Introduction: 'The Gingerbread Man' Cake
This Instructable documents how I made a fairy tale inspired cake for my niece's birthday. Like my first Instructable - https://www.instructables.com/id/Boxer-Dog-Wedding-Cake/ I hope this inspires someone to have a go at creating their own 3D cake.
The fairy tale I based this on is 'The Gingerbread Man' and depicts the moment before the gingerbread man meets his end. I decided to make the cake in the shape of the head of the fox and to make an actual gingerbread man for my niece who surprisingly, doesn't like cake.
Step 1: Make the Cakes - Part 1
I made three different flavoured cake but I will only be focusing on how I made the chocolate cake. This is my go-to recipe for cupcakes and I wouldn't normally use it for a 3D cake as it's not a firm cake but as I wasn't planning on doing any cake carving, I decided to use it.
This recipe made (2) 6" cakes so if you wanted to make the entire cake chocolate, you will need to make approx 2 1/2 times the recipe (any extra mix can be used to make some cupcakes). Depending on how many tins you have, you will probably need to bake these in batches. I used dariole tins for the 3 smaller cakes but you could use a cupcake/muffin tin instead.
• 80g butter, softened
• 280g caster sugar
• 200g plain flour
• 40g cocoa powder
• 1tbsp baking powder
• 1/4tsp salt
• 240ml whole milk
• 2 large eggs
Preheat oven to gas mark 5, 190°C.
Prepare tins by greasing and lining the bottoms with baking parchment.
Step 2: Make the Cakes - Part 2
Beat the butter and the dry ingredients together at low speed until thoroughly combined.
Step 3: Make the Cakes - Part 3
Whisk the milk and eggs (& vanilla extract, if using) together until combined.
Keeping the mixer on low, add around 3/4 of the milk mixture. Once combined, increase the speed to medium until you have a smooth consistency. Scrape sides of bowl as needed and add remaining milk mixture, still mixing on medium. Mix until it has all come together again.
Step 4: Make the Cakes - Part 4
Scoop or pour the cake batter evenly between the tins.
I baked my cakes for 20 minutes at gas mark 5 then turned the temperature down to gas mark 3 and cooked until a skewer came out clean which was approximately a further 40 minutes.
Remove from tins and cool.
The other cake mixes I used were vanilla and banana chocolate chip.
The vanilla is the same recipe as the chocolate minus the cocoa powder but with 240g plain flour.
The banana chocolate chip is the same as the vanilla but with the addition of two ripe bananas and a handful or two of chocolate chips.
The methods are the same. The bananas are mashed and stirred in after mixing just before pouring into the tins.
If you were to do the cakes exactly as I did them (chocolate, vanilla and banana) these recipes will give you extra mix (make cupcakes!) or you could halve the recipe if you wish but I believe it's better to have too much rather than not enough. I did 1 full recipe (chocolate) and 2 halved recipes (vanilla and banana) which was only just enough (no cupcakes for me!).
Step 5: Buttercream
I used a basic buttercream to sandwich and cover the cake which I then flavoured. The ratio for this recipe is 2:1 icing sugar to butter and then flavour to taste.
• 350g butter, softened
• 700g icing sugar
• A splash of milk
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 heaped tbsp smooth peanut butter
Beat the butter until pale. Add the icing sugar a little at a time while continuously mixing. Add the vanilla extract and the milk. I chose to make peanut butter buttercream so I then mixed in two (very) heaped spoonfuls of smooth peanut butter. Taste for flavour and consistency, adding more peanut butter or milk as required.
Top tip: if using an older make of mixer that doesn't have a lid/guard, wrap a tea towel around the back of the machine and sides of the bowl, this will help to contain some of the icing sugar dust cloud that invariably happens.
Step 6: Ganache
Ganache is very simple to make and only requires adding hot cream to chocolate and mixing to combine. The quantities vary slightly according to the intended purpose.
I used 2 parts cream to 1 part white chocolate (I made mine with 200g chocolate which was plenty)
Heat cream until just below boiling and pour onto broken/chopped up chocolate and stir until thoroughly combined. Chill.
Step 7: Stack the Cakes
Spread a blob of buttercream on your base board where you want your cake to be positioned. Grab your first cake and press it down onto the buttercream.
Spread more buttercream on top of the first cake and place the next cake on top. Spread another lot of buttercream on top of this cake. Because I used light, delicate cakes, I decided to add support for the top two layers so at this point I used drinking straws cut to the same length (level with top of the cake) inserted into the lower two cakes and stuck a board the same size as the cakes on top.
Apply buttercream to the the board and sandwich the remaining larger cakes on top.
Step 8: Shaping the Muzzle
The muzzle turned out to be a little problematic as my support system wasn't up to job, if I had used a firmer cake it may have worked but in hindsight I would probably have used homemade Rice Krispies treats or made a cake board with the muzzle shape included.
The muzzle was the only part I did some carving, shaping two of the smaller cakes so that muzzle was slightly angled up. These were pushed onto the straws that I used for support and buttercream.
Step 9: Crumb Coating
Using some of your buttercream, spread a thin layer over your cake to completely cover it. This is called crumb coating as it seals in any stray crumbs that may otherwise ruin your final finish.
This is where problems with my muzzle support started to show themselves as the cakes started falling away from the straws hence the extra emergency support in the second photo which was later replaced by strong clear acrylic.
Step 10: Adding Structure
To try and make things slightly easier for me, I decided to keep cake carving to an absolute minimum and do the shaping with icing. I used water to stick the icing to the cake.
I rolled out some chocolate flavoured rollout icing sugar into a long rectangle and used this to try and support the muzzle.
I added some more of the icing to the the sides of the muzzle to give the impression of the upper jaw.
I then rolled another length of icing to further define the front and underside of the muzzle.
Next I made some eyes from white icing and used some more of the chocolate icing to give the eyes more of an inset look.
Finally I rolled out some more chocolate icing to make the head slightly wider than the neck.
Step 11: The Ears & Nose
The ears were made from modelling chocolate which is simply melted chocolate mixed with liquid glucose, I have also made it with honey and golden syrup in place of the liquid glucose with good results. I had some left from a previous project so don't remember quantities so feel free to google recipes. You can also buy it readymade or use Rice Krispies treats instead.
Knead the modelling chocolate until workable then using reference photos, model two similar ears. I started by making a rough triangular shape, bringing two corners together and rolling over the top two edges. They don't have to be perfect as you can make them look better once they're attached to the cake. I just blended the edges of the modelling chocolate onto the cake to attach them.
The nose is a ball of chocolate flavoured icing made into an oval shape and then using a ball tool, indent the nostrils. This is then painted black with food colouring. You could use modelling chocolate if you prefer.
Step 12: Covering the Cake
Take your ganache and using a palette knife, spread it onto the cake, keep referring to your reference picture to see where the white fur is.
Take some more of your ganache, this time putting it into a bowl. You need to colour this ganache, I used powdered colours - orange, deep reds and brown to get a shade I was okay with.
Apply your coloured ganache to the cake. Using a small palette knife will help add texture.
Step 13: Covering the Board
Taking some of the remaining buttercream, I coloured half green and half blue. I covered the board in the green first and then put the blue on top and swirled them slightly to give the impression of water.
Step 14: Finishing Details
To finish the cake, colour some ganache brown. Use this for the insides of the ears and blend some into areas where you want some shading.
I painted the eyes with a very dark blue iris and black pupil. The mouth was painted with black food colouring.
More white ganache was applied to the edges of the ears.
The final thing was to place the gingerbread man on the muzzle. You can either use a shop bought one or make your own if you have a favourite recipe. I'm not including a recipe for mine as it was a new, untested recipe that I was not happy with (nowhere near gingery enough!) and won't be using again but did taste okay.
Thank you for reading this Instructable and I hope it inspires you to have a go. Feel free to ask any questions or make any suggestions or comments.