Introduction: Girl With a Pearl Earring Cake

Picture of Girl With a Pearl Earring Cake

This cake is a baker's rendering of the famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. I had not painted on a cake yet and thought this would be a fun challenge. I decided to make a tall vanilla cake filled with vanilla Italian meringue buttercream. The buttercream is red, blue, and white to represent the Netherlands flag since Vermeer is Dutch. I covered the cake in black fondant and created a fondant duplicate of Vermeer's painting to attach to my cake. Hopefully, he would be impressed.

My recommendation is to spread this project over a couple of days. On the first day, bake and frost the cakes. On the second day, decorate the cakes. Your cake will still be delicious after a day or two in the fridge. If you really wanted to you could also split the baking and frosting into two separate days.

I've broken down the process into several key parts. Below you will find a list of required materials for each step. On the following slides I will repeat which materials you will need but I've listed them below in case you want to gather everything beforehand. I'm a former teacher so this is a very picture heavy and detail oriented instructable so that you can successfully duplicate it. =)

Part one: Bake the cakes

  1. Supplies for prepping the pans:
    • 3 round 6" pans
    • Crisco
    • parchment paper
    • pencil
    • scissors
  2. Ingredients for 1 batch of cake (you will need to double this recipe and make 2 batches for the tall cake I made):
    • 1 box yellow (or white) cake mix
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/3 cup oil
    • 1 small package vanilla instant pudding
      • IMPORTANT NOTE: If using a cake mix that already has pudding in it (like Betty Crocker or Pillsbury) DO NOT add in the instant pudding
    • 1 cup sour cream
  3. Additional cake supplies:
    • spatula
    • toothpicks
    • food scale (optional - not a necessity)
    • 3 round 6" cake boards

Part two: level, split, fill, crumb coat, and final coat

    • 1 round 8" cake board (You will notice that I am using a 10x4 inch board in my pictures. It doesn't matter what size board you use as long as it is bigger than your cake so you can easily carry it without touching the cake)
    • 1 round 6" cake board
    • scotch tape
    • big serrated knife
    • cake leveler (If you do not have one, a serrated knife will work fine.)
    • 3 decorating bags (or ziplock bags)
    • 6 1/2 cups of frosting (I made my own Italian Meringue Buttercream BUT you can use any frosting you want)
    • red food coloring
    • blue food coloring
    • toothpicks
    • 3 bowls
    • offset spatula
    • 8" or 10" cake base (I used a 10" base because it was all I could find)
    • bench scraper
    • 1/2 C measuring cup
    • turntable

Part three: cover the cake in fondant

  • One box of black fondant (I used Wilton's decorator preferred)
  • fondant roller (or regular rolling pin - it really doesn't matter)
  • ruler
  • powdered sugar (or cornstarch)
  • sharp knife
  • fondant cutter (if you have one, if not, keep using the sharp knife)
  • fondant smoother
  • paintbrush

Part four: create Girl with a Pearl Earring and attach to cake

  • about 2 ounces of white fondant (once again, I used Wilton's decorator preferred)
  • fondant roller
  • powdered sugar (or cornstarch)
  • Exacto knife
  • a printout of the Girl with a Pearl Earring that is the exact size you want to use on your cake
  • scissors
  • cutting board
  • some vodka
  • 7 small containers (bowls, espresso cups, ramekin, etc.)
  • orange, red, brown, copper, blue, black, yellow, green food coloring
  • silver pearl luster dust
  • paintbrushes

Part five: cut into your beautiful creation and enjoy =)

  • Use a sharp chef's knife
  • Wipe the blade after each cut to keep your slices beautiful

Step 1: Prepare Your Cake Pans

Picture of Prepare Your Cake Pans

For this particular design, I decided to create a very tall 6" cake which required 3 pans. If you want to make a slightly shorter, yet still very generously sized cake, use 2 pans. Prior to baking my cake, I had to prep my pans by greasing them with Crisco and lining them with parchment paper. I also made sure to preheat my oven to 350 degrees.

Supplies:

  1. 3 round 6" pans
  2. Crisco
  3. parchment paper
  4. pencil
  5. scissors

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Generously apply Crisco to the inside of your pans, spread it on the bottom and sides.
  3. Place the parchment paper over your pans and lightly trace the rim.
  4. Cut out each circle you traced and cut about 1/4 of an inch inside of the line you drew. (This will allow for your parchment paper to fit inside the pan).
  5. Press your parchment paper to the bottom of your pan and smooth it out.
  6. Set aside your pans and move on to baking your cakes.

Step 2: Mix Your Cake

Picture of Mix Your Cake

This cake is going to be a delicious vanilla cake made with a doctored cake mix. For those of you who don't know, a doctored mix is just a regular store bought cake mix that is adjusted so that it has more of a homemade taste and sturdier structure in case you want to use it for decorative purposes, like a fondant cake. This cake will come out moist and delicious and does not require as much work as a homemade cake.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As I mentioned in the previous slide, I wanted to make this a very tall 6" cake. Since I decided to make it so tall, I had to make two batches of the cake recipe for my three pans. (If I tried making both batches at once it would be too much for my mixer). If you want to make a slightly shorter cake using just two pans, make just one batch of the cake recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow (or white) cake mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 small package vanilla instant pudding
    • IMPORTANT NOTE: If using a cake mix that already has pudding in it (like Betty Crocker or Pillsbury) DO NOT add in the instant pudding
  • 1 cup sour cream

Supplies:

  • greased cake pans
  • food scale (if you have one)

Steps:

Notes: Though I will give you the order I used to mix my cake, the order of how you mix this does not matter. Be sure to combine each ingredient individually before moving on to the next one.

If you have a standing mixer that is great, if not, a handheld will work just fine.

  1. Pour your cake mix into your mixer bowl.
  2. Pour your egg whites over the cake mix and mix on low until just combined, you should still see small lumps of cake mix when you stop the mixer.
  3. Dump in your sour cream (use a spatula to scrap all of it in). Once again, mix it until it is just combined.
  4. Pour in your packet of instant vanilla pudding and mix until just combined.
  5. Pour in your oil and, again, mix on low until combined.
  6. Pour in your water and using your spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  7. Use your spatula to combine the batter with the water (this will prevent the water from splattering when you turn on the mixer).
  8. Start the mixer on low for 5 seconds and then put it on high for 2 minutes to thoroughly mix your batter.
  9. Pour 1 pound of batter into each pan. (If you do not have a scale, fill the pans about halfway).
  10. Tap your pans against the counter in order to settle the batter and remove any air bubbles.

Step 3: Bake Your Cake

Picture of Bake Your Cake

Every oven is different so be sure to watch your cakes and test them when baking.

Supplies:

  • toothpicks
  • knife
  • 3 round 6" cake boards

Steps:

  1. Bake your cakes at 350 degrees for 35 minutes
  2. Using a toothpick, test your cake. If a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, your cake is ready. If the toothpick has wet batter on it, put the cakes back in for 5 minutes at a time until the toothpick comes out clean.
  3. Let your cakes cool COMPLETELY in their pans. (If you try to handle the cakes while they are still warm they will break apart).
  4. Run a knife around the sides of your cake to make sure that it is loose.
  5. Quickly flip your cake over onto a clean counter space or a sheet of parchment paper. It should fall out easily. (If it doesn't you can gently tap the bottom of the pan or flip it over and use the knife again to loosen the cake.)
  6. Once you pull the pan away, the cake should remain on the counter.
  7. Gently peel away the parchment paper.
  8. Place a cake board on the bottom of each cake
  9. Quickly flip you cakes over so the cake boards are underneath
  10. Place your cakes in the fridge in order to let them chill. You can choose to wrap them in plastic wrap or not. If you will not be working on them for a while, you should wrap them.

Step 4: Prepare Your Workspace

Picture of Prepare Your Workspace

Before your begin to level, split, and fill your cake, you should gather the necessary supplies and prepare your frosting.

Supplies:

  • 1 round 8" cake board (You will notice that I am using a 10x4 inch board in my pictures. It doesn't matter what size board you use as long as it is bigger than your cake so you can easily carry it without touching the cake)
  • 1 round 6" cake board
  • scotch tape
  • big serrated knife
  • cake leveler (If you do not have one, a serrated knife will work fine.)
  • 3 decorating bags
  • 4 1/2 cups of frosting (I made my own Italian Meringue Buttercream BUT you can use any frosting you want - I suggest about 2-3 cans of frosting for this project)
    • If you would like a quick, easy, and delicious frosting you can make at home, do the following:
      • (1) Combine 2 softened sticks of butter, with one teaspoon of vanilla extract until light and fluffy. (2) Then add in 4 cups of powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) and mix thoroughly after each cup. (3) Add 2-3 tablespoons of milk (one tablespoon at a time) and beat on high speed until you get the consistency you would like. This is a delicious basic American Buttercream recipe.
  • red food coloring
  • blue food coloring
  • toothpicks
  • 3 bowls
  • offset spatula
  • bench scraper
  • 1/2 C measuring cup
  • turntable

Steps:

  1. Put 1/2 cup of frosting in the first bowl. Leave it white.
  2. Put 2 cups of frosting in the second bowl. Dye it red by using a toothpick to add a glob of red color and begin to mix it in with a toothpick. Then switch over to a spoon to make sure the frosting and color are thoroughly mixed together.
  3. Put two more cups of frosting in the third bowl and dye it blue using the same method you used for the red.
  4. Bring out your chilled cakes
  5. Place some scotch tape on the bottom of your final 6" round cake board.
  6. Attach the 6" cake board to the wrong side of the 8" cake board (we will refer to this as your work board from now on). You want the colors to contrast so you can see where your cake ends and the work board begins.
    • Note: In my picture, I am using a rectangular workboard.
  7. Make sure that the board is firmly attached and place it onto your turntable.

Step 5: Level and Split Your Cakes

Picture of Level and Split Your Cakes

You have three options as to how you level your cakes. You can use a cake leveler, which is what I use because it's easier and requires less effort; you could use a ruler and a serrated knife, or you could eyeball your cake and use a serrated knife. I am going to go over how to do this with a leveler but for those of you who have a serrated knife, all you have to do is measure how high you want your cake to be and cut off the excess on top so the cakes are all the same height. You can also reference the pictures above of how I eyeball my cakes and use the serrated knife to split them.

Supplies:

  • 3 baked and chilled cakes
  • cake leveler or serrated knife
  • bowl for scraps

Steps:

  1. Choose the appropriate height on your leveler that will allow all of your cakes to be the same height. For me, that was level 5.
  2. Make sure that you have enough table space to run your leveler across without it slipping off the sides. That could lead to a very uneven cake.
  3. Place your hand on top of your cake and gently move your leveler across the cake in a back and forth motion. Take your time.
  4. Remove the pieces you cut off and place the excess in a bowl, you can eat it to taste test your cake or if you have enough you could make cake pops.
  5. Repeat this process with the remaining two cakes. Set your cakes aside.
  6. Return to the work board that you taped your cake board to and place a dab of frosting in the middle.
  7. Spread the frosting out so there is a thin even layer in the middle of your cake board.
  8. Create a tic-tac-toe board in the frosting on your cake board. The lines you create will allow air to move underneath the cake you are going to place on this board and ensure it sticks properly.
  9. Grab one of your chilled cakes and gently flip it over onto your hand.
  10. Gently remove the board attached to the bottom. You may have to pull a little.
  11. Flip your cake back over and firmly press it onto the frosted cake board that is attached to your work board.
  12. Eyeball your cake and determine where the middle is on the side, you want to split your cake parallel to the base. Once you find the middle, place your knife there and gently begin to cut into your cake.
  13. Do not try to cut straight through your cake in one try. Instead, run your knife along the side of your cake, keeping it level, and gently turn your cake on the turntable. (Think of it like slicing a bagel in half.)
  14. As you turn your cake, continue to cut deeper and deeper until you cut it all the way through.
  15. Separate your two cake pieces then place the top part back on the bottom and set the cake aside.
  16. Repeat this process for the other two cakes but DO NOT attach the other two cakes to their boards with frosting.

Step 6: Fill and Crumb Coat Your Cakes

Picture of Fill and Crumb Coat Your Cakes

Now we are getting to the fun part. Try not to eat too much of your frosting as you do this. It really is delicious.

Supplies:

  • 3 decorating bags
  • 3 bowls of frosting (red, white, and blue) with spoons in each color
  • scissors
  • bag ties or rubber bands (or you can go without this)
  • turntable
  • offset spatula

Steps:

  1. Get a decorating bag (or a sandwich bag) and open it up.
  2. Fold over the top so it creates an opening for the frosting.
  3. Using a spoon, fill your bag with your first color of frosting.
  4. Close the top of the bag and twist it shut.
  5. Fold over the twisted portion and secure it with a bag tie (or rubber band, or just hold it in place when you use the bag)
  6. Repeat this process for the remaining two frostings.
  7. Cut off the tip of the decorating bag so you have a penny sized hole.
  8. Starting with your first split cake, remove the top layer and pipe a layer of frosting on the cake. Use your turntable so you can pipe one consistent layer. Use the same pressure throughout and take your time.
    • Note: My frosting pattern is blue, red, white, red, blue.
  9. Once you have piped your layer of frosting, use your offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly. Don't worry if the frosting squeezes out of the sides.
  10. Take the next cake layer and stack it on top of your first frosted layer.
  11. Gently press down and make sure it is secure before piping your next layer of frosting. Make sure to wipe your spatula between colors so your frosting doesn't blend together.
  12. Repeat this process of piping, spreading, and stacking until you have stacked all your cake layers.
  13. Once your cake is completely stacked, use the remaining frosting to crumb coat your cake. Begin by piping lines of frosting vertically down the sides of the cake. (Don't worry about the colors, you can mix them now.)
  14. Pipe some frosting on top of the cake as well.
  15. Using your spatula, begin to spread the frosting on top of the cake. Since this is a crumb coat, you want to make sure the frosting presses into the cake and seals the crumbs in.
  16. Be sure to scrape off any excess frosting into a bowl.
  17. Run your offset spatula along the side of your cake as you turn the turntable. This will allow you to spread the frosting evenly and cover the entire cake.
  18. Continue to remove any excess frosting and repeat the process of running the spatula across the cake as many times as necessary until it is completely covered.
  19. Be sure to cover all parts of the cake and press in the crumbs.
  20. Set your crumb coated cake into the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Step 7: Give Your Cake a Final Coat of Buttercream

Picture of Give Your Cake a Final Coat of Buttercream

Once your cake is nice and chilled, meaning the frosting is firm, it is time to give it a good final coat of frosting. Prior to frosting your cake, you will want to remove your 6" cake board from the work board and place it on a cake base. You can use a large offset spatula to remove the cake from its workboard and place it on the cake base. You can also apply a dab of frosting (or tape) to the cake base in order to help secure the cake board once you place it.

Supplies:

  • Chilled and crumb coated cake
  • A decorator bag filled with two cups of white frosting
  • turntable
  • bench scraper
  • offset spatula

Steps:

  1. Place two cups of white frosting into the same decorator bag you used earlier (or if you want to, you can use a new one).
  2. While turning your cake on the turntable, gently pipe around the entire cake a nice thick layer of frosting.
  3. Pipe an additional layer of frosting on top of the cake.
  4. Place your bench scraper at a 90-degree angle to your cake.
  5. Gently turn the cake on the turntable and allow your bench scraper to smooth out your frosting, let the turntable do most of the work.
  6. Smooth out the top of your cake as well, make sure to scrape away any excess frosting into a bowl. You can always add more later but you want to make the cake as smooth as possible so it may be necessary to remove some frosting.
  7. As you smooth your cake, if you notice any holes, just fill them in with the piping bag and smooth it over again.
  8. Take your time, be patient, and repeat the process as many times as necessary until your cake is as smooth as possible. I still struggle to get it super smooth so I did the best I could.
  9. Set your cake in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Step 8: Prepare for Your Fondant

Picture of Prepare for Your Fondant

I chose to get my colors ready for my Girl with a Pearl Earring before covering my cake with black fondant. I honestly could have covered my cake first and it would have worked too. I gathered all the supplies I would need to both cover my cake and create my girl, before focusing on each step individually.

Supplies:

  • One box of black fondant (I used Wilton's decorator preferred)
  • fondant roller (or regular rolling pin - it really doesn't matter)
  • ruler
  • powdered sugar (or cornstarch)
  • sharp knife
  • fondant cutter (if you have one, if not, keep using the sharp knife)
  • fondant smoother (not pictured)
  • about 2 ounces of white fondant (once again, I used Wilton's decorator preferred)
  • Exacto knife (not pictured)
  • a printout of the Girl with a Pearl Earring that is the exact size you want to use on your cake
  • scissors
  • cutting board
  • some vodka (not pictured)
  • 7 small containers (bowls, espresso cups, ramekin, etc.)
  • orange, red, brown, copper, blue, black, yellow, green food coloring
  • silver pearl luster dust
  • paintbrushes

*If you are like me and like to have things thoroughly planned out in advance, you could print out another picture of a Girl with a Pearl Earring and use it to write down the colors you need to mix in order to achieve the right shade for each part of the painting.

**I also pulled up a picture of a Girl with a Pearl Earring on my laptop since my printer didn't print the colors properly. I wanted to get my version as close to the actual painting as possible.

Steps:

As part of my preparation, and as you can see in the pictures above, I mixed my colors in advance. I had to play around with it a little and test it on a spare piece of white fondant before determining which combination I liked best, I suggest you do the same. Some of these colors I mixed as a base and eventually darkened to add depth to the overall painting. Don't worry about this yet, I will explain it more thoroughly in the following steps. As you can see in the picture above, these are the colors I mixed for each part:

  1. For her skin: orange, red, and brown
  2. For her clothes: copper and brown
  3. For the blue portion of her turban: just blue
  4. For the yellow portion of her turban: yellow and brown
  5. For her pearl earring: silver luster dust
  6. For the blue and yellow portion of her turban: I did not create a color
  7. For her lips: mostly red with a hint of copper
  8. For her eyes: mostly green with a hint of black to make them darker

Step 9: Cover Your Cake in Black Fondant

Picture of Cover Your Cake in Black Fondant

This part of the cake can be a little frustrating but do not let it defeat you! Initially, I tried to cover my cake the right way by rolling out one piece of fondant that would completely cover the cake smoothly. However, since the fondant I used tends to be a bit dry, it immediately began to rip when I tried to put it on my cake. I could have rolled it out thicker but I really didn't want a thick layer of fondant on my cake. So instead, I decided to panel my fondant which is what I'm going to describe here.

Supplies:

  • box of black fondant
  • frosted and chilled cake
  • fondant roller
  • fondant smoothers
  • ruler
  • powdered sugar
  • turntable
  • fondant cutter (if you have one)
  • sharp knife

Steps:

  1. Measure your cake's diameter and height
  2. Calculate the circumference of your cake.
  3. spread some powdered sugar on your clean work surface (you may want some on your hands too)
  4. take out your fondant and begin kneading it until it's pliable
  5. mold a piece of fondant (not the whole thing) into a rectangular shape (make sure all the folds and creases are on the bottom)
  6. roll your fondant (to about 1/4-1/8 inch) out until it is as long as (or longer than) half of your circumference and as high as your cake (you may want to give yourself an extra inch both ways, just in case)
  7. Using your ruler, trim your fondant so it is exactly as long and as high as you need it
  8. Stick your fondant to one side of your cake and use the fondant smoother to firmly attach it
  9. Use your sharp knife to cut off any excess fondant that may be sticking out on top
  10. Repeat steps 3-9 to cover the other side of your cake
  11. Take a piece of fondant and mold it into a circle with all the creases and folds underneath
  12. roll out your fondant (to about 1/4-1/8 inch) until it is big enough to cover the top of your cake
  13. Place your fondant on the top of your cake and firmly attach it with your fondant smoother
  14. Using your fondant cutter (or sharp knife) carefully trim away the excess fondant hanging over the top
  15. Use a paintbrush to brush away any powdered sugar on your fondant.

Step 10: Create and Attach Your Girl With a Pearl Earring

Picture of Create and Attach Your Girl With a Pearl Earring

Now you are on your final, and in my opinion most fun, part! You get to be an artist and paint your own Girl with a Pearl Earring! My biggest piece of advice for this part is to have fun with it. Unless you are extremely artistically talented, you probably aren't going to recreate Vermeer's work but I'm sure you can pull off an awesome likeness.

Supplies:

  • your mixed colors
  • covered cake
  • paintbrushes (I only used a very fine tip one)
  • 2 ounces of white fondant
  • print out of Girl with a Pearl Earring that is the exact size you want it to be on your cake
  • Exacto knife
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • fondant roller

Steps:

  1. If you haven't done so already, cut out your print out of a Girl with a Pearl Earring
  2. Spread some powdered sugar on your clean work surface
  3. Knead your white fondant
  4. Roll out your fondant (about 1/8 inch thick) so that it is big enough to fit the cut out of the Girl
    • If at any point you need to leave your fondant alone, cover it with plastic wrap so it does not dry out
  5. Place your fondant on a cutting board and place the print out on top
  6. Carefully cut your fondant in the shape of your girl by tracing it with an Exacto knife
  7. Once you have a solid silhouette of your Girl, place your print out back on the fondant (make sure it lines up perfectly)
  8. Using a toothpick or sculpting tool (like the one I have pictured) carefully trace the key features of the girl so you have guidelines for when you are painting.
    • Do not press down too hard or you will leave indents
    • Outline the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, turban, clothes, earring
  9. Though it may be a little difficult to see, you will have a good impression on your fondant that will guide your painting
  10. Begin painting slowly and lightly, it is much easier to add more color than it is to remove.
    1. remember that her face is illuminated on one side so do not paint the entire face the same color
  11. Paint a light base of her face, clothes, and blue portion of her turban
  12. Paint a light base of her lips and the yellow portion of her turban
    • at this point, I added some concentrated (directly from the container) blue to the middle portion of her turban and added more brown to the yellow to create shadows in her yellow portion
    • I also painted the ends of her turban and her pearl earring
    • Then I added black to blue color so I could paint the back of her blue turban and began coloring in her eyes
    • I then darkened her skin color with more brown so I could create shadows in her face and I darkened her clothes color with more brown so I could add distinction to her clothes
    • I gave her eyebrows and gave her a very light (by adding vodka to her skin color container) sweep of color on the lighter side of her face
    • I added concentrated (directly from the container) red to her lips
    • I added black to her eyes
    • At any point, if I added to much color, I used vodka to "erase" my mistake. Be careful though because too much vodka can ruin the fondant.
    • Experiment with this part and do whatever makes you happy.
  13. Once you are happy with your Girl, take a knife and lightly make some impressions all over her (if you look closely at the painting you will notice that it appears cracked)
  14. Let her dry for a few minutes then carefully pick her up (without touching the food coloring) and using a broader paintbrush, paint some vodka on the area of the cake you want to place her
  15. quickly secure her to the vodka (it dries quickly)
  16. Add more vodka strokes to any areas that are not attached yet. DO NOT USE THE FONDANT SMOOTHER - it will ruin your art.
  17. Step back, admire your work...and eat your cake! =)

*If you want nice clean slices like the one pictured at the beginning, use a sharp chef's knife and wipe the blade in-between each slice.

Comments

gtoal (author)2016-10-22

I would recommend projecting the image on to the cake for the painting step.

Chimoram (author)2016-10-10

Great job ?

sangeetajha (author)2016-10-08

Beautiful cake

gramos85 (author)sangeetajha2016-10-10

Thank you!

tomatoskins (author)2016-10-07

What a beautiful cake! Thanks for sharing in such detail!

gramos85 (author)tomatoskins2016-10-07

I really appreciate the compliment! Thank you and you're welcome!

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