighter. Comments on the aforementioned Recipe Snobs post revealed that for most bakers, next to white, the color green was the most successful.

How can I use this glow in the dark buttercream?

Any way you wish. You can use it to top cupcakes or a layer cake, either simply spread or prettily piped. You can top a cookie with it and then coat it with chocolate, so it’s a hi-hat confection with a glow-in-the-dark secret. Basically, any method that will allow you to brush the liquid on top without ruining your confection will work.

How to make glow-in-the-dark buttercream

(Want to save this glow in the dark icing recipe? Click here to download the PDF version, PLUS get four bonus buttercream decorating tutorials — absolutely FREE!)

Makes enough to ice 24 cupcakes, one 2-layer 8″ or 9″ cake, or 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened (or 1 cup shortening)
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons tonic water
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Food coloring, if desired
  • 3 ounce package Jell-O (in the color and flavor desired)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chilled tonic water

Directions:

Step 1:

Start by preparing the buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until light and very fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 2:

Stir in the vanilla extract, 5 tablespoons of tonic water, and 4 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Mix on low speed until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary with a rubber spatula.

Mixing the Buttercream

Step 3:

Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, until a spreading or piping consistency has been reached. Stir in the food coloring until combined, if using. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for the moment.

Step 4:

Ice whatever you’d like to ice with the buttercream, and set it in the freezer for at least an hour, or even overnight, so the buttercream can get quite firm, even a bit hard. For this project, we tried both cupcakes with white buttercream and a cake with green buttercream.

Icing Cake with Buttercream

Step 5:

Once the buttercream is very firm to the touch, prepare the glaze. Place the Jell-O powder in a bowl that will allow you enough room to dip your cupcakes or cookies; otherwise, you can use a pastry brush to apply the glaze.

Step 6:

Boil one cup of water, and then add it to the Jell-O mix. Whisk for about 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined. Add the chilled tonic water and continue whisking.

Basically, you’ll be preparing the Jell-O per the package instructions, but instead of one cup of boiling water and one cup of chilled water, you’re using boiling water and chilled tonic water.

Mixing the Jello

Step 7:

To help the Jell-O mixture cool, you can place it in an ice bath to hasten the process. Or, simply wait until it is cool to the touch but still liquid. You just don’t want the Jell-O to start setting.

Step 8:

It’s time to brush or dip your buttercream-topped treats. Take several of the treats out at a time from the freezer. Either dip in the Jell-O mixture, so that only the buttercream gets dipped, or brush it on top of the buttercream.

Glazing the Cake

Try to avoid the cake or pastry as much as possible, focusing on the icing. Let excess Jell-O drip off, and transfer back to a plate. Put each treat back in the freezer between dippings. For thorough coverage and the best results, you will want to dip each treat six times.

Dipping a Cupcake in the Glow in the Dark Glaze

Step 9:

Once they’ve all been dipped six times, place them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes so that the Jell-O glaze can set.

For best results, serve under a couple of black lights, and be sure to have the cake or cupcakes quite close to the light. Watch your friends’ faces light up as they see your treats glow.

View of Cupcakes in the Dark

Slice of Cake Iced with Glow in the Dark Buttercream

FREE Guide: Make Creative Buttercream Cakes

craftsy buttercream guide

Get insider tricks for your most creative buttercream creations, including glow-in-the-dark cakes, buttercream that sets firm and more in this FREE PDF guide.Get My FREE Guide »

35 Comments

Nonniemom58

Very cool! So, if I wanted to use white buttercream, would I use clear gelatin instead of colored Jello? It looked like the cupcake was sheer white.

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rigga Foster

It’s one or the other, not both. so you will use EITHER 1 cup of butter OR 1 cup of shortening but do NOT use both. Hope this helps!

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
Rebecca Watson

Im sorry maybe I missed something in the instructions but are you using both 1 cup od butter and 1 cup of shortening or one or the othet?

Reply
yuhundra grice

I like this I’m tell my mama to make this at my praty

Reply
Laureen Bertrand

If you don’t want to use tonic water. there is a product called glochi {look it up on you tube}it that does not have tonic water but all natural ingredients. It is a powdered substance you put directly in frosting or fondants. It is a fairly new product created and has been used and it makes the cake, or any pastry taste even better. No bitter taste like tonic water leaves. Any thing made with glochi will glow under a black lights.

Reply
Your Sweet Surrender

We recently did a cake for a glow party and used a spice called Turmeric mixed in to colored melted chocolate and drizzled it over the cake.
Here is a link to a picture of the cake.
https://flic.kr/p/Er9v84

Reply
Christa

Could you use unflavored gelatin? I just don’t want the lime taste (or any other flavor) with my vanilla buttercream. If not, is the lime taste strong? Thanks!

Reply
Jessie Oleson Moore

Christa: I have never tried it that way – I am not sure if it will work the same! I apologize. Let me know if you try it.

Reply
Jessie Oleson Moore

Also, re: lime, not very. The tonic is stronger, in my opinion.

Reply
Laureen Bertrand

If you don’t want to use tonic water. there is a product called glochi {look it up on you tube}it that does not have tonic water but all natural ingredients. It is a powdered substance you put directly in frosting or fondants. It is a fairly new product created and has been used and it makes the cake, or any pastry taste even better. No bitter taste like tonic water leaves. Any thing made with glochi will glow under a black lights.

Reply
Jennifer Ricci

So we freeze the cake with the icing on it for a whole night. Then after putting the jello glaze, we freeze again? For how long? Also, if I use a white buttercream, I can still use a green flavored jello and it will taste OK? Thanks!

Reply
Jessie Oleson Moore

Jennifer: Yes, you freeze the cake initially so it will be hard enough that it won’t soften when you brush the liquid jell-o mixture on top. Then you keep putting it back in the freezer between “paintings” so that it doesn’t soften or melt.

If you use a white buttercream the green jell-o will give it a greenish tinge. It will have a slight jell-o taste but nothing major. Let me know if I need to give more info! :-)

Reply
lori psyk

How do I make a white buttercream. Could I then tint it with food coloring?

Reply
Laureen Bertrand

Why spray or dip, not necessary with Glochi. There is a product called glochi {look it up on you tube}it that does not have tonic water but all natural ingredients. It is a powdered substance you put directly in frosting or fondants. It is a fairly new product created and has been used and it makes the cake, or any pastry taste even better. No bitter taste like tonic water leaves. Any thing made with glochi will glow under a black lights.

Reply
Betty combs

Could someone take fondant cut outs and dip them in the mixture of hello soda water mixture and make them gliw in the dark

Reply
Pam Nobles

Why can you not use shortening AND butter? And is the jello just used to tame the tonic water taste?

Reply
Charlene Fowler

Can’t wait to try this. I’m making two Halloween Wedding Cakes, I’ll try one in white and the other green. Should be fun.

Reply

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