Brace yourselves my dark-hearted babies, this cake is a multi-step project and will take a good six hours of your time, but I guarantee you the results will be well worth the effort.
Together we’ll walk down the twisted path of 100% scratch baked pound cake so thick with chocolate that it’s black, twist through the world of hand pulled marshmallow fondant, and crown it all with a delicately poured, carved and painted skull…all in the name of the most decadent and disgusting cake you’ve ever set your eyes, or tastebuds on.
But first, let us bake cake...
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
For this cake you will need:
- · 1 Cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- · 1 1/2 Cups sugar
- · 4 large eggs, room temperature
- · 1 Teaspoons vanilla extract
- · 1 Teaspoon almond extract
- · 2 Tablespoons espresso powder
- · 1/2 Cup sour cream
- · 1/2 Cup whole milk
- · 2 Cups plus 4 Tablespoons flour
- · 1 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer the special dark)
- · 1 Teaspoons salt
- · 1 Teaspoons baking soda
- · 1/4 Teaspoon red gel food coloring
FYI: This cake was specifically measured out in order to fill the Nordicware skull pan, available on Amazon.com.
Step 2: Mix It All Up
Start by first setting your oven to 325F/162C and allowing it to pre-heat.
Prep your skull cake pan by first thoroughly buttering and flouring it, paying special attention to the areas around the eye sockets, nasal cavity and teeth. These areas are especially prone to sticking and should be thoroughly buttered and floured.
Cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in your eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of your bowl as you mix. Add in your vanilla, almond, and espresso powder.
In a separate bowl, whisk together your sour cream, red gel food coloring and milk until well incorporated and then add to your butter and sugar mixture. Don’t worry that your mix is pink. As the cocoa is added, the whole thing will turn a lovely shade of black. The red just adds depth and richness to the color.
Sift together your flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda and add the mixture slowly to your wet ingredients. Blend until thoroughly mixed but don’t overwork.
Pour your batter into your skull pans, filling each to a generous 2/3 full.
Place your skull pan onto a baking sheet (for stability) and slide into your oven.
Allow to cook for a solid 90 minutes. Trust me on this, it’s going to seem like forever, but due to the depth of this cake pan and the lower temperature of the oven, it’s going to take a bit of time to bake this monster. Check on your cake after 90 minutes by inserting a knife into the deepest section. If it pulls out clean, your cake is done. If it comes back with wet batter still on it, pop back in for an additional 15 minutes. Keep checking and cooking in 15 minute increments until your knife comes back clean, up to 2 hours (hey, I warned you, this cake is dense and cooks slowly, but it’s worth the wait.)
Step 3: Making the Fondant
While your cake is baking, we’re going to make the fondant.
For the fondant you will need:
- · 2 Cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar
- · 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- · 1 3/4 Cups miniature marshmallows
- · 1/3 Cup white candy melts
- · Brown gel food color
- · Red gel food color
In a microwave safe bowl, melt your marshmallows and lemon juice together, cooking them in 15 second bursts and stirring between each cooking.
When they are smooth and melted, add in your candy melts. Continue to cook in the microwave in 15 second bursts until all the candy melts are melted and mixed in.
At this point, add in your gel food coloring, adjusting your brown and red until you achieve a flesh tone you are happy with.
Slowly pour the liquid candy into your powdered sugar, mixing as you go until you achieve a thick, dough like paste. When you are unable to stir the mixture any longer using a wooden spoon, turn out onto a surface liberally dusted with powdered sugar and knead until smooth and pliable.
Place your fondant in a zip top plastic food bag and set it aside for now.
Step 4: Whip It Real Good...
Time to make the buttercream frosting.
For this you will need:
- · 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- · 2 1/3 Cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar
- · 3/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- · 1/2 Cup heavy cream
- · 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- · 1/4 Teaspoon salt
Whip your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in your heavy cream and mix until smooth. Add in your cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
Set aside for now.
Step 5: Let It Cool...
Remove your cake from the oven, cover it with a towel and set it aside to cool, preferably overnight. You might notice that your cake has over-baked the pan and bulged up in the back. Don’t worry, this is fine.
Once your cake has thoroughly cooled, cut it so that it is flush with your cake pan and gently turn it out onto a large baking sheet.
At this point, if you have some damage to the front of your skull, don’t worry. It’s not an issue– trust me.
Using the buttercream frosting, glue the two halves of your skull cake together and apply a thin crumb coat of frosting over the entire thing. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Pro tip: If you are visiting family and decide to make this cake, it’s a good idea to let them know you’re putting things like this in the refrigerator…
Step 6: Time to Start Assembling!
Once the buttercream has firmed up in the refrigerator, it’s time to start assembling your disgusting masterpiece.
For the assembly you will need:
- · 1 White chocolate skull (tutorial here!)
- · Buttercream frosting (you should have plenty left over still)
- · 1/4 Cup chocolate syrup
- · Red gel food coloring
- · Brown gel food coloring
- · 1 Tablespoon water
- · Small bowl of warm water
- · Powdered (confectioners’) sugar
Take your cake out of the refrigerator and place it on the plate you plan on serving it on. Although the cake mold allows the piece to sit upright, you are going to tilt it backward so it’s staring up to the sky.
Now place your molded white chocolate skull over your cake and gauge how much you’ll need to cut off from your cake in order to make it fit properly. Don’t worry if you’re afraid you’ll cut too much, you will be able to repair any miscuts later easily. Save the piece of cake you remove.
Side note: I split my skull into two pieces, separating the jaw from the rest of the cranium in order to give it a ‘screaming’ appearance. This is totally optional.
In a bowl, mash up the pieces of cake you removed to make room for your skull as well as any pieces you might have from trimming the over-bake. Add in a scoop of the buttercream and mix until you have a thick cake paste. Pack the back of your molded chocolate skull with this paste and, using it as adhesive, affix your molded skull to the proper spot on your cake.
Using the rest of your cake mash, sculpt a neck and throat for your ‘victim.’ Apply a second crumb coat to your cake but avoid getting any on your molded chocolate skull.
Return the cake to the refrigerator and allow to chill and firm up for at least another hour.
Step 7: Let's Get Bloody Disgusting!
Now that the second buttercream crumb coat has firmed up, it’s time to add in some gory details.
Using a clean, food only paint brush (I have several in my cooking arsenal that I use JUST for food purposes) start painting on your red and brown gel food coloring onto your molded skull.
I like to blend in the red and brown, paying extra attention to the spots between the teeth as well as in and around the eyes and nasal cavities. You want to give the entire piece a good going over.
Step 8: Roll Out
Once you’re happy with the red and brown, take your fondant ball and warm it in the microwave for around 10 seconds to loosen it up.
Sprinkle some powdered sugar onto your work surface and roll out your fondant. You want the piece to be large enough to drape over your cake and touch the plate.
Carefully drape your fondant over your cake and start smoothing it down.
If you notice your fondant starting to dry out too much and crack, use a tiny dab of warm water to smooth over those spots.
You want to work carefully, pressing your fondant down onto your cake and molding it around the shape of your skull.
I sculpted two ears out of fondant and applied them to the sides of my cake using a little warm water.
Once your skull is fully covered, you want to take a sharp knife and cut through the fondant from the top of the forehead to the chin of your cake. Be careful you cut ONLY through the fondant and not into your skull.
Before you open up your fondant, you want to apply a bit of blood to the exterior. Thin out your chocolate syrup with your tablespoon of water and add in a generous dollop of red food coloring, mixing until you’re satisfied with the color.
Using either a brush or your hands, you want to smear this mixture all over the outside of your cake onto the fondant.
Step 9: So A-peel-ing!
Now, gently peel back the fondant along your cut line, revealing your skull and cake beneath. Again, using your paintbrush and your chocolate syrup mix, add in some blood to your cake.
To make the inside of your flaps truly gory and juicy, I painted them directly with the red gel food coloring and then did a light wash of brown chocolate syrup over that.
Splatter some chocolate syrup around the edges of your plate and you’re done!
Congratulations, you’ve just made a 100% edible chocolate cake that, if you ever bring it to a PTA meeting or bridal shower, will probably get you arrested.
I have even more disgustingly delicious recipes available online both through Instructables.com as well as my blog, The Necro Nom-nom-nomicon. Enjoy and have a deliciously disgusting Halloween!!