Intro: How to Make a Dragon Cake
For my child's 4th birthday, he wanted a dragon party. So I decided to make him a cake with a dragon on it. This was a REALLY impressive cake, that although time consuming, was not that difficult to do.
Note, I am not a professional baker, and i'm sure there are things I've gotten 'wrong'.. but that's one reason i did this instructable to show that you don't have to be a professional to attempt something cool!
You can see the original cake here (the dragon laying on top of the cake) and then a mini version I made with the leftovers, to document the how it was done. This technique could be used to make a full size dragon cake, or placed on top of an iced cake as I did. Of course, you don't have to make a dragon... there are lots of things that could be made with this technique.
And remember, you can always cheat and buy a storebought cake, then make the littler dragon version to go on top of it! Not including time to make the fondant or the cake mixture, the mini dragon that I did just for this tutorial took about 45 minutes. For a time reference, the big dragon cake took me all day basically, but that was baking all the cakes, plus cupcakes, plus making the icing... and i'd never done anything like this before!
From a cost perspective, this is really pretty inexpensive. No expensive ingredients (lots of cake mix, powdered sugar, and so forth), just the cost of your time!
So how's it TASTE??
Really yummy! The marshmallow fondant used for the dragon tastes much better than regular fondant to me. And the cake inside the dragon is rich and thick. Everything is edible.
If you are throwing a dragon party, you can also get invitations and thank you notes that match this dragon at my website (www.dabbled.org). They are free to download for personal use.
I'd love to see what the fabulously creative people on Instructables can do with this!
Inspirations and credit: The dragon is of my own design, based on my illustration, but I was inspired to put it on top of a cake by this cake on flickr. Bakerella's cake balls made me think of doing it out of cake ball material. Also, the site with the marshmallow fondant recipe was very helpful.
Step 1: Materials / Ingredients
For Base Cake: 2 layer cake, from mix, prepared as directed on box. Cream cheese icing.*
Of course, if you're in a hurry, a plain cake, pre-iced from the store will also work.
1 layer of cake (about 1/2 box from a typical quality cake mix, like Duncan Hines.) (I used the rest of the second box for cupcakes. I had some left over, so 1 layer was more than enough. I made the mini-dragon, shown throughout this tutorial, from what I had left over.)'
Approx 1-2 c cream cheese icing.
Marshmallow Fondant (1 batch is more than enough and can be made well in advance). I found this recipe easy to do, requires a few simple ingredients, and the resulting fondant is tasty and easy to work with. You could of course use store-bought fondant or another recipe, but this worked for me.
Food Coloring (I used a gel) to color the fondant.
Pastel Candy Corns (available around easter) or similar candy for horns, claws.
Silicon mat or Parchment paper
Thin cardboard or paper or styrofoam plate
White Modeling chocolate or 10 pieces of soft, moldable candy like light colored tootsie rolls or starburst. (For original dragon, I made the modeling chocolate, 1/2 of the recipe linked here, and prepared the steps associated with it in advance. It was not difficult, but for the mini-dragon, i just used tootsie rolls and it works almost as well, for much less work--though I doubt it's as tasty!)
Decorations: I used Malted Milk Eggs, Pastel Candy Corns
(You can use whatever you like!)
*Cream Cheese Icing:
My recipe - it's easy and yummy. For this project (cake, plus extra cupcakes, I made a double batch.
1 stick butter, softened.
1 pkg cream cheese (lower fat is fine, but not nonfat), softened
1 lb powdered sugar (aka: confectioners, icing sugar)
Beat butter, and cream cheese until smooth in your mixer. Slowly add powdered sugar on lowest speed, beat on med until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
or, you can just pick up 3 or more store bought jars
I guess you don't have to use cream cheese icing per se, but that's what worked for me.
Step 2: Prepare Your Cakes.
In my example, I use red-velvet cake for the dragon, and white for the base cake. I would actually recommend using a lighter colored cake for the dragon, in retrospect.
Crumble up one layer of cake into a large bowl.
Spoon in several large spoonfuls of icing. Continue mixing until icing is incorporated. Add additional icing as necessary. You're looking for a soft, moldable consistency, that sticks together. If you've ever made cakeballs, this is similar. You should be able to gently press your cake mixture into ball form, and it stick together.
If you've made your own base cake, ice the 2 layer cake with the cream cheese frosting.
Step 3: Building the "skull"
Since fondant does not hold shapes very well, I decided to build a base shape for the head, and just cover it with fondant. For my original cake, I used modeling chocolate, which I modeled into an approximate head shape in advance, and had stuck in the refrigerator, ready to go. (See Ingredients for instructions). For the mini-dragon, I 'cheated' and used pastel tootsie rolls (kneaded together into a ball) to build a stiff 'skull' and it seemed to work almost as well. Note, I used orange, but any light color will do, as it will be covered completely.
Whatever material you use, shape to your approximate head shape. Think of a skull, you'll leave indentations where you want the eyes to be, and bumps up for the nostrils. If it's a little soft, refrigerate to make it easier to work with.
This can be done ahead of time and refrigerated, and I'd recommend that.
Note: I'm not sure this is really necessary (you could probably skip this and use a technique similar to the next steps with cake under the fondant), but I found it to be the easiest way to get a nicely shaped head.
Step 4: Laying Out and Constructing the Dragon
Mark a sheet of parchment paper with a circle about the size of the top of your cake.
You'll use this to lay-out the dragon prior to placement on the cake.
Take a paper plate or cardboard and cut out a shape the approximate size you want the body section of the dragon to be. This will be used as a temporary base to hold your dragon body while you're covering it with the icing/fondant. Lay it out on your circle to ensure it fits nicely. You can place your head in the circle as well, and note where you'd like the tail to go.
Now the fun part!
Take a good sized handful of the cake, and pack it lightly into an oblong ball, using your base shape as a guide (Note, pictured here is the size of the smaller mini-dragon)
Step 5: Preparing the "skin"
The outside of the dragon is pretty much all rolled fondant.
For mine, I prepared the fondant (and even colored it) well in advance, just to save on added stress at the last minute.
If you're starting with white fondant, you'll need to color it.
I prepared about 1/2 as orange (with red/yellow food coloring gel).
then 1/3 of the remainder as blue, 1/3 green, and the rest white, just in case! (you only need a little white for this design)
Wear gloves or be prepared to get your fingers dyed a bit, as you knead the color into the fondant by hand. This will take a little while, but the fondant needs to be kneaded prior to rolling anyway.
(Note, for all of this step, refer to the marsmallow fondant directions at the linked recipe if you need more info. They have good tips and I found the instructions easy to follow.)
Start with your base color (in my case, orange).
On parchment paper or a silicone mat, take a ball of the kneaded orange fondant (rub with corn starch to avoid sticking) and roll to about 1/4 in thick. Your fondant should be in a oblong, large enough to drape over your body section with several inches to spare.
(Note, the picture below are from the smaller dragon, the larger dragon requires a larger circle.)
Step 6: Covering the Body.
Note: You have two options here.
You can ice the body with cream cheese icing prior to this step, or skip it. On the original, i did ice the body, but it was difficult, and though it may have added some smoothness (and did cover up my too dark cake), I'm not sure it was worth the effort.
For the second mini dragon, pictured here, I skipped the cream cheese icing and I think it looks about as good.
Place your cake body (on its base) on top of an upturned cup or something else that will hold it up in the air. You'll be using gravity to help you get a nice drape.
Drape the fondant circle over your cake ball, and smooth.
Lift the body, turn over.
Remove the base.
Tuck the sides of the body under (but leave where the neck and tail should go, untucked.) See photos.
Place it back on your layout circle.
Note - photos are of small sized dragon.
Step 7: Cover Head.
Since you already have your skull shape, the head is easy.
With a small circle of rolled fondant, drape over the head and wrap under, trimming excess. Leave where the head will connect with the neck untucked for now. Press lightly so any details and ridges from your skull are visible.
Lay it back out on your circle with the body, and plan your neck and tail.
(Note, photo is small size dragon)
Step 8: Build the Neck, Tail
Now figure out what you'll need for the neck and the tail.
For the larger dragon, I repeated steps 4-6 with long to make a neck and tail that was filled with cake.
For the smaller dragon, I just shaped some of the excess fondant from the body and head into a neck, and added a rolled up piece of fondant for the tail. The places where they join will be covered in strips of a different color, so the joints don't have to be super neat.
See the pictures for more info.
Then cut strips of your other fondant colors, and cover the joints. Drape over, trim off excess, and tuck ends under.
PS, save the scraps from the strips, you can use them in the decorating later.
Also note, the smaller dragon could be worked with on a plate and then transferred to the cake. I built the larger one on the actual cake, which was a little more difficult, but I didn't want to mess it up in transferring it. If you build yours on the cake, don't worry too much about messing up your base icing--you will a bit--, we'll clean it up at the end.
Step 9: Face & Eyes
Eyes (see pics):
Ball of white fondant.
Smaller ball of colored fondant. (green in example)
Small balls of skin colored fondant (orange here)
Place green ball in center of white ball, and press together.
Flatten the orange fondant as shown, with your fingers. press onto the top of the ball. this is the eyelid, and will show partially when you place it on the head.
You can play around with the placement of the eyelid and eyeball for different looks. If you cover part of the green with the orange lid, he'll look sleepier.
Press into the 2 eye indentations in the head.
Mouth - use a toothpick to carefully press in a line for the mouth (see pics). Use a straw to press in the curved cheek line.
Nostrils - use the end of a chopstick or something similarly rounded to press in where the nostrils should be.
Step 10: Add Arm and Leg
You're now in the decorating stage, and you can do this stuff in any order you like. I think it's probably best to put your arm and leg on first, though you'll note in the pictures I had already done some decorating that will be covered in the next step.
The arm and leg are somewhat trial and error. Don't worry if they look a little funny, they can always be somewhat obscured by the eggs. And you may want to place your dragon on the cake to do this, if you haven't already.
Cut off the tips of 6 or so candy corns, they make nice claws!
Leg: Make a small cake ball, and wrap with fondant. Place on to the dragon's side, next to tail.
Model fondant into an approximate foot shape (basically a flat triangle, with toes). Insert claws into the toes. Tuck the foot under your leg ball.
Arm: Model fondant into a cylinder for the arm. Spit into two or three 'fingers' and add claws to the end. (See picture)
Stick end to body, close to the neck.
Optional, place the claws of the hand on a malted milk egg! It gives extra dimension and covers up flaws with the hand.
Step 11: Add Spikes, Spots, and Wings!
Cut the ends off of more candy corns. (I found they didn't stick well if you tried to leave them whole)
Attach a scrap ball of fondant to to the cut end, and stick onto your dragon. I did the head and down the back, but be creative!
Note: If's its going to be a few days before you serve this, you may want to hold off on placing the spikes until the day of serving. I noticed the candy corn got a little soft, maybe because it got too warm)
Cut an approximate wing shape (see pics for the general shape) out of rolled fondant.
Attach a toothpick as shown in the picture. Smooth wing shape as necessary
Press the toothpick through the "skin" of the back at an angle, so the wing sticks up.
(For the back side of the dragon, i just stuck on the wing, so it hung down the back of the cake, no 3D effect)
Using a large straw (like a big one from McDonalds), or something else circular, cut out circles, then stick them to the sides of the dragon whereever you like. I used a melon baller to cut out larger circles on the larger dragon.
Step 12: Final Decorating Steps..
If you're dragon is not yet on your cake, you need to carefully transfer it over there.
If he is on your cake, you probably need to clean up your icing a bit. I used a piping bag (or a plastic bag with a hole cut in the corner) to pipe icing around the edge of the cake and the dragon, to hide any sins, or areas where i had disturbed the base icing during decorating.
If you're going for the dragon egg look, place malted milk eggs in the center.
I also did a ring of pastel candy corns around the bottom for a spiky look. But use your imagination!
Cover and place in a cool room, but do not refrigerate (fondant doesn't look good after refrigeration).
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and it's inspired you to go create something cool of your own!
I also did cupcakes to go with this (it was a big party!) with extra malted milk "dragon eggs" on top.
If you're having a dragon themed party, you might be interested in my other dragon themed party stuff.