Introduction: Monkey Brain Cake
Well if the brains are jello and they are served with a slice of chocolate cake maybe you won't pass up this treat made famous in the movies but made slightly more appetizing in this instructable.
This would make an awesome Halloween dessert and would be an especially gruesome table centerpiece.
The preparation of this cake is best spread over 3 days:
The whole cake does take a bit of work but if you like you can omit some steps which will not only save time, but will also reduce the equipment and ingredients required making the cake a little bit more economical.
If you like you can omit the hand painting and just add some extra black fondant in the nostrils. Also the addition of the Persian fairy floss in step 8 is completely optional.
Or you can just just skip straight to step 7 and make up some brains to serve with raspberry sauce for an easy yet scrumptiously scary treat.
Monkey Brain Cake ingredients and equipment
2 chocolate cakes (mine were chocolate mud and 20cm X 8 cm or 8" X 3.25")
Cake board (approx 8") *
Ganache (chocolate and cream)
Ready rolled fondant white or Pettince 20 oz or 600 grams **
Black ready rolled fondant or Pettince 50g or 1 3/4oz (or color you own from the white using black gel food color)**
Black, white and ivory gel food color *
Tylose powder *
edible glaze, black dusting powder and large brush *
Large rolling pin
small sharp knife
small fondant rolling pin
cake decorating flower/leaf tool *
Cake smoothers (kinda optional) *
Brain mold ***
2 packs jelly - jello crystals (I used raspberry and grape)
evaporated low fat milk (carnation non fat)
Raspberry sauce (or strawberry)
Optional White persian fairy floss and scissors ****
*Ready Roll fondant, gel food color, cake decorating tools, tylose powder and dusting powder available from cake specialty stores, Hobby and craft stores (eg Michaels (US), Spotlight (Australia)) or Ebay.
**Fondant dries out really quickly - keep it in an airtight container or ziplock bag in between use and work fast.
*** I picked up my Jelly Mold on Ebay
****Persian fairy floss available from good deli's or specialty food purveyors
Step 1: Stack the Cake
To make ganache heat 400g cream until boiling and add to 800g finely chopped milk chocolate. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes and then whisk until smooth. Allow the ganache to set at room temperature overnight.
Cut off the tops off each cake to make them even and then cut each cake in half so you have 4 even cakes.
Place one cake slice on top of a cake board and then add a good dollop of ganache and spread it around evenly. ^
Place another layer of cake on top, then more ganache, then another layer of cake.
Repeat until you have four layers of cake with a layer of ganache between each layer.
Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, place in fridge and chill until firm.
^ I placed a piece of parchment paper between the cake and the cake board so I could slip the carved cake directly onto the cake stand prior to step 4. This was purely for my presentation. Do not do this if you are serving directly from the cake board as the parchment paper makes the cake slide around.
Step 2: Carve the Cake
Remove the cake from the fridge.
Using a knife carve the cake into shape. See the pictures for examples of how the carved cake should look.
You will need to carve off the front sides to make a 'skull type shape, tapering in towards the bottom.
Then about an 1.5cm (3/4") off the front (the top layer) for the eye/ eyebrow area.
Do not discard the pieces you carve off reserve them for use in step 3.
Cover the carved cake with a layer of ganache and make as smooth as possible. If necessary you may need to do this in more than one stage by covering in ganache, smoothing with a hot knife or spatula and then repeating the process.
Make the ganache on the top of the cake as smooth and flat as possible. Y'know for resting brains on later :)
Step 3: Add the Face Detail
Take the reserved offcuts of the cake and add enough extra ganache to make a smooth truffle mixture by crumbing the cake through your fingertips and mixing the ganache in. I just use my hands to squish it together. You might need to heat the ganache in the microwave for a few seconds if you are finding it difficult to mix. Remember the offcuts already have some ganache so crumble the cake first and add the ganache slowly until you have achieved your desired truffle consistency.
The finished truffle should hold together well, hold shape and not bee too sloppy.
Take one piece of truffle around a couple of teaspoons and press onto the front of the cake to make a nose. Using your fingertips shape into a nose with nostrils. #
Take another larger truffle piece and press into the front of the cake to make an oval shaped mouth protruding from the bottom center of the cake. See the picture for guidance.
Cover the mouth and nose detail with a thin layer of ganache.
Roll another couple of pieces of truffle mixture and make shapes that are half circles, around the size of half a ping pong ball, these truffles will be the eyes.
Any left over truffle mixture can be frozen for later use or made into cake pops.
# the nose in the pictures is a different shape from the finished cake. I was working from memory and checked a picture at a later stage, luckily the truffle mixture is very easy to rework.
Step 4: Make the Mouth Detail
Knead the black fondant** until pliable. Place a small amount of vegetable fat on your workbench and roll out the fondant with a small plastic rolling pin. Cut out a shape to cover the mouth section of the cake.
Use some of the remaining black fondant to cover the half circles of truffle 'eyes' you made in step 3.
Reserve 2 Tablespoons white fondant.
Knead the remaining white fondant** until smooth and add in a little black to make the fondant grey and tylose powder to make the fondant stronger. Knead until the color is well distributed and even.
Take a couple of tablespoons of the grey fondant and roll out with a small rolling pin until quite thin at one side but with a thicker rim around 1cm wide (the lip)around 8cm (3.25") long and wrap around the front bottom of the cake to make a bottom lip.
Push it into place under the chin area and using a sharp knife trim off any excess. Use the cake decorating tool to mark indents along the lip area to look like creases in the skin.
Take the reserved white fondant about shape small uneven ovals and press onto the mouth area just above the lip. If you like use a tool to mark 'decay' lines in the teeth.
**Fondant dries out really quickly - keep it in an airtight container or ziplock bag in between use and work fast.
Step 5: Cover the Cake With Fondant
Measure around the outside and then the height of your cake. Add another 1.5cm (1/2") to each measurement and that will be the size fondant rectangle you will need. Dust the workbench with a little cornflour (corn starch) and using a large rolling pin roll out the fondant until quite thin in a long rectangle that is at least as long and wide as your measurements. Use a sharp knife (or pizza cutter) to cut the rectangle to the required size.
In the middle section of the fondant at the bottom cut out a half circle that will be the open mouth area.around 6 cm at the biggest and tapering down to be 12cm wide.
Working quickly wrap the grey fondant around the cake and join it together at the back trimming off any overhang where the fondant joins. There should be around 1.5 cm overhand around the top of the cake which is where the brain will sit. It will act as a dam to hold the brain and raspberry sauce.
I placed some foil in a couple of spots to hold up the fondant while it dried. Press the fondant into the eye socket areas and around the mouth, leaving enough black showing for the teeth to be inserted later. Make sure that the fondant covers the bottom of the cake evenly and no ganache is showing. Press around the nose area, using the cake decorating tool press in the nostrils until you are happy with the shape. Add an indent with the back of the cake tool in the middle of the nose. The truffle mixture underneath should have a little give at this stage and you can still move it around a little to get your desired shape.
Mix a small amount of the grey fondant with a little water to make a thick paste. Place a little paste onto the eye area and press in the eyes. If they are a little big, quickly remove them and trim until you are happy with the size.
Roll out a small amount of fondant and roll as thin as possible to make eyelids. Cut to shape and press onto the eyes covering the top half, using a cake tool smooth the edges as much as possible in the corners to make the join look as seamless as possible. Don't stress too much about the top it will be covered with the eyebrows.
Take another piece of fondant and shape it into a long log. Use a little more of the fondant mixed with water to 'glue' this log into place. Use the cake decorating tool to shape the log into an eye brow. I made an indent on each side just above the nose and then used the sharp side of the tool to make long shallow strokes in the fondant to look like hair. Place a food safe item between the eye and brow to hold in place while it dries (I used some folded foil).
Make more long shallow 'hair' indents in the fondant around the cheek area. Then use the same technique using shorter strokes to give the lips texture.
Using a brush paint on a very sheer small amount of white food color to the lip, upper cheek (under the eyes) and middle brow area.
Allow to dry for a while until the fondant is firm to touch.
Step 6: Hand Paint Face Details
Optional - paint of some edible glaze to the eyes to make them shiny. I mixed my glaze with some black food color to give it a deep look.
Use a another brush to paint in the nostrils and the eyelid area with black food color. Take a very thin (eg 00) brush and carefully paint in the long shallow indents you have made around the eyebrow area.
Take a large full brush and add black dusting powder to the cheek areas, similar to the way you would apply makeup blush. I added some black dusting powder around the eye areas and nose center as well.
Mix a very small amount of ivory color with white and paint around the teeth to give a decayed look.
Roll out a very thin rope of grey fondant. Add to the very edge of the eyelid where it meets the eye.
If mud cake and ganache have been used the cake can be made to this stage up to 3 days before serving stored in a cardboard box at room temperature. Do not store in an airtight container or in the fridge.
Step 7: Make the Jelly Brain
I made the jelly - jello very firm so it would hold during slicing if you prefer you can omit the extra gelatine and or add more liquid for a wobblier version.
Pour 2 packets of jelly - jello (I used one grape and one raspberry) into a large bowl with 3 teaspoons of powdered gelatine.
Add one cup of boiling water and mix well until all the crystals are dissolved.
Add 1 cup of evaporated low fat milk and mix gently until combined.
Spray the brain mold with a little oil and pour the jelly into the mold. I checked on the cake to see how large the brain cavity would be and only filled the mold up to that spot which was around half filled - I didn't quite use all the jelly mixture. Pop in fridge until required.
It is best to make the Jelly the night before serving to ensure it will be set for the final step.
Step 8: Insert Brain, Add Sauce and Serve
To serve, unmold the jelly - jello and place in the 'brain' cavity of the cake.
Pour a little raspberry sauce over the top of the brain.
Optional - If you will be adding fairy floss hair work quickly to brush on a small amount of edible glue (make glue by mixing a little tylose powder with water) to the edge of the eyebrows and cheek area. Separate the fairy floss as much as possible, cut to length with scissors and gently press onto the edible glue. Serve immediately.