Intro: Chocolate-Filled Starry Night Layer Cake
Here is my Instructable for this awesome Starry Night-inspired cake. I used a delicious Crazy Chocolate Cake recipe paired with a chocolate raspberry filling. The directions for decorating are not meant to be followed exactly, instead feel free to change things around as much as you want. I hope you enjoy!
Knives or spoons
Electric mixer, with whisk attachment
A bowl for the cake batter and one for the icing
Ingredients for recipes, see steps 1 - 3 and 5
Food Coloring, I used green, yellow, blue and purple
Paintbrush for food only
4 piping bags
Icing tips, some rounds ones and a star
Small zip lock bag
I recommend having an image of the real painting nearby for reference.
Step 1: Bake the Cakes
First, combine dry ingredients.
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tp salt
Then add the wet ingredients on top. (Picture 3)
- 3 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp vinegar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups cold water
It's completely normal to see bubbles. This is because of the baking soda and vinegar chemical reaction. The extra bubbles make the texture of the cake very good, but it also means the sooner the cakes get in the oven, the better.
I separated the batter into 2-8 inch round pans and 3-6 inch round pans. Bake in a 350 degree oven. The smaller ones took about 15 minutes, but the bigger ones took about 30.
Step 2: Make Icing
This is my usual buttercream icing. There is no exact science to it; I did my best to come up with a recipe for you but you may need to make adjustments.
1. Start with 1-2 cups (closer to 2 for this cake) butter and shortening combination. I used about a 1:1 ratio, but this is one of those things that is based more on personal preference.
2. Whip the butter and shortening together with a whisk attachment until it becomes light and fluffy (2nd picture).
3. Add and mix in well the following:
- 1-2 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla to taste
- Few sprinkles salt to taste
4. Stir in sifted powdered sugar a little bit at a time until you get the consistency that you want. Sifting is not necessary however it adds to the light consistency of the frosting. Be sure to mix well between additions.
Once it's thick enough to hold its shape, but not so thick that piping is impossible, you're done!
Step 3: Colors!
For my icing I did 5 different colors. Here is how I did my colors; go ahead and be creative. A pink version Starry Night? Why not!
Brown can be a bit tricky. I started with about 1/2 cup of white icing and stirred in a heaping tablespoon of cocoa power. Put some more brown or black food coloring to establish the color. The cocoa powder will thicken the icing so add just a dribble of milk to counteract it.
I had two separate bowls of yellow. For both of them start with a paler shade. In one of them put in few more drops of gel coloring but don't stir it in all the way, making a marbled effect. This didn't come through as well in the piping as I would have liked so just making a darker color is fine too.
I also had two different shades of blue. I made a smaller amount of pale blue and a very large amount of dark blue. It is extremely difficult to get a very dark color blue. I used a good amount of blue gel color, but I still didn't like it. I found that some purple or black helped to deepen the color.
Step 4: Color Striping
For the brown icing I added a green streak of color to add to the detail on the cake. This step is completely optional but I think it gives it that something extra. You will need a coupler for all 4 colors; please don't forget them.
1. I used a tall glass to hold the piping bag in place while I did the stripes.
2. Use a paintbrush (one that is only used for food) to paint some green stripes inside the bag all the way to the bottom.
3. Shove some brown icing into the bag. You should be able to squeeze it down to the end just like normal.
I also did a two-toned effect with the pale blue and yellow. It is not pictured but it fairly simple.
1. Hold the bag in place with the glass again and spoon some yellow icing into about half the bag.
2. Do the same with the blue.
3. As you start to squeeze the icing out try to keep the colors even so you don't just have one color for a while
Also, get a bag of the darker blue and the darker yellow ready.
Step 5: Making Filling
The filling that I made is very easy. The base is chocolate pudding cups. Adding the jam takes away that distinctive pudding cup taste, so unless you say, no one will never know.
- 2 Chocolate pudding cups
- 4 tbsp raspberry or another jam
- Some mini chocolate chips or shredded chocolate never hurts
- A pinch of salt helps to bring out the flavors
Stir these ingredients together well being sure to eliminate any lumps.
Step 6: Assembling the First Layer
To start out, first make sure all your cakes are relatively flat on top. It's fine if they aren't perfectly level, but trim down any large rounded surfaces.
Using the dark blue and a coupler, pipe a ring around the edge of one of the 8 inch cakes. Mine is not at all neat, but do your best. This will act as a wall to hold in the filling. Spoon some into the center and spread it out. It should only come about halfway up the blue wall.
Place the second cake on top, making sure to center it and keep the filling inside.
Using an angled spatula, spread icing on the top and the sides. Don't worry about the top surface too much; it'll get covered up. Do spend some work making the edges neat. I found putting my knife in warm water and going from the outside edge toward the center really helped with a neat corner.
Step 7: Assembling the Second Layer
Place the first of your 6 inch cakes on top of the other iced ones. Make sure it is centered; it really looks funny if it isn't.
Pipe the ring around the edge and add the filling like we did on the first cake. Put the second cake on top of that and repeat, finishing off with the third cake
As I was icing them, these layers kept sliding around. I poked a lollipop stick into the center to hold everything in place.
Ice these layers just like normal. It's okay if the join between the two cakes isn't perfect; we can do a simple border to cover this up.
Step 8: Trees and Stars
Finally we get to start piping! I have all the instructions for how I decorated my cake. Go ahead and change it up as much as you want.
For the trees along the bottom edge I used the brown piping bag with a small round tip. I used a Wilton #6 but anything about that or smaller is good. I outlined the tree on both sides first then filled it in, moving from bottom to top. I also put some smaller ones next to and on the main tree. I had a 2-3 inch gap between all of my trees.
I also put a star design between each of my trees. I used my blue and yellow bag with a star tip (#16) and put a star dot in the center. I switched to a round tip (#4) and did 4 little curved lines surrounding the star in a circle. Then I piped swirls around the center circle going out to the edges.
Step 9: Star Border
Put that star tip back on the blue and yellow icing. I just did a basic star border along the join between the layers. To make a dot, apply pressure to create the dot, then release pressure before pulling away. Keep repeating this all the way around to hide any seams that didn't turn out right.
Step 10: Moon Design
For the moon design on top I first used a round cookie cutter to make a light imprint in the icing for the shape of the moon. I had a small amount of pale yellow leftover, I put this in a Ziploc bag and cut off very fine corner. I used this yellow and the circle imprint to trace the shape of the crescent moon. Just leave out a C shape, like a bite, from the circle and you should have a nice crescent.
I used more of the yellow to make the curved lines coming away from the moon. As they come out further make them slightly longer and more spread apart.
Come back with the darker yellow and fill in some of the gaps close to the center with more curved lines; bring some out further, but not all the way to the edge.
Finally, take the blue/yellow bag with a round tip and fill in even more gaps. The blue, however, is opposite the yellow; don't have as many towards the center and make them closer together around the edge.
Step 11: Hills
Next, I made some hills. Using the brown icing with a slightly thinner tip, I outlined some hills around the second layer, coming up about halfway. They don't have to be perfect; they can easily be covered up. Use a picture of the real Starry Night for reference on the shape of the hills.
Also, make some streaks of brown coming partway down the hill. Use some yellow/blue and come all the way down. I left some gaps between these, but that is optional.
Step 12: Swirls
For a more finishing touch, Make some spirals all the way around above the hill. Start each spiral just underneath the previous one and come up slowly and down into a spiral. I found the more gradual the slope from the start to the top of the spiral the better it looks. I put another row on the little ledge between the layers.
Step 13: Polka Dots and Finishing
For the very last details, add some yellow polka dots. I did mine around the trees and above the spirals. It just adds an extra bit of detail. Another thing I might try is sugar pearls.
And there you have it! I hope that you had fun and that this cake was relatively easy to make. Let me know what you thought in the comments. Any recommendations are welcome, and remember to vote!