Twisted Cakes: Deliciously Evil Designs for Every Occasion by Debbie Goard
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. No not Christmas, Halloween! It brings back memories of autumn on the East Coast and the crackle of crisp leaves, the chill in the air, costumes, and parties—what joy!
And what better time than Halloween to treat your friends to a creepy, tasty cake that will amaze and amuse even jaded spooky revelers? I love the idea of a cake that can be both decoration and conversation piece, that can be devoured, rather than collecting dust the other 364 days of the year.
In the 1986 film Blue Velvet, a young man comes across a human ear in a field. He begins an investigation to find the owner, resulting in a journey into his hometown’s seedy underbelly. This theme of discarded flesh fascinated me. Under what circumstances would you abandon a body part? I wanted to portray the limb as not only lost but also forgotten, and maybe languishing among fallen leaves or weeds. Serve this cake, and you and your guests can concoct your own backstory of the errant limb—a zombie attack, perhaps, or a warning message from mobsters?
- 12 x 18 in. (30 x 45 cm) wooden cake board, ½ in. (1 cm) thick
- 12 x 18 in. (30 x 45 cm) piece Astroturf
- Hot- glue gun
- 6 ft. (1.8 m) green ribbon, to trim board edges
- Arm template
- Foam core, for arm shape
- Craft, serrated, and small paring knives
- Large piping bag and quick-ice tip
- Modeling tool
- Rolling pin
- Scrub brush
Food stuff you’ll need
- Airbrush colors: ivory, red, green, and black
- 1 sheet wafer paper
- 1 recipe red velvet cake batter, baked in ¼ sheet pan
- 3 cups (700 ml) modeling chocolate
- 1 ¾ lb. (800 g) white fondant, tinted fleshtone color
- 2 oz. (55 g) white fondant
- Black petal dust
- Cover cake board: Cover the cake board with the sheet of Astroturf, using the hot-glue gun to attach turf to board. Fix green ribbon around sides of board with hot-glue gun. Trim excess.
- Make the weeds: Spray ivory airbrush color over one side of sheet of water paper. Let dry. Turn sheet over and airbrush other side with ivory color. Let dry, then cut into fine strips of varying lengths to serve as weeds or straw. Set aside.
- Cut out arm shape: Using the arm template as a guide, cut out an arm shape from the foam core using the craft knife.
- Cut out cake: Attach the foam arm shape to the top of the chilled cake with a dab of buttercream icing. Following the outline of the arm shape, cut out the cake with the serrated knife.
- Layer with buttercream: Carefully split the cake in half horizontally using the serrated knife. With large piping bag and quick-ice tip, pipe a generous layer of buttercream over cut side of one half. Place other cut half of cake on top.
- Build up arm: Cut out strips of leftover cake and attach with dabs of buttercream to the upper part of the arm to add height and bulk.
- Carve the cake: Using the small paring knife, carefully carve the top of the arm to create a rounded shape.
- Ice the cake: Pipe buttercream over the top and sides of the arm using the large piping bag and quick-ice tip. Smooth over the surface of the icing with a spatula.
- Add the details: Roll out balls and snakes of modeling chocolate in varying sizes and use to build up features, such as veins and muscle details, on the arm and hand.
- Make the fingers: Roll out five sausage-shaped pieces of modeling chocolate to form the fingers and the thumb. Attach to hand end of iced cake. Shape and add detail with modeling tool.
- Roll out skin: Roll out the fleshtone-tinted fondant onto a lightly dusted surface to a thickness of about ¼ in. (5 mm).
- Apply the skin: Loosely wrap the rolled-out sheet of fondant around the rolling pin, then carefully unfurl the fondant over the top of the iced cake.
- Trim excess fondant: Carefully trim away excess fondant from around the arm and general hand shape with the craft knife. Tuck cut edges of the fondant neatly under cake. Reserve leftover fondant.
- Shape the fingers: Use craft knife or small paring knife to cut away the fondant around the fingers. With modeling tool, tuck cut fondant edges under the fingers to round them off.
- Flesh out features: With end of modeling tool, carefully press fondant around vein and muscle details to emphasize shape. Mark knuckle detail on fingers and thumb.
- Make the nails: Mark out the nails on fingers and thumb with tip of craft knife. Shape nails and add detail with modeling tool.
- Create pores: Press the scrub brush lightly over the entire surface of the fondant skin to create the look of pores. Set cake aside to firm up for 1-2 hours.
- Fix cake to board: Carefully lift cake onto the Astroturf-covered board, using a few dabs of buttercream icing to fix cake in position.
- Make severed end: Roll out a piece of fleshtone-tinted fondant large enough to cover end of the arm. Using scrub brush, indent heavily with texture. Attach to severed end of arm with dabs of water. Trim edges.
- Airbrush on color: Airbrush the severed end of the arm with light coats of red color. Spray light layers of green and black color over the entire arm and hand for a gangrene-ish look.
- Make the bones: Roll out a sausage of white fondant, about ¾ in. (2 cm) thick and 1 ½ in. (4 cm) long. Cut into two pieces. Fix with water onto severed end of arm. Imprint texture on “bone” ends with scrub brush. Lightly airbrush red.
- Add blood: Using a small paintbrush, drip red airbrush color liberally over the severed end of the arm.
- Refine details: Using the modeling tool, pull up the nail ends to create cracked nails. Use black petal dust to emphasize veins and skin creases and to cover arm with a layer of “dirt.”
- Scatter the weeds: Scatter the paper weeds, prepared in Step 2, over the Astroturf
People often have the mistaken idea that every cake I make has some gross out /creepy element to it, so much so, that when I make something just “lovely” viewers tend to embark on some gruesome Easter egg hunt looking for the errant maggot, etc….It is true that I love making cakes that surprise and sometimes even disgust. Above all else, I simply hope to evoke a strong reaction.
I have told the dead rat story so often, but it bears repeating and remembering. When I decided to launch my own business, Debbie Does Cakes back in 2005, I shopped around for link exchanges for my site. A very well respected woman in the field was taken with my work and was excited to promote me with the proviso “remove the dead rat cake”. I knew then that if she had such a strong feeling about that cake, that mass of sugar and buttercream, that I must have been doing something right. I never set out to specialize in offbeat cakes but one dead rat begat another gross out design, ad nausea, err, I mean ad nauseum. To think, I owe it all to a rat.
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