Why settle for a boring pan-moulded, 2 dimensional cake design when you can have a beautiful 3D bunny as the centerpiece for the party? I've provided step-by-step instructions on how to create your own delicious cake that's perfect for Easter, your favourite 2 year old's birthday, or "bow down to our leporine overlords day". You can use the same basic construction methods to create a number of different cake styles later on.
Step 1: Make a Plan
First you'll need a sketch or drawing of what you want to accomplish. Try to get the proportions as accurate as possible so you won't drive yourself crazy trying to get it to turn out just right.
In this case I'm planning on 4 layers, with each layer being a 9x13 cake. The ears and tail are add-ons that I'll apply separately.
Step 2: Clean Your Workspace!
The first rule of cooking anything is to keep your workspace clean. It helps to have a kitchen island that you can use to keep everything orderly. Spray it with a kitchen-type cleaner, and wipe it down several times with a clean cloth to ensure a clean surface.
Step 3: Preheat the Oven
You'll need to preheat the oven so that when you put the cakes in they will begin to cook right away. Turn on your oven to the temp specified in your recipe. I also use an oven thermometer to ensure that the temp I set on the dial is what I actually have on the inside.
Your oven rack should be in the center for even baking.
Step 4: Assemble Your Supplies
Since this cake is intended for a 2 year old's birthday party I'm just using boxed cake mixes and tubs of icing from the grocery store. For an adult party, or just to be fancier, I'd make the recipe from scratch. Either way you'll need about the same quantity.
Everything should be at room temperature to ensure even mixing, so take the eggs out of the fridge about half an hour before you're ready to start.
Clean utensils and a good mixing bowl will also help to create a great finished product.
Step 5: Prepare Your Pans
Since I need to make four 9x13 cakes for this recipe, I'll use two pans and cook the cakes in two batches.
Even though I'm using non-stick pans I will err on the side of caution to make sure they will come out of the plan cleanly. If you don't have parchment paper (or the patience to use it) then you can skip this step.
First I traced around the bottom of the pan on a sheet of parchment paper and cut out a square for each pan, and for each recipe (4 in total).
Then I spray the pans with a good quality cooking spray.
Next line the pan with one of the parchment paper squares.
And then spray the paper.
This will allow the paper to be peeled off later and leave a nice smooth cake top to work with.
Step 6: Mix!
Follow the recipe instructions for mixing the first batch of cake batter.
Tip: Crack the eggs one at a time into a second bowl before adding it to your cake mix. That way if one egg is bad you can toss it without ruining your entire batch.
Step 7: Pour!
Once you have finished mixing the batter, carefully pour it into one of your prepared pans. Use the flexible spatula to get all of the mix out of the bowl.
Now use the spatula to push the batter around the pan, and especially out to the four corners. You need to have an even layer of batter in the pan to make a level cake.
Repeat for the second batch, in the second pan.
Step 8: Cook!
Once you have prepared two pans you'll need to quickly open the oven, put them inside, and close the door again.
WORK FAST! The longer the door is open the more the internal temp will drop, creating uneven baking. Make sure to space out the pans to allow for air/heat circulation.
Now set your timer for 10 minutes less than the minimum time called for baking in the recipe. No two ovens are the same, and you don't want to burn your cakes after all that work.
This recipe said 35-40 minutes to bake a 9x13 cake. Mine came out at 34 minutes (which was maybe a minute longer than I should have waited).
The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean. I used 3 toothpicks to test at different times, and then removed the cakes when they were done. Watch carefully, a minute here or there will make all the difference. You can see the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan, another sign that it is done.
Set the pans on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.
Then place a rack on top of the pan, flip it upside down and carefully lift off the pan. Your cake should drop out onto the cooling rack. If you used parchment paper you can peel it off now.
Step 9: The Assembly
Once you have baked all four cakes, and they have cooled to room temperature, you're ready to start the assembly. Attempting to assemble the cake while it is still warm will just melt the icing, not pretty.
Most times you will end up with a cake that has a slight hump, where the center is higher than the edges. If you do not remove this hump before assembly it will make the cake unstable and it won't be as solid when you go to carve it.
Using a long knife (or a cake leveler, which I purchased right after this project was completed), carefully slice into the cake at the same level as the edges, all the way around, and remove the hump. You can set it aside and sample it to ensure the quality of the product.
Apply a generous layer of frosting to the top of each layer before adding the next one.
I left the fourth layer uncut, since I wanted the hump to look more like the back of the bunny anyway.
Step 10: Carve Your Design!
Once your cake is assembled it's time to carve the design.
Crumbs are your enemy. They'll mess up your icing later on, and just make a huge mess. To combat the crumbs I wrapped the entire cake in plastic wrap and put it into the deep freezer for about 2 hours. It's not necessary but it helps.
Remember that plan you made before you started? This is where it comes in handy since you'll need to visualize the parts that you want to cut away while keeping the proportions correct.
Make the main cuts first. Determine where the head/neck will be located, the shape of the back, the legs, etc. Now refine your design and shape the details. Sharp knives will help the process.
Be conservative. You can always cut more later on but it will be difficult to add it back in.
Step 11: The Decorating!
It's time to decorate your creation.
Using a pastry bag (in this case some disposable bags with reusable tips), fold down the open end of the bag and hold it while you add a few spoonfuls of icing inside. Now twist the open end closed and squeeze until the icing starts coming out the nozzle tip.
Try to work quickly with minimal handling of the pastry bag. The heat from your hands will make the icing softer and more difficult to work with (especially if you're an idiot and chose the whipped style of frosting like I did).
In this case I used the larger nozzle tip and put "rosebuds" all over the bunny's body. I also left a few spots open and filled them with chocolate frosting using the same style of nozzle to create a spotted look.
A package of dark chocolate mini-eggs (the best!) provided the pink ones for the eyes and nose, and a fine-tipped nozzle with some chocolate icing added the details on the face/feet. A big marshmallow worked fine as a tail.
Step 12: The Ears!
It just wouldn't be a bunny without a pair of big ears, however making them out of cake is almost impossible with this design.
Instead, I used a piece of poster board and free-handed a nice shape for the ears. Then I filled in the center with a pink coloured pencil, and taped a clear straw to the back of each one.
It might be a good idea to insert the ears just before the party, as the moisture from the cake/frosting will slowly be absorbed by the poster board over time.
Step 13: You're Finished!
Here is a shot of the finished product, ears included.
It has enough sugar to bring down a charging elephant but that's what a birthday party is all about.
I know one very happy 2 year old.