If you've seen one of those really cool cake molds (or maybe even own one) and thought "yes, but how do you decorate it?" then this post is for you! Once you get the strategy down, these gorgeous detailed cakes are no problem.
For this example, we'll make a gingerbread cake with orange glaze.
- Molded cake pan
- Cake batter
- Glaze icing
- Gel food coloring
- Paint brushes
- Sprinkles or other embellishments
Step 1: Bake the Cake
For this example I made a dragon cake using the beautiful mold from ThinkGeek, but the strategy will work for other high detail pans as well. There are tons out there!
First up, we need to bake a cake. You'll want to use a recipe that turns out firm. My family loves light fluffy sponge cakes, but that's not what you want here. Pound cake works, or anything suitably dense. For this one I made a gingerbread cake, using a slightly modified version of this recipe from Food Network.
Gingerbread Cake recipe
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup unsulphured molasses
- 4 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten with a fork
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray the cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, molasses, and crystallized ginger. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.
In another large bowl, whisk together the flour and spices. Whisk the molasses mixture into the flour mixture until evenly combined.
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Whisk the hot water into the batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. When cool, turn cake out onto plate or decorating tray. Let cool completely before continuing to the next step.
Step 2: Glaze the Cake (twice)
Next up, we will glaze the cake. Do this slowly and carefully to maintain all those beautiful details. You want the glaze to be thin enough to paint on, but not so thin that it will run or drip or pool.
Orange glaze recipe
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 2 tsp light corn syrup
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 4 - 8 tsp orange juice
In a medium bowl combine sugar, extract, corn syrup, and 4 tsp of orange juice. Stir until smooth. Add more orange juice 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.
You can spoon the glaze on and let it drip, but this can loose some detail, and be uneven. Instead, I recommend brushing the glaze on with a pastry brush. Do a first coat to seal it all up. Once that dries do another coat to turn it more white and even - this makes the painting easier. You may need to make a second batch of glaze (I did). Once it is dry, proceed to painting.
Step 3: Paint the Cake
Paint your cake with gel food coloring. You could probably use regular liquid food coloring, but it will take more coats to get vibrant colors and it may soften the glaze, making it hard to work with. I definitely recommend getting some gel colors. These are readily available online, at craft stores, sometimes even in the baking section of grocery stores.
Use a small paintbrush, dip straight into the gel and brush on. Take your time. As far as I know there's no white gel, so it's hard to undo a mistake. Get a base color on all sections and let dry. You can do a few coats to get the color you like as needed.
Step 4: Add Details ... and Done!
Once your first coat has dried, add details with a small brush and more gel coloring. You can also add in edible embellishments such as sprinkles, edible stars (like on the eggs here), edible glitter or luster dust (like on the spine here), or more icing. On this case I used sparkly gel icing on the eggs to make them stand out. You could also add more details with royal icing, gum paste, etc.
This is really fun and not as hard as it looks. Take your time and enjoy!
I really like the gingerbread and orange combo used here, but the consistency is more important than the particular flavors. Use what you like! This one is really good served a la mode - enjoy! <3