Introduction: Skull Cake With Hovering Beer Can, or More Accurately a “Skoll” Cake!
This cake was made as a Birthday Cake for a Swedish friend who had told us about the Swedish “Skoll” toast. She explained that it originated from the Viking habit of drinking from the skulls of their vanquished foes! Hence forth at any gathering she attends we always make a "Skoll" toast! So naturally, this seemed like the obvious choice of cake to make for her.
Step 1: Bake!
I wanted to make the cake approximately life size, so made it a three layer cake to get the height. Bake your cake according to your favourite recipes! I chose to make a chocolate sponge sandwiched between layers of coconut sponge.
While the cake is baking, find reference for the skull on the internet, I recommend a side and front view.
Step 2: Stack and Begin to Whittle!
Stack the layers together and fill with your favourite cake filling! I made a chocolate mascarpone filling.
Put filling between the layers of cake but not too deep as a thicker filling runs the risk of shifting and distorting.
Using a sharp long knife cut vertically down from the top of the stack to cut out the shape of the skull, remember that you need to allow for the widest parts of the skull, the sides, the brows, the top of the nose and front of the top jaw.
Step 3: Filling, Chilling and More Whittling!
Cover with plastic wrap and put the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill, this will make the carving far easier!
When the cake is chilled, begin to carve. Go slowly using a sharp knife, I find a sharp serrated knife works well.
Take your time and carve the forms of the skull, I started at the top, carving away the round shape of the top of the skull, and then began to round off the sides and back.
Be sure to frequently check your reference, seeing what needs to come off next and slowly move toward the shape you want.
Step 4: More Carving.
Carve out the slope of the brow, slowly refining the shapes.
Again, be sure not to rush or try to take away too much cake at once. You can see from the mess that I am shaving off very small amounts at a time!
If the cake becomes a little too crumbly to carve easily, return it to the fridge for another 20 minutes to firm it up.
Continue to cut away the cake until you have a skull shape.
Now cut off the top of the skull, and set it aside.
Step 5: Carving the Eyes and Nose
Carve the eye and nose holes, again go slowly, refer to your reference.
Remember the icing will go on top, so you need it to be slightly smaller than life in order to get the proportions right after the icing has been added.
Step 6: Icing
I confess I bought ready made fondant icing to cover the cake, It is easy to use and saves al lot of time!
Roll out thin disks of fondant icing about 3 inches in diameter and almost as thin as you can. brush on some jam (I used apricot jam) coating the eye and nose cavities and then press the icing into the cavities, (the jam helps the icing to stick to the cake)
Carve out a small area of the top of the skull to form the base of the 'bowl' of the skull. and coat with jam.
Cover with a disk of icing, approximately 8 inches in diameter, pressing it firmly into the shape of the 'bowl' and trim the excess off the sides.
Step 7: Drape Icing Over the Whole Cake.
Roll out a larger disk of icing, approximately 14 inches in diameter, and as thin as you can, while still being able to support its weight without tearing. Lay it over the whole cake.
Step 8: Modelling Details
With the icing draped over the cake press the icing into the forms of the skull cake.
Expect the icing to tear as you press it into the eyes and nose, (which is why I put some in these areas first!) You can use your finger to smooth the joins.
With standard modelling tools or a teaspoon handle if you don't have them, start working details into the icing. Be sure to refer to your reference for the details. observe where the bones of the skull have knitted together forming the characteristic cracks, and using a toothpick, score the icing to simulate them.
For the check bones, I rolled out a thin tube of icing and connected it to the main body of the skull, blending the join, You may need to have another small blob of icing support the cheek bone until it hardens.
For the teeth, simply shape small blobs of icing into tooth shapes and press them into position.
Step 9: Painting.
I allow a few hours for the icing to harden a little before I begin to paint the cake.
I used an airbrush to carefully spray layers of colour to build up the shading. I used vodka to thin the colour, it works better than water as it evaporates faster and doesn't run.
If you don't have an airbrush you can get powdered food colouring that you apply dry with a brush. You can get very effective results, and it is probably easier to control!
Step 10: Putting the Cake Together
I added a rim to the top of the cake. I thought it made it look a little more medieval!
Step 11: Making the Floating Can.
I put an apple into an old plastic container to act as a counterweight to the can. Put the wood skewer through the top and into the apple.
Drill a hole in the empty beer can, just under the rim and place the can onto the skewer to test it's position and balance.
Step 12: Making the 'beer'
I used caramelised sugar to simulate the beer pouring out of the can,
Take about 100g of caster sugar and put it in a shallow frying pan and leave it on the heat until it begins to melt.
When the sugar is completely liquid, and a golden brown colour, remove the can and skewer from the plastic container (and apple)
Pour a little of the molten sugar into the can. Warning! Extreme caution should be take when working with molten sugar! Use oven gloves!
Step 13: Fishing the 'pouring' Beer!
Using an oven glove to hold the now hot can, tilt it and re-insert the skewer into the container and apple, now carefully tip the whole assembly, place the container flat on the counter. The molten sugar will pour out over the skewer, support the can (with your oven glove still on!) so that all the sugar is drained from the can, leaving just enough to help support the connection of the can to the skewer once it hardens!
With the can now hovering, continue to dribble molten sugar down the skewer with a spoon, until the 'beer' looks the way you want it to!
when the sugar has completely cooled, carefully break away the excess from the bottom, and remove the skewer from the apple and the plastic container.
At this point I refrigerated the cake until it was time to take it to the party!
Step 14: Assemble Your Cake!
I used whipped cream to fill the 'bowl' of the cake to simulate the foaming beer.
Slide the skewer into the cake at the angle that make the can look like it is pouring into the cake!