Coloured mirror glazes

(Post updated: May 2019). As its name suggests, a mirror glaze is a very shiny covering for a cake or dessert that is so reflective you should be able to see your face quite clearly in it. There are several recipes for mirror glazes but I make what I think is one of the simplest – and it always gives me great results.

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Coloured mirror glazes have, in recent years, become very popular thanks, in no small part, to the spectacular creations of Olga Noskova: just type her name in Google and marvel at her truly jaw-dropping mirror-glazed delights.

An easy and highly effective finish for a cake or dessert

Mirror glaze is actually very easy to make. You can make up a batch from the recipe below (any colour or just as it is) and go for a simple, elegant covering without any “effects”: stunning in its simplicity.

Or you can get some striking designs in moments – it is very similar to mixing different coloured paints and splashing them on a piece of paper! The few cakes and desserts I have made recently using mirror glaze have been a great excuse to experiment.

The recipe below is pretty much a fairly standard one that can be found online. I go for 2½ sheets of platinum grade gelatine (4g) which sets to give a glaze is not too firm or chewy, but I have got away quite happily with 2 sheets if used just for a topping.

I have tried this glaze with 3 sheets, but the glaze was just a touch too thick once it had set for my tastes:  not quite rubbery but certainly gummier than I would like.  When it comes to cutting, a sharp knife dipped in hot water helps get clean cuts.

It might seems to be a lot of glaze, but the excess – including the glaze that drips down – can be re-used, even frozen until you want to use it: simply re-heat it gently until runnier and leave it until it is no longer warm.

The flavour

Don’t get put off by the proportion of sugars in the glaze: while it is certainly a sweet glaze, you will only have a thin layer and that will have a sweet and slightly chocolatey flavour.

If using fruit purée, little bursts of sharpness cut through the sweetness beautifully.

I sometimes like to add rum or other alcohol of choice, too, depending on what is inside.

For very quick and easy practice

The quickest and cheapest way to practise is to make an instant icing using just icing sugar and water, going for a fairly runny mixture and colouring small portions of this. While this is not a mirror glaze, it behaves very similarly in terms of making patterns and colour merging, so is a quick and cheap way to practice.

Rather than practice on a “live”cake, use whatever comes to hand: the work surface, a flat plate, a polystyrene cake dummy or even an upturned cake tin are excellent things to practise on.

Important tips

  • the cake needs covering before applying the mirror glaze: ganache, mousse, buttercream icing or even rolled out fondant icing or marzipan work well.
  • the covered cake (as above) needs to be as smooth as possible and without blemishes: any blemishes such as cake crumbs, tears etc will show through the glaze, no matter what colour glaze you go for.
  • the cake must be very cold so the glaze starts to set on it as quickly as possible. Ideally put the covered cake in the freezer for an hour before pouring over the glaze. You can also smooth out any lumps and bumps easily on a frozen surface.
  • once the glaze has been made, it needs to be cool and slightly thicker before using: it should pour off a spoon with just a little resistance – I go for the consistency of pouring honey.
  • add the colours gently, stirring rather than beating, aiming to avoid getting air bubbles.
  • if using different colours, ensure each batch of colour is at same level of viscosity for each colour. With this in mind, if some portions have firmed up too much, just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time, stirring gently between each burst, until runnier.
  • if there are bubbles on top of the glazed cake, you can pop a cocktail stick into them as soon as possible after applying the glaze. You can also very lightly and rapidly hover a blow torch over them from several inches away, on a very low flame: the heat will melt the bubbles almost instantly.
  • there will be a lot of the glaze that has dripped down into the tray below. This can be poured into a bowl and used again: simply pour or scoop it into an airtight container and leave in the fridge or even freezer. When you want to use it, defrost it if it was frozen and re-heat gently in the microwave or a small pan over a very low heat until it is runnier again. Remember to let it cool down before using.

Recipe: coloured mirror glaze – will completely cover a 9″ cake, with spare glaze

  • 2½ sheets (4g) of Platinum grade sheet gelatine
  • 120ml water
  • 150g liquid glucose
  • 150g granulated or caster sugar
  • 100g condensed milk
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped fairly small – or use dark chocolate for a standard dark chocolate glaze (without any colourings)
  • food colouring – gel or liquid here (powder can streak here)
  • 2-3 tablespoons rum or liqueur of choice, fruit juice or sieved fruit purée – optional*

 * if using liqueur, fruit juice or fruit purée, reduce the amount of water in the recipe to 100ml

(1) Put the water, sugar and liquid glucose in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze.

(2) Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in some cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve.    Stir in the the condensed milk.

(3) Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, trying to minimise getting air bubbles in there. If there are tiny streaks of chocolate that don’t seem to be disappearing, leave the mixture for a few minutes and then give it another few stirs.

(4) Leave the glaze uncovered for an hour at room temperature for the glaze to cooled and be slightly thickened: if it is too runny you will get too thin a layer on top, colours will not blend well and less glaze will cling to the sides of the cake. This is the time to pop the cake or dessert in the freezer.

(5) You can now colour the glaze, or put small portions of it into different bowls for multiple colours.

Applying the glaze

(1) Once the glaze has cooled for about an hour and is slightly thicker, lay a sheet of greaseproof or clingfilm on a baking tray. Place a jar/mug/tin of beans on the greaseproof: this will be a make-shift column for the cake to stand on while the glaze is poured over, with the excess glaze that pours off being collected conveniently on the greaseproof for re-use.

(2) Put the cold cake on a board or a base of a loose-bottomed cake tin that is smaller than the base of the cake. Rest the cake (& its board/base) on top of the jar so the cake is effectively suspended over the baking tray.

(3) Pour the glaze slowly over cake, starting near the top edge, working towards the centre. The glaze will cascade down the side easily. If it doesn’t seem to be clinging much to the sides, wait for about 5 minutes and pour over again: there is plenty of the glaze to pour over several times if you want: and the glaze that pools in the tray can be spooned out and used too.

This is the standard glaze effect: it just needs to be left for about 15 minutes to set (or until the drips no longer hang off the bottom). Gently press the drips that are hanging off the bottom against the underside of the cake.

You then carefully transfer the glazed cake to a serving plate or cake board – a couple of fish slices or large palette knives makes this easy: place underneath, lift the cake from its base, place it on the board and slide them away.

This glaze is stunning just as it is, perhaps with some fresh fruit on top to set it off.

If, however, you want very easy effects……………….

Simple creative flourishes

The trick is all about mixing colours and having each colour at the same viscosity, so they blend into each other seamlessly to give a striking effect.

You have have as many different colours, or shades of the same colour, as you want. When you are ready to glaze the cake remove small amounts (a few tablespoons or so) of the cooled white glaze and place in small pots and colour each as you want.

Colour the bulk of the glaze, which will be the initial coating, whatever colour you want, and pour over the cake – as described above. Then dot, drizzle, dollop, swirl to your heart’s content with the other colours.

And if you are not totally happy, you can easily pour over more of the main glaze which won’t give you a “clean slate”, but it will give you a very subtly patterned effect to add to.

Below are some of my favourite simple design approaches:

(1) With a small spoon, let droplets fall over the surface, big, small or a mixture of sizes…….Or even do a few swirls or spirals. Do a few just near the edge so that gravity takes over as the shapes and colours shift slowly downwards, merging with each other. Add a few more droplets a few minutes later if you want to.

(2) Using a spoon, drizzle fairly straight thin parallel lines of a different colour all over the main glaze. Or go for totally random drizzles, again ensuring some to near or over the edge. Leave the glaze to set naturally or run a palette knife on top gently first. This is basically what I did on this planet cake, going over several times with the glazes about 5 minutes apart.

(3) Add drops of whatever size and colour you like over the main glaze. Now drop smaller amounts inside those of a different or the original colour: these give beautiful ring effects. The ones in the photo below show the idea: white drops on red, followed by another drop of red inside the white drops (done with some left-over glaze on a plate):

You can take this further by putting smaller drops inside, alternating the colour, giving a kind of wood grain or peacock feather effect. In the practice one below (using normal icing sugar and water as I ran out of glaze), I placed drops of green first, then put drops of yellow inside, then green dots inside the yellow and so on… is seriously therapeutic!

(4) For an easy marble effect, once you have applied the initial glaze all over, drizzle the other colour over it fairly thickly. Swirl a palette knife very lightly either over all of the surface or just in a few areas.

Recipe link

Cake making and decorating tips : this post also has the recipe for a different dark chocolate glaze using cocoa powder in place of chocolate.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

19 thoughts on “Coloured mirror glazes”

  1. You have no idea how much I would love to be able to pull one of these… I know my limitations, though, and feel hyperventilating just considering doing it



    1. Oh you definitely can: and it is great fun when it comes to pouring over the glaze and dropping different colours onto it, watching them spread to give random patterns


  2. I’m thinking of taking this on to cover a large cross shaped cake. I usually use fondant but I’m afraid of all the corners and edges so I’m going to risk the glaze technique instead. I’ve done a smaller tester and it was good. I must make sure the buttercream is much smoother and then fingers crossed. It actually tastes so much nicer that fondant although a bit sticky and messy when you cut it.


    1. Yes it is nicer than fondant. It will be a touch sticky, but if you dip a knife in hot water to warm it up and then cut, it will cut more easily. I bet the cross shaped cake will look amazing


  3. You’re amazing Philip and thanks for the very informative explanation! With your experience I welcome your opinion with this idea: placing a shaped cake onto a mirror glazed slab/sheet cake. Would the ‘top’ cake slide off?! Thanks in advance.


    1. thank you for your lovely words Lorie.

      For the tiered cake you are considering, place the top cake on a cake board board and use dowels into the bottom cake to support the top cake. That way it won’t slide off.

      Cut the dowels to a little higher than the depth of the mirror glazed cake so that when you pop the top cake on top, there is a small gap between the cakes (otherwise the mirror glaze will stick to the board of the top cake). I hope that makes sense. Philip


      1. Thanks Philip, I do understand what you’re saying and will certainly apply this method given the opportunity!

        Alas, I have to go back to the drawing board as I’m not confident this cake will travel well for the 150kms and may have lost it’s shine by the time of the reveal (2 days after delivery!!)

        Have you ever transported a glaze cake?


        Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope the transporting went well. This is the thing that always terrifies me! I transported a mirror cake a while back and all was fine, but thankfully just one tier!


  5. The transporting did go well thanks. I ended up doing a carved cake on top of a slab so no need for dowels!

    Although I attempted the mirror glaze on some spare cake, it sure as anything didn’t look like yours!! Next time I’m playing in the kitchen I’ll give it a go – and it will be only one tier!



  6. I live in Tenerife and am finding it really difficult to find leaf gelatin, is it possible to substitute the leaves with powdered gelatin?


    1. I used powdered gelatine with no issues. Half a pack soaked in half the water, with the other half of the water used in the sugar/liquid glucose. Once the sugar has cooled for 5 mins, combine. I made raspberry chocolate brownie, used a mousse (whipped cream and chocolate) to give a level surface, then purple and yellow glaze. First attempt was gorgeous and mega tasty.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. wow, these are beautiful. Can I ask, how long does the mirror glaze keep once on a cake? and does the shine fade? I notice that most of these are done on ‘mouse cakes’ not sponge? is this just for the smooth finish, thanks


    1. thank you Jackie. I find it keeps shiny for a couple of days if popped into a box/container within the fridge. I find the glaze is easiest on mousse or buttercream, as that smooths easily enough for the mirror to stick to. Best wishes, Philip


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