Color Tree Cake; A Picture Tutorial

This design didn’t start off with little Ben in mind.

 Actually, I was asked to be the guest editor for the latest issue of Sweet Magazine, and in accepting, I was to commission a team of cake artists to each design a cake for this issue, under the theme of “art”.  VERY cool.

Art, we did.   Each of us was to use a piece of artwork, whether a canvas or a sculpture, as the inspiration for our piece.

color tree sweet magazine

All I knew, before  deciding upon my inspiration, was that my brain wanted color.  And lots of it.  I searched online,  and I ended up choosing two random canvases… the artist of each, unknown (or at least I couldn’t find them. ).  One was a gorgeous “tree of color” painting… and the other, actually, “crayon” art.  Have you heard of that yet?


Crayon art, in a nutshell, is the lining up of a bunch of crayons at the top of a canvas, usually in a spectrum of colors, gluing them there and then gettin’  all crazy on them with a blow dryer.  They start to melt down the length of the canvas, creating a colorful feast for the eyes.  Also, VERY cool.

I just thought the piece of crayon art that I stumbled upon, in particular, was ingenious… and it moved me.  There was a grey girl holding her umbrella under those falling colors… almost afraid of being  touched by them.  I fell  in love with it, like I did with the tree… and a new vision popped into my head, merging the two ideas.

color tree wide full

And the butterflies.  Somewhere along the line, I just saw butterflies, and decided they needed to be there.

Little did I know, that much, much later, after the magazine would be released, I would see this design, this cake that I made, in a completely different light.


Imagine, for a second, that you’re that girl (or just switch ‘er to a boy, all of my male friends) and that you’re holding that umbrella… that you’re gray, and you’re afraid of that color threatening to saturate you.  Who on EARTH would be afraid of that, right?

Well, think of it this way… what if you get that color, and you love it?
What if it fills your world so completely that you don’t think you could ever live without it again?
And then, what if it’s taken away… and you’re left gray again?

girl under umbrella

A different way to ask that question… is it better to have loved and lost, or to never have loved at all?

Yes, I’m thinking about my friends, Mindy and Andy, and how they’ve just lost a piece of their heart… their little Ben.


I already know the answer to that last question I’ve asked, but I’ll never claim to believe that it’s an easy one.  They’ve lost a son.  He was a twin.  He was a part that made up the whole.  Every child is, twin or not… I know, as I am a mother, too.  It must only be a deep wound that can never be fully healed.  I can’t imagine it any other way.

And yet, not having had that color to begin with?  No.  Not an option.  Every second is… was, precious.

So now, when I look at this cake, “The Color Tree” as I originally named it, I only see Mindy and Andy, and Ben.

color tree butterflies

And those butterflies?
In my mind, they’re on their way up to Ben…
maybe to whisper to him that his mama and daddy will be ok…
and that they miss him beyond words…
and that they’re hoping he’s enjoying his new wings…
and that someday, they’ll be with him again.


So now, I’ve renamed this cake.  To me, it will always be “Ben’s Color Tree“.  Reminding me that I have a short space of time to live this life… to love those God has given to me, and to stand under that color tree with my head tilted back,  arms spread wide, being filled with every last splash of beauty God has for me.

‘Cause we only get a little bit of time here.  And even though that color has the potential to rip us in two, it can also save our lives… and give us the strength we need to really LIVE.

color tree sq

 Lord, have mercy upon me… I choose the color. Xx


 How this cake was made...


I made a 10" round, double barrel tier (two 10" round tiers, lined up and stacked together with normal supports and a cake board underneath the top tier- check out how to build a double barrel cake in this free video HERE, or how to add more height to your cake WITHOUT using extra cake and cover the extra tall tier with fondant, in this Halo cake video tutorial as part of a Cakeheads membership!)

double barrel

I rolled some brown modeling chocolate (you could also use fondant) into a tree trunk and branches and applied them to the side of the cake with a little water to create the tree skeleton.

color tree skeleton

I used a paint brush to dab on some royal icing over the top of the tree and along the branches to quickly and easily create the look of leaves.

color tree royal icing

Then, I used all just about all of the airbrush colors I had, one at a time, to airbrush blobs of color onto the royal icing (after it dried).


color tree leaves

It needed something more, so I used those same airbrush colors and again, one at a time, used the toothbrush splatter technique (I show the technique in this ice cream themed cake tutorial for Cakeheads members) to splatter little droplets of each color onto the tree and even the rest of the cake.

color tree splatter

I created the butterflies with a this Martha Stewart butterfly mold and some brightly colored modeling chocolate and attached them with some melted chocolate (with the help of some Magic Freeze Spray... my preciousssss...) and some wires for the ones at the very top (made food safe by dipping them into Safety Seal).

color tree butterflies

The umbrella is a hunk of modeling chocolate that I formed into a ball, pressed against my countertop to the back of it was flat, and then cut in half to create the half-sphere, umbrella shape...that I then covered in fondant so that it was a nice bright white like my cake tier background (my modeling chocolate was a bit off white).

I attached the umbrella with melted chocolate again, but you could also use some isomalt to get it to stay on there well!

color tree girl

I printed out a sketch of the girl sitting that I found online to the right size, and used the method I show in this free video, HERE, to trace her onto gumpaste and outline her with a black, edible marker, and shaded her with some grey petal dust.

I attached her to the cake in the right position with some water rubbed onto the back of the gumpaste.


Once the girl and her umbrella were in place, I used the same airbrush paint colors I used earlier to create the drips,

If some of the drip colors seemed a bit too dark (as they're concentrated) I added just a bit of the color to some white airbrush color first to get the right shade.

Then, I VERY carefully dipped a small paintbrush into the airbrush color mixture, loading it up just enough so that only one small drip would roll down the cake when I pressed the paintbrush underneath the tree where I wanted the drip to roll down.

This may take some practice (so set something up that you can practice on before you try it on the cake!) 

If you find that the drip is too much (dripping too far down the cake) you can use a clean brush to stop the drip and absorb the extra color where you want the drip to end.

color tree puddles

I also used a paintbrush and the same colors to create a puddles of color on the cake board underneath the tree.


And my color tree was complete.

color tree wide full







Meet the Creator

Shawna McGreevy

I love that our Cakeheads members enjoy hanging out together online, learning from and sharing with one another each day.

Being a part of this group is truly one of the most amazing and enjoyable ways to learn the art of cake decoration! 

Come join the Cakeheads family...we'd be honored to have you with us.  Xx

Shawna has been featured in several different magazines such as Cake Masters and American Cake Decorating Magazine and has been a featured artist at the Cake, Bake and Sweets Show, Australia and the Cake Fair in Florida. She’s also taught cake classes around the world, was nominated for the Cake Masters Cake Hero award and has been chosen as one of the top ten cake artists in the United States, 2017 by Cake Masters Magazine.


shawna mcgreevy
Top Ten Cake Artists - Shawna McGreevy
Cake Masters Magazine

Top Ten Cake Artist, USA - 2017

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