I made this cake for a very good friend's October birthday, who is a huge horror and comic fan. This was made custom to look like him but you could tailor the look how you please. It was a surprise for him and he absolutely loved it.
Depending on your artistic skill, this could be hard or easy. I'm an artist, new to cake decorating and this is my 4th sculpted cake (self-taught) and I've been making cakes since August (and am absolutely in love with it!)
Total time spent on it from the start of baking to completion was about 12 hours over the course of 3 days. On one day I baked all the cakes and froze them. The next I made the tombstone and the final day I make to zombie and finished it up.
The tombstone is red velvet cake covered in fondant. The zombie is red velvet cake covered in fondant. The fingers are all fondant and the grass/ground is fondant. The dirt is made from chocolate sandwich cookies (minus their cream layer) and ginger snaps ground up in the food processor. It was hand painted with gel food colorings mixed like watercolors (but not with water.)
• Cake pans for baking the cakes. I used a quarter sheet pan for the tombstone and two 8" rounds and two 6" rounds.
• General cake decorating supplies: Mixer, spatulas, turn-table, carving/clay/fondant tools, matt to roll fondant on, fondant rolling pin, gel food colors, knife, cake leveler, toothpicks, food-safe paintbrushes, small containers to mix food color "paints" in, 3 quarter sheet cake boards, Exacto knife, hot glue gun, tape, cake support dowels, foil to cover cake boards, etc.
•Ingredients to make cakes, buttercream icing, fondant and to mix food colors with (you will mix the food colorings with something like vodka or clear vanilla extract, not water.)
Here's the link to the alterations made to a box cake mix to make it a little stronger to better support sculpting. I used 3 boxes of cake mix to make this cake. One for the quarter sheet, one for the two 8" rounds and one for the two 6" rounds.
Here's the link to how to make the marshmallow fondant, which is pretty yummy, although very sweet! Pre-made fondant can be bought if you do not want to make the marshmallow fondant but beware that some of the pre-made doesn't taste very appetizing.
Here's a simple recipe for the buttercream icing, a 2 lb batch. This uses shortening in place of butter. I'm in Texas and butter doesn't hold up as well still right now. If you don't have a stand mixer or don't want to make your own icing you can buy some pre-made.
2 Cups Shortening
2 lb bag Powdered Cane Sugar (or approx. 8 Cups)
4 TBSP Meringue Powder
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (use clear vanilla if you want your icing to be white)
2 tsp Butter Flavor (use clear flavor if you want your icing to be white)
1 tsp Almond Extract
Sift together powdered sugar and meringue powder into large bowl. Set aside.
Mix the flavor extracts together in a measuring cup. Add enough water to the mixture to bring the amount to 1/2 a cup. Put this into a mixer bowl with the shortening.
Add about 1/4th of the sifted powdered sugar/meringue powder mixture to the shortening and flavors in the mixer bowl. Beat on a slow speed with the paddle beater and the slowly incorporate the rest of the powdered sugar mix into the mixer bowl as it's slowly mixing. Once it's all in there I usually turn it up a notch in speed for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Then it's done!
Keep it covered until you are ready to use it, as it will "crust" over if you are not ready to use it and leave it uncovered to the air.
Step 2: Bake All Your Cakes!
Once they are cooled, put them in the freezer while you build the support system for the tombstone (next step.) I wrap mine all separately in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer.
Step 3: Building the Tombstone Support and Cake Board.
First I hot glued 2 quarter sheet cake boards together to create a thicker over cake base.
Then on the 3rd cake board I measured out the size of the actual quarter sheet pan, plus extra for a corner stand, and cut it out. I scored and bent this piece at the end of the sheet cake size to form a flap. This flap became its base/stand bottom that was glues to the corner of the cake board and trimmed flush with the main cake board.
I then decided on a slight angle so that the cake of the tombstone would very slightly lean back. I used dowels to support the back of the tombstone board. To make it more stable I marked out where the bottom of the 2 dowels would hit the cake board, tracing around them to get the right size marks on the board. Then I cut out the little holes with an Exacto blade all the way through all 3 layers of cake board that is in this area. I squeezed hot glue into one of the holes and inserted the dowel straight up and pushed it all the way down then repeated with the other dowel.
Next I leaned back the vertical part of the tombstone board until it hit the dowels. I put hot glue where they met and then put a little tape over each to secure it until the hot glue was dry.
Then I covered it in the cake foil.
Step 4: Building the Tombstone.
I sliced up the cake in to tall skinny pieces and layered them up the vertical tombstone board with buttercream in between the layers. I pushed 2 dowel supports into the cake surface to give it some more support. Then I covered it in a buttercream crumb coat. This is done to give the fondant a surface it can stick to and to help seal in the moisteness of the cake so it won't dry out. I used a piping tip and bag and just piped it on because the cake was a little crumbly cut like this but it's fine to spatula it on.
Next roll out while fondant large enough to cover the front, top and sides, with a few inches extra to wrap around the cake board backing a few inches. Since the back of the tombstone is the cake board and support system I didn't completely cover the back.
Now here's where you make your tombstone however you like. You can use a food-safe brush to brush on water to attach fondant to fondant so I did that here with all the details.
Once it's done it's time to paint it. Water makes fondant sticky (which is why it's good to use to stick fondant to fondant) but you don't want your fondant getting ruined when you paint it so you use an alcohol-based mixer, like vodka or clear vanilla extract. It won't ruin the fondant and it evaporates fast and leaves the color behind.
I mixed up a watery gray and gave it a wash (then added some mossy green areas later at the end because I decided it needed some.)
Step 5: Add Some Grass/ground to the Main Cake Board Base.
Later, after the zombie is in place I then used more green fondant to build a ridge around the zombie that was raised, up to the edge of the tombstone, that would help hold in the "dirt" and make it look like the ground was being pushed out. I also gave this the same texture.
Step 6: Build Your Zombie.
Next take a knife and carve your basic zombie's shape, whatever or whoever that may be. I gave mine the basic shape then carved out a few details like depressions where I would add the eyes in later, and basic mouth, nose, creases.
Once you have it carved, give it a crumb coat of buttercream. I just used a cake spatula on this part.
Next, roll out enough white fondant to cover this. I smoothed out the fondant, using first my fingers and then my tools to further define the shapes of the facial features. The eyes and the ears were added after this.
On the eye that's there I added the eye ( a smooth slightly domed circle) and then the eyelids over top, and detailed (and gave it that nice milky zombie eye look when painting.) On the missing eye that is actually inset a bit so there's a hollow where the eye used to be. I created a deeper depression with my thumb and then added the eyelids.
I formed the shape of the ears and detailed them after I connected them.
Then went to town with the details of the sagging, rotting skin and his hair and facial hair.
I formed the fingers out of fondant.
I then hand painted him. I mixed up 9 different hues of different colors and some more "watery" than others.
Step 7: Putting It All Together.
The final step is adding in your "dirt" of ground up chocolate sandwich cookies and ginger snaps. I filled in the area within the ridge, with a little spilling over for effect, piling up some around his fingers and even putting some in and on top of his ears and on top of his head.
And now frighten, butcher and enjoy!