This instructable will take you through the steps of making a three-tiered Halloween wedding cake.
Step 1: Baking the Cake and Making It Bleed
For this cake, I used two 8", two 6" and two 4" cake pans. Two vanilla cake mixes and the ingredients needed per the box instructions will make this cake. (I substitute unsweetened applesauce for the oil - equal amounts, unless I'm carving are stacking a big cake) The directions on the mix say to mix on medium speed for 2:00, but I always start on low for :30, then mix on medium for 2:00... this helps get everything mixed up and clump free.
I use Wilton's Cake Release, it works so much better than Pam. Also, I cut parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan with a "handle" on opposite ends that stand up above the pan sides. ( Keep the manufacturer's label from the pans... these have all the info you'll need on the back for using them.) 8" pans will hold 3 cups of batter each, that's usually one cake mix. I cut down the temperature by 25 degrees and bake 5-10 minutes longer than the directions say. This helps keep the cake from raising so much in the center and leaving me with so much cake to cut and discard. Once the cake is cooled use a serrated or electric knife and gently slice off the top so that it's flat and as even as possible. Next, use the handle of a wooden spoon or skewer to poke random holes down through the cake but not through the bottom. Now, you're ready "to make it bleed," or create the poke cake. Mix one cup of boiling water with one small box of jello until it's completely dissolved. I used cherry to get the blood red color. While it's still hot, pour the jello into the holes in the cake. Most recipes say to pour over the cake, but I find that makes a big mess. For the size of cakes I made, one box of jello was all I needed for all the layers. Now, put the cakes in the refrigerator to cool and set the jello, which will take a few hours. You can speed up the process by moving them to a freezer after about an hour.
Step 2: Stacking the Cakes
Once the jello is set, you can begin stacking. I make my own buttercream using the Wilton Method recipe. Most HyVee bakeries sell buttercream. Store bought icing can work, but it's very soft, you can add meringue powder and/or powdered sugar to try to stiffen it up some. The easiest way I've found to fill a piping bag is to place a bag in a cup and stretch the top down over the rim, now using a spatula, fill the bag with icing. I used round tip #12. Pipe rim around the layer, this is to hold the filling so it doesn't have to be pretty. Now, spoon the cherry pie filling onto the cake and make it as smooth as possible. Take the other cake in the same size and flip it upside down, as long as it came out of the pan cleanly. This just helps keep it flatter and keeps the amount of crumbs down. Now you can "crumb coat" or "dirty ice" the stacked cake... a thin coat of icing to trap crumbs, then let that rest in the refrigerator while you do the next size tier the exact same way.
Step 3: Decorating the Bottom Tier
I had leftover fondant and colored it black. Wrap the top half of four 8" pillars in the black fondant. These will be dead trees, so they should be rough and bumpy. Next, using store bought rice cereal treats, I trimmed two corners of two treats to create a double headstone. These should stick together, but you can add a touch of water to your finger and run it down the side of one to help. Cover the cereal treat headstone in black fondant but leave the bottom open. Using a #3 piping tip and white icing, I piped R.I.P. onto the headstone.
Using an icing spatula, smooth a layer of icing over the entire tier. It's usually easiest to start on top and then the sides. If you want a smooth finish, you can use a Viva (no other brand will work) paper towel to achieve that. Gently lay the towel over the cake and very gently use your hand or a fondant smoother to smooth the icing. If you press too hard, the icing will stick to the paper towel.
If you have a plastic cake plate that goes with the pillars, use it to mark the points where the pillars will go. I actually moved my pillars in closer because I chose to just use a cake board instead of the plastic plate. Now, insert the pillars and place the headstone.
Using store bought black icing, I squeezed it into a piping bag with a #3 tip. Next, create the spider starting with a large filled-in circle for the spider body and a smaller one for the head. Then pipe the legs. Next, create the web by making one line from the spider head to the point you want the web to start. Then, from that point, pipe lines fanning out, then connect the lines with "horizontal" pieces between the long, straight lines. These can be straight or can have a little curve to them, it's up to you.
Step 4: Decorating the Top Two Tiers
Melt white candy melts, 30 seconds at a time in the microwave. If it doesn't want to melt smooth and still has clumps, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of shortening and stir it in. You won't taste the shortening at all and it'll help it to fully melt. I used a skull mold and poured the melted candy into the mold. Use the flat side of a knife to scrape away any extra in each mold... you want them as flush with the mold as possible. Refrigerate the skulls until you're ready to use them.
Now, build the top two tiers by placing the smaller tier in the center of the other tier. I used two skewers, cut to just below the tip of the top tier, to add a little stability. Now, put a little icing on the top of the pillars to serve as a glue and gently place the top tiers on the pillars. You may have to adjust the pillar placement if it seems unsteady.
Using an air brush set, I sprayed a yellow/orange dot to serve as a moon. Rinse the air brush and add blue and purple with a few drops of water. In side-to-side sweeping motions, I sprayed the blue onto all three tiers and the very top. I intentionally made the color uneven to look more like a night sky.
Next, roll bits of the black fondant to create tree branches, and gently attach one end to a pillar then place the rest on the side of the cake. Make sure to curve and twist the branches to make the trees more realistic. Be sure to stretch branches across the very bottom edge of the middle tier to hide the cake plate/board.
Reheat the white melting candies. Pop the skulls from the molds and trim the edges. Use the reheated melted candy and spread a little onto the back one. Make sure you have a front and a back and press them together and let the skulls set until they've hardened. Once they've hardened, place them on top of the cake. I used a #2 piping tip to make swirls on top of one skull to create a veil headpiece, then piped lines down the back to create the veil. I used the same tip and bag to pipe the writing on the side.
Step 5: Eat and Enjoy!
When you cut into the cake, you'll see the "blood" that was created with the jello and cherry pie filling. The vanilla cake and cherry jello and pie filling go great together!