Animated Halloween Cake




Create an animated Halloween cake using fondant, motors, cardboard, wire, toys, clay, Styrofoam, glue, paper, metal, lights you name it. This one we made for our daughters 2nd birthday since it is close to Halloween.

There are so many Halloween ideas out there. I made the mistake of looking online to see what people make for their Halloween decorations. Wow, so many great ideas out there. Took me a week of reading about other projects to finally give up and go back to our cake.

Video straight to the final product:

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Step 1: Planning

Be sure the attempt to sketch out what you want in the end. I find this most helpful to find flaws in my own plans and also easier to explain to anyone who volunteers to help me.

Step 2: Flying Crank Pepper's Ghost

The best part of the cake is the Flying Crank Pepper's Ghost in the haunted house window. The worst part of the cake, no one could see the awesome ghost in the window due to my bad design. Not many people were tall enough to lean over the cake to see in the window and those that were tall enough were too shy to do so. Doh. Ah next time. Have to give credit to the FCG's creator Doug Ferguson. I've also included the Pepper's Ghost effect to this. If you want to ruin the fun look it up. It's the same effect the Haunted Mansion uses at Disneyland. So if you want to ruin your vacation to Disney, look it up. The most difficult part of the FCG was finding a material that was light enough to bend on such a tiny ghost. I never did find one but I think the outcome was good enough. I tried shredded paper mache, feathers and a few materials. I finally settled on one white material that was the most heavy but still flexible. It didn't allow the elbows to bend like the other stuff but overall it looked better.We ended up adding fishing weights to the arms to pull them down when the string had slack. They could not be seen in the end product. The motor runs at 12 rpm which is a bit faster than I wanted but all I had to use. Gearing it added too much work. Once it was buried in the house you couldn't hear it at all. The reflective glass is a trimmed CD case slitted into the foamcore. I added a toy makeup desk behind the plastic so that the ghost had something to appear before. The green light fades in out out to make the ghost appear and disappear.

Here is my initial test before adjustment:

Here I've adjusted before adding the material to test:

Step 3: Jumping Spider

I also really like the jumping spider on the pumpkin. Very easy really. A 3 rpm motor with and spring piece of metal rotates below. The spider has a wire (rod) going down through the cake that lines up with the springy metal. There is a bracket that blocks the springy metal as the motor rotates toward the rod. Once the motor goes so far the spring finally pops off of the bracket and pops the spider’s rod which shoots him up. So he jumps about every 20 seconds.

In my haste I didn't get a picture of the underside of this mechanism despite hours of testing to make sure the jump was perfect.

Step 4: Misc Movments, Lights

I was able to recycle the dual mechanism I'd made for a previous cake to use on the moving tombstone and skeletal arm coming out of the ground. Just a little adjustment and voila! Only bad thing is the day before we added the fondant to the floor and the runny sugar ran down into the shaft that was pushing the tombstone stopping it. If you ever need to cement anything, use some raw glucose, holy cow. Took about a half hour to clean that all up and get it running again. Whew, I thought it was a gonner at first. The motors strip out so easy.

The coffin was really easy. Just a 30 rpm motor with an arm on it, added the shaft and add the skeleton arm. Took longer to make/size/cut/clue a pattern for the coffin. I refused to buy one even though you can easily find miniature coffins around. Had to add a quarter to the underside of the lid to keep it pull down to the hand. More fun to make than buy.

The bats and ghosts are just hooked straight to shafts hooked to motors. These were taken from kids Halloween rings. Very easy. It was more difficult to run the shaft up the tree but we got it no problem. Lili molded the witch flying around the middle house. Turned out really cute I thought. Again, hooked directly to a motor below the cake. The tree was originally going to be a Lemax spooky tree but it wasnt nearly big enough for what we wanted so we molded our own using Sculpy. Just wish I had thought of that ahead of time and added some glowing eyes. I did not have any tiny LEDs around the night we made that decision. Yep, I need to stock up on more junk, just in case.

Franky, Drac and the Mummy were picked up as a set at the dollar store, score!

Franky and Dracula move from a piece of wood moving back and forth below the haunted house. The door opens via string attached as well, closes due to and elastic strap behind the hinge. This was one of the worst ideas on the cake. There were better ways to do this but I wanted to try an œeasier way which turned out much less effective (and locked up halfway through the party). I even had some nice rollers I could have used but did not even use those. Never again I say!

We added the Mummy to a separate room using only an adjustable LED strobe kit. We used the coffin template from the graveyard for this coffin as well. Easy as can be.

Step 5: More Misc Junk

The 4 houses were baked with Wiltons house pan. It makes a decent base for a house. We wanted them to all look different. Lots of colored fondant.

The pumpkin patch is sunk so that we could add a chocolate cake here. We were hoping to hide a cake there so the entire ground looked the same. So, all of the ground is fondant. We also covered the haunted house with fondant to keep continuity with the other houses. The goal was to be a bit spookier but we really ran out of time the night before the party. BTW, the ground you see around the yard of the haunted house took 2 of us about 2 1/2 hours to make. Never thought it would take that long. The bushes that hide the purple lights are made from a sponge and painted to look like fall bushes. The hills that the graveyard and haunted house set on are foam used for walls. I glued together sheets of foam then cut with the band saw and final formed with a knife and sandpaper. Lili made all of the gravestones from clay. I used the scrap from this Styrofoam to make the pillars for the gargoyles. The small trees and pumpkins were also made from clay.

Most of stuff we made but we did cheat this time and bought some Lemax miniature stuff for lighting the streets around the town and the fence around the pumpkin patch and gargoyles (we made the pillars). The kids are actually Polly Pockets with their legs cut off to shorten them. Then Lili made costumes for each child for the Halloween celebration. With so much other junk to do for this party it really made it easier to buy some of the accessories (we decorated the yard as well). The skeleton in the coffin was ripped off of a Halloween straw. I think everything else we made on the cake, there was still a lot to do, really.

Crushed dreams. I really wanted to light a piece of frosted plexi/lexan above and to the right of the haunted house to look like a moon. To me that would have finished the cake. Was not to be, time ran out. Also wanted some chasing ghosts using a light and rotating disc (with ghost images cut in) coming from the haunted window against some mesh. That one did notmake it either but that is ok, I do not know how good that would look at a small scale anyway. Also some fog in the graveyard. We tried fog from dry ice and it gooified the fondant to a sticky mess. Must find a way around that next time.

There is about 12 pounds of fondant total on the cake. Most of it went uneaten but we wanted it all to look the same.



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    45 Discussions


    Question 10 months ago on Introduction

    What type of mechanism did you use for the flying bats/ghosts.?


    3 years ago

    I will never do that, just amazing. A lot of work here.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is by far THE best cake I've EVER seen!!! I'm very impressed to say the least.

    BRILLIANT! Its amazing!What a talent. Was it just you who did or or did you get help?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Oh man, I played through Portal and don't even remember that. Thanks, now I'll know next time.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    This was a triumph....
    I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.

    srrsly awesome instructable!

    (Those were the first two lines to the end credit song "still alive" in Portal)


    8 years ago on Step 3

    can you please put a video on here? just so i can see what it does and how it looks. I might make so i want to know how it will look like. you don't need to put a photo up. and will it work if i move some of it around?
    Thank you, tzq33tdq.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Wow i thought those kids in 4H did a good job... this is great

    This is very special! I have never seen an animated cake, although my dad animated just about everything in sight! Nice work!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I would love to do this for my nephews 1st b-day he was born on halloween and they are throwing a huge halloween party but the cake hasn't been decided...this looks amazing and I am planning this with a friend. When did you start on the cake?? the same day as the party?

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    We started 3 weeks prior with mechanics and such. All of the edible stuff, cake, fondant etc we did the night before the party.