Introduction: Quick Cake Customisation!

About: I am a British chap living in China. Watch this space for half-baked ideas and dubious innovation. Often aided and abetted by my power-tool wielding daughter.

This instructable shows how to use a plotter cutter to make a cake stencil.

This enables quick customisation of any cake very quickly.

I have made dozens of these stencils over the years and continue to experiment. It's a simple process and very quick once you have done it a few times.


Plotter Cutter

Heat laminating plastic

Icing Sugar (powdered sugar)

Sieve or Sieve Shaker

Step 1: Create Design

Use your favourite image editor to create a design for your cake stencil.

I used illustrator here, but Coreldraw is very popular for people running plotter cutters.

In terms of the design - try to keep this fairly simple.

Text: as this is a stencil, each letter must have its component parts connected in order to hold it in place. In these examples I am using a typeface that I already had installed (called erm.. "Stencil"), but there are lots of other stencil fonts available, many for free. Have a look online e.g.

If you don't want to use a stencil typeface, that is also fine, but you need to connect the interior parts of certain letters so they don't fall out. This can be done in illustrator first by converting the text to curves, then by overlaying a line of around 2mm where you want the connectors to be. Convert these lines to an outline (convert stroke to outline) and then remove it from the text using the pathfinder tool.

Bear in mind that the text needs also to be BIG in order to be legible. The design on the right (on computer screen) proved too complex, and had to be simplified.

Send the design to your plotter software and check the paths

Material: Perhaps the most important thing about this instructable is the use of the laminating plastic as the cutting media. I discovered this by accident, but it is an excellent material for a stencil because it is extremely thin, lays flat, has a very matt surface on the back which almost feels tacky, and it is reusable because it can be rinsed. It is also excellent to use in a plotter cutter because it cuts very well and the back surface can be used as the cutting base so you don't need to put an additional cutting base into the machine.

Plotter cutter adjustment: You should conduct a couple of tests with your machine to get the cutter depth right. These laminating sheets are micron thin, so you only need a tiny part of the knife exposed.

Step 2: Cut the Design

This is from my Chinese machine, but the top setting in the photo is pressure and the one below is speed.

From this you can see I was using almost the lightest possible pressure (100g). This is because the material really cuts beautifully and the knife needs no help at all.

You can also see that I am using a slow speed (50mm/s). This is not completely necessary, but I tend to run all my cuts very slow just to avoid any errors which might occur from the slight movement of the material.

The next step is to 'weed' the design (take out all the parts you don't need). Again - this material is so good to use that the cut portions can often just be shaken out.

Step 3: Decorate Cake

Place your stencil on the cake and shake over the icing sugar until you can't see the cake through your design.

I am using icing sugar, but if the cake was a lighter colour or already iced, you could always use cocoa or cinnamon powder.

Step 4: Enjoy!

This is a great way to customise a cake for someone's birthday or event if you are terrible at icing (like me).

Step 5: Variations

I have been experimenting with Chinese characters on the cake.

These are sometimes hard to recreate because of the lack of suitable stencil fonts and the complexity of some characters.

These examples include a birthday cake, new year cake, 'double lucky' cake and Mah Jong cake.

Have fun with your own customised cake stencils and post any examples below. Thanks!

Step 6: Mah Jong Cake and Double Lucky Cake

Out of the Box Challenge

Participated in the
Out of the Box Challenge