Hawaiian Palette-Knife Painted Sideways Cake – “Cake Top Forward” Style

This Hawaiian beach and buttercream flower cake is painted with palette knives and decorated sideways as a sideways cake top forward design!

Before 2021, a sideways cake meant one thing — trouble. However, this year, a new trend emerged from the culinary world. A sideways cake, sometimes coined “cake top forward,” is as simple as it sounds. And, today, I’ll show you the quick method to shake things up and create one for yourself.

Instead of sitting a stacked layer cake on its flat surface, this revolutionary trend rotates things about 90-degrees to place your cake on its rounded side. The unique positioning prominently features the top of the cake, earning the well-named hashtag: #caketopforward.

It creates a beautiful, flat canvas on which you can feature decor as creative or as simple as you’d like. The options are endless!

Sideways Cake Top Forward Tutorial

So, let’s begin! First, peruse the materials list to make sure you have everything you’ll need. Then, review my step-by-step directions, paying careful attention to the photos and tips. And, as always, don’t forget to have fun!

Recipes, Items, and Tools You’ll Need

You can create a sideways cake in almost any size imaginable, so make sure to pay attention to your specific recipe for special tools you may need. However, here’s a basic list to get you started. I’ve included some shopping links (affiliate) for easy reference!

This Hawaiian beach and buttercream flower cake is painted with palette knives and decorated sideways as a sideways cake top forward design!

Preparing Your Cake – Important Cake Board Tip

Today, for brevity, I won’t discuss basic cake decorating techniques like leveling and stacking layers, or adding a smooth crumb/final coat of buttercream. For an in-depth tutorial on that, check out my video and written guide, here. However, there is one tip I’d like to mention that will dramatically impact the end result of your sideways cake top forward creation.

Before stacking your cake, tape your cake board down to the turntable. Then, smooth buttercream over the entire cake board — yup, all over it.  This is a bit different, as most bakers usually only put a bit of frosting down to hold the cake in place. Yet, since our final #caketopforward result isn’t going to sit on its bottom, we want to ensure said bottom will have a finished look as well.

So, simply smooth a thin, but good layer of buttercream onto the cake circle before stacking your cake like normal. Then, later on, once the cake is flipped onto its side, you can peel the cake board away to reveal a perfectly smooth back surface, without messing up your nicely smoothed sides. After all, we want our cake to look spectacular from all angles!

Let’s Get A Lil’ Sideways – Creating Your Cake Top Forward Cake

So once your cake is frosted and smoothed to perfection, pop it in the refrigerator until the buttercream is solid to a gentle touch. Then, we begin the fun part.

buttercream frosted smooth cake

1. Cut Off A Small Piece Of Cake To Create The New “Bottom”

Using your long, thin knife, remove a small slice from one side of the cake. Try to cut as evenly as possible to create a flat base on which your cake will eventually sit. At this point, you can use a very sharp knife to slice off the remaining semi-circle of the cake board and discard it.

The smaller the section of cake that you cut, the more eye-catching this #caketopforward style appears, but if it works better with your design goal to remove more, then do it! I’ve seen cakes that look almost as if they’re floating, and cakes that are almost complete semi-circles and, let me tell you, both look amazing! You do you! 🙂

cake with slice cut to prep for sideways cake top forward style

2. Lightly Frost The Uncovered Section Of Cake

Next, with an offset spatula, apply a thin layer of buttercream to the newly exposed section of the cake. This step is twofold, as it not only secures the cake to the final cake stand but also helps lock into the cake moisture and any fillings between the layers.

cut and buttercream frosted section of cake in preparation to lay it on its side for the cake top forward style

3. Transfer The Cake From The Turntable To The Final Cakestand

In this final step, you’ll have to use a bit of coordinated moving between your hands and cake stands to transfer and simultaneously flip the cake. If your cake or cake stands are really heavy, I recommend finding a helper, but this is pretty doable on your own, too.

First, slide a knife under the cake board to cut any tape holding it to the turntable. Slide the cake board to the edge of the turntable, but don’t let it tip over if it’s heavy.

Then, in one hand, grab the base of your turntable. With the other, grip the base of the final cake stand. Lift the cake stand up, rotate your wrist 90-degrees towards your cake, and place the cake stand’s flat surface against the flat surface of your cake. Try to center it, if possible. Finally, with one swift motion, rotate both of the cake stands 90-degrees, turning the final cake stand back to its upright position. Pull the turntable away, and voila!

removal of the turntable after rotating the cake stand and cake to its new position

4. Remove Cake Board and Smooth Any Bumps

Carefully peel away your cake board from the back of the cake, and smooth out any bumps that remain around the edges. I find that this is done more easily when the cake is still pretty chilled, but work with it how you prefer.

back view of the sideways cake top forward cake after removing the cake board

5. Decorate Your Sideways Cake Top Forward Cake

Now, let your creative side run wild! Adorn your cake with buttercream, fondant, cookies, meringue, flowers, wafer paper, ganache, or even paint on it! You can use gel food coloring, edible paints, or buttercream/palette knives for an artistic look!

Here are some of my favorite decorating tutorials to inspire and help you:

For my cake creation, I used palette knives to paint a Hawaiian ocean scene and then added some frozen buttercream flowers. Then, I piped on some little pink blossoms with a tiny star tip for a touch of whimsy. Feel free to reference the tutorials above to create your own culinary creation! Again, remember to have fun and enjoy the process!

This Hawaiian beach and buttercream flower cake is painted with palette knives and decorated sideways as a sideways cake top forward design!

Don’t forget to find me on Instagram so we can keep in touch, and be sure to tag me in any photos you post of your cake! I love to see what you’re working on in the kitchen.

And, enter your email below to receive notification of my next blog post like this one. You don’t want to miss it!

Take care guys! Until next time…


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This Hawaiian beach and buttercream flower cake is painted with palette knives and decorated sideways as a sideways cake top forward design!
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  2. Debbie says:

    I am so excited to draw inspiration from your beautiful cake. I am a home baker – I actually like teaching decorating and don’t advertise either baking or teaching but seem to have a small following and I always seem to turn cakes into a challenge. I love pallet painting – but this friend sent me a picture I am printing on edible wafer paper then I needed ideas to fill in around – I found your beautiful cake. I was going to do a little cake lace on outside and bottom and write Happy Birthday on the bottom side. I have never done the sideways thing but I am excited to try it! I guess because I am not “Professional” people always tell me do whatever you are the artist! I did have one question do you put dowels in before you flip and fridge? I think I am just going to do two layers I usually make my cakes about 3 layers @7″ high but this is a small group GF so was just going to do 8″ 2 layer?

    1. Lexis says:

      Aw, thanks so much for your kind words! Your idea sounds lovely!! For this cake I did not dowel it. I used a cake recipe that is a little “heartier,” more sturdy and less crumbly, so the buttercream held it together just fine. 🙂 I’d love to see your final cake, I bet it will be beautiful!

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