"The Bone Collector" Stacked Skull Cake




Introduction: "The Bone Collector" Stacked Skull Cake

About: Hands-on DIY lover and borderline crazy crafter. I love Halloween and creepy food.

This cake is a true feat of engineering, balance, and patience and is going to take you at least 12 hours. Trust me, never before have I said this and so truly meant it…with this cake, the devil is absolutely in the details.

And yes, because this is the number one question I've gotten with this cake so far...EVERY SKULL ON THIS CAKE IS 100% EDIBLE...and delicious, I might add.

Rather than give you a long drawn out intro story, let’s just jump into this beast and start baking.

To make the Bone Collector stacked skull cake you will need ALL these ingredients in total (I'll break each section down here even further, but to get you started...this is what you need):

  • 5 bags of white chocolate candy melt
  • cocoa powder
  • vodka
  • 1 box red velvet cake
  • 1 box chocolate cake
  • Eggs
  • Sour Cream
  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 boxes of chocolate pudding
  • 3 cans of fudge frosting
  • 8 Cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar (divided into 2 4-cup piles)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 Cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup Caramel syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Chocolate syrup
  • 1/4 cup Corn syrup
  • 2 packets of unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cool water
  • Red food coloring

You're also going to need:

  • Crow skull mold
  • Small sized human s kull mold
  • food safe paint brush
  • 1 9" cake pan
  • 1 8" cake pan
  • 1 6" cake pan
  • 1 4" cake pan (I used this set from Wilton and added in one additional 9" pan I had in my pantry already)
  • 2 8" cardboard cake rounds
  • 2 6" cardboard cake rounds
  • 1 1'X1' foil covered wooden cake board (I used a piece of 3/4" wood for this)
  • 10 4" cardboard sucker sticks
  • Rolling pin
  • Microwave safe squeeze bottle with a narrow tip

Step 1: Start Collecting Your Bones!

The first thing we need to do is make the chocolate skulls. These are labor intensive and will take you a good few hours so do these ahead of time by at least a day, if not longer. I started working on them about a week ahead of time, knocking out 2 or three a day until I had 12 crow skulls and 8 human skulls cast.

From our master ingredient list, you will need:

  • 5 bags of your white candy melt (save 2 cups for use later)

You'll also need:

The crows are solid cast, the human skulls are hollow.

To make your skulls, heat up your white candy melts, a bag at a time, using either a small chocolate pot, a double boiler, or by microwaving in your microwave for 30-second burst and stirring between each zap.

To make your crow skulls, simply fill your mold up to the top, gently tap to release any bubbles, and then pop into your freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up.

To make your human skulls, the process is almost exactly the same. Fill each mold to the top with melted white chocolate, then turn upside down and allow the excess chocolate to drip back into your pot. You just want a layer of white in your mold.

If you want, you CAN make them solid, but be aware, they're going to be massively heavy and will quite possibly crush your cake. I strongly suggest making them hollow.

Pop these into your freezer right next to your crow skulls for about 10 minutes, then repeat the process again so you have two layers of white chocolate inside your human skull mold.

Carefully unmold your skulls and set them aside in a cool, dry space until you are ready to move onto your next step.

Ultimately, you're going to need to end up with 12 crow skulls and 8 human skulls. Of course, why stop at 12? If

you're feeling ambitious, why not make these Nevermore cupcakes next?

Step 2: Making the Bones Look Old

Now it's time to age our skulls.

From our master list you will need:

  • cocoa powder
  • vodka

You'll also need a food-safe paintbrush.

Using a splash of vodka and cocoa powder, paint each skull (using your food safe paint brush) with a wash of brown.

Gently blot this with a paper towel. This will thin the color down and make it look like it's been naturally aged.

Repeat this step with all your crow skulls and human skulls.

Step 3: Bake Me a Cake (or 4)

Now let's move onto the cakes.

You're going to need:

  • 1 box red velvet cake
  • 1 box chocolate cake
  • Eggs
  • Sour Cream
  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 boxes of chocolate pudding
  • 3 cans of fudge frosting

You're also going to need:

  • 1 9" cake pan
  • 1 8" cake pan
  • 1 6" cake pan
  • 1 4" cake pan
  • 2 8" cardboard cake rounds
  • 2 6" cardboard cake rounds
  • 1 1'X1' foil covered wooden cake board (I used a piece of 3/4" wood for this)

Follow the directions on the back of each box of cake but make the following substitutions:

Replace the water in the recipes with heavy cream.

Match the requirement for oil with an equal amount of sour cream.

Add an additional egg.

Add in 1 box of chocolate pudding to each cake mix.

This will make your cake thick, rich and dense which means it will be better able to hold up under the weight of everything we're going to put on top of it.

Divide your batters into your cake pans. I broke it down like this (but feel free to adjust however you want your cake to break down):

  1. 4" pan - Red velvet
  2. 6" pan - chocolate fudge
  3. 8" pan - chocolate fudge
  4. 9" pan - red velvet

Bake your cakes at the temperature according to the directions, but be aware that with the added liquid, they will take longer to fully cook. Mine took an additional 20 minutes.

Once they're baked, allow to fully cool before removing from the pans and leveling the tops with a serrated knife.

After they're cool, I like to pop them into the fridge for at least an hour to cool even further.

Carefully slice each layer into half widthwise and apply a thick layer of your fudge frosting and then replace the top layer, creating a sandwich of fudge between the layers of your cake.

Apply a blob of fudge to the center of the following cake round sizes and adhere to the corresponding cake layers:

  • 1 8" cardboard round to the bottom of your 8" cake
  • 1 6" cardboard round to the bottom of your 6" cake

At this time, you should also glue your 9" cake to the center of your foil covered 1'X1' wooden cake board.

You will NOT be putting a cardboard round on the bottom of your 4" cake layer.

Crumb coat all of your cake layers with a thick, smooth coating of your fudge frosting and put back into the fridge for at least an hour to really firm up.

Step 4: Sweet Sweet Fondant

While that's cooling, we'll make our marshmallow fondant.

For the fondant you will need:

  • 4 Cups of your powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 Cups miniature marshmallows
  • 2 Cups white candy melts

You'll also need additional powdered sugar for dusting your workspace.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt your marshmallows with your lemon juice, cooking them in 15-second bursts and stirring between each cooking.

When they are smooth and melted, add in your candy melts. Continue to cook in the microwave in 15-second bursts until all the candy melts are melted and mixed in.

Slowly pour the liquid candy into your powdered sugar, mixing as you go until you achieve a thick, dough-like paste. When you are unable to stir the mixture any longer using a wooden spoon, turn out onto a surface liberally dusted with powdered sugar and knead until smooth and pliable.

Roll out your fondant until it is 1/4" thick and use this to cover each of your cake layers.

You should have some extra left over. Using this, carefully cover the following unused cardboard cake rounds with fondant:

  • 1 8" cardboard cake round
  • 1 6" cardboard cake round

Step 5: Whip It Real Good

Now let's start assembling our cake! You'll need some royal icing to help stick it all together.

From your master ingredient list you will need:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whip your egg whites and vanilla until frothy. Gradually add in your powdered sugar and mix on medium until shiny and well combined. Turn the speed of your mixer up to high and whisk for 5-7 minutes or until your icing is stiff and forms glossy peaks.

Transfer your icing to a piping bag.

Starting with your two smallest cake layers (The 4" and 6"), pipe a blob of royal icing into the center of the 6" layer and place your 4" layer on top of the blob. Press down gently but firmly to adhere the two layers together.

Now, using your royal icing as glue, adhere one of your chocolate human skulls to the top of the 4" cake and space 5 of your crow skulls evenly around the edge of your 6" cake. I also used a bit of royal icing to hide the seam between the two cakes where they meet. Set it aside and allow the royal icing to set up.

Moving onto the next layer (8"), we're going to first add some structural support to help make sure the cake doesn't get crushed. Push 5 support rods (I used sucker sticks) into your cake through the fondant in a circular pattern, making sure that they're at least one inch in from the outer edge. Follow the diagram I have provided here for the best results.

Snip off the top of your sucker sticks so they are flush with the top of the cake.

Use a blob of royal icing to glue the fondant covered 6" cardboard cake round to the top of your 8" cake, covering all your sucker sticks.

Arrange three of your human skulls and three of your crow skulls on the top of your 8" cake. Again, use the royal icing to glue them down and set aside to harden.

Repeat this exact step with your 9" cake layer using the last fondant covered 8" cardboard round as your support for your remaining 4 crow and 4 human skulls.

Side note: I had 6 white chocolate bones left over from another project and just added them on as additional decoration. They do not provide any structural support and were simply a way for me to use up some extra chocolate.

Step 6: Time to Stack Those Bones!

Now it's time to start stacking our cakes but first, some good real-world advice!

Because this cake is so damn heavy, I strongly suggest not assembling it until you're almost ready to serve it...and ideally at the location where you plan on serving it. I made this cake at home, drove it to my office in the separate layers, and assembled it there. Trust me...this is the way to do it.

Place a generous blob of royal icing on top of the highest part of each of your 4 human skulls on your 9" round. Gently place your 8" cake layer on your skulls, centering it over the center of the layer beneath it.

Repeat with your 6" layer, making sure each layer is level and centered. Add additional icing as glue to help stabilize where you need.

Now, walk away for at least half an hour...let the royal icing harden and set. If you try to move the cake before then, you run the risk of it toppling over. Let the icing set!

We'll use this time to make our caramel mocha blood gel.

From your master list of ingredients you will need:

  • Red food coloring
  • 1/4 cup Caramel syrup
  • 2 T Chocolate syrup
  • 1/4 cup Corn syrup
  • 2 packets of unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cool water

In a pan, bloom your gelatin over your cool water for 10 minutes. Once bloomed, transfer your pan to the stove and over medium heat, stir until all the gelatin is dissolved. Add in your caramel syrup, chocolate syrup and corn syrup and enough red food coloring to give you a deep brown-red blood color.

Transfer this to a squeeze bottle with a narrow tip.

(pro tip: this caramel mocha blood can be made ahead of time. When you're ready to decorate, simply microwave it for 15-20 seconds to soften up)

Allow your gel to cool to about 100F/37C. It's going to want to gel but you want to keep it just barely liquid so you can decorate your cake.

Drizzle the liquid gel over the layers of your cake slowly, starting from the highest point and working your way down. The idea is, as it travels down the cake, the gel will solidify, leaving you with a thick, viscous blood drip that will hang off the edges of your layers and pool and thicken.

I used the gel to cover any mistakes or flaws I made in the cake (hey, it happens) as well as to disguise the fondant covered cardboard support rounds.

Let your gel set for at least 15 minutes. It should thicken up even in room temperature air.

Step 7: Bask in the Glory of Your Creation

Carefully move your cake to wherever you need to have it to fully display it to its best advantage...and where the most people will see it so you can get your proper accolades and rewards for a damn hard job done well.

Enjoy the screams of joy and cries of happiness as you present your demonic delicacy to your adoring fans.

If you want even more creepy recipes like this for Halloween, swing by my main Instructables page or check out my horror themed food blog, The Necro Nom-nom-nomicon.

Bone appetite!



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    18 Discussions

    Those skull molds tho..

    This is truly impressive. It's almost a shame it will be destroyed when it's eaten. But I'm sure you get over that feeling rather quickly when you actually get to eat it :D

    this looks wicked! voted!

    Me making this is like the amateur painters trying to follow along with Bob Ross and his happy little trees and bushes he painted. It would end up looking like an uneven childs birthday cake and likely smashed with a rolling pin an hour in due to frustration. On that note your ability to create a spectacular cake is just amazing. I wish I had that talent. I will use the cocoa powder vodka trick someday though. Nice touch for aging the chocolate.

    hey nice instructable! easy to follow and nice written! but I have one question: is there an alternative to vodka?

    3 replies

    I use vodka because it evaporates so quickly and doesn't affect the chocolate. You can use water but do so sparingly. I suggest having a small fan nearby to help speed up evaporation. Too much water on your chocolate will dull it and actually start to break it down. Work quickly, work sparingly, blot often, and use a fan to dry faster than normal evaporation and you should be ok.

    thanks! good to know that the vodka has a purpose (besides getting people drunk) :p

    The only way you'd get drunk from this cake is if you drink the vodka instead of using it to paint the skulls. As it evaporates and dries, all the alcohol goes away, so while you use vodka to paint your skulls, they're technically alcohol-free as soon as they're completely dry. :)

    Wow!! You have my vote, this is amazing!

    So pity that i can't taste it. Great work, voted for you.

    1 reply

    Wow! A real masterpiece! The altered box cake recipe sounds divine! And the fondant recipe sounds fantastic too! Thanks for sharing and best of luck in the contests!

    1 reply