Tim Burton Birthday Cake

I finally got to make a Tim Burton style cake! I’m so glad to have had this opportunity. It features the main characters from Nightmare Before Christmas (Jack Skellington and Sally and Zero), Corpse Bride (Emily and Victor) and Frankenweenie from Frankenweenie.

I don’t have a long tutorial or post to make about this, but wanted to share close-ups of all my characters. All the characters were made by hand by me, hand painted, and shaded. The eyelashes on the ladies were made using the finest setting on my clay extruder. The 12″ x 18″ half-chocolate and half-vanilla sheet cake was covered with black chocolate buttercream and vanilla buttercream. My border was a number 18 Wilton tip.

Hope you enjoy!



80s cake for Colleen and Chris

80s cake

When Tracy came to me for a cake, she had a great idea: an 80s cake because her brother and sister-in-law grew up mostly in the 80s. She had some great ideas. She remembered her brother’s obsession with a Spud’s MacKenzie shirt that he wore down, Phan Jam, Michael Jackson, and more. But then we realized – we have to incorporate Colleen, too! The couple has a great history together ranging back to high school. When Tracy told her family of the cake, it evolved into something more.

80s cake collage

Here is a breakdown of all the decorations:

  • MTM moon man and flag: This went along with the original 80s theme.
  • Spuds MacKenzie: This party animal was a bit before my time. I had never heard of him. He was the dog for Bud Light back in the 80s. Like I said earlier, Chris wore his Spuds MacKenzie shirt down to threadbare, lol.  Here is Spud’s Wikipedia page if you are curious or confused or can’t remember: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spuds_MacKenzie.
  • 80s boom box and Pac Man: Went with the original 80s theme.
  • Tuff Crew’s “Phan Jam” album cover: Chris loved this group. I haven’t heard of them! He listened to it endlessly.
  • Cardinal O’Hara and Widener Logos: The couple met at COH and also went to college together at Widener.
  • Army flag: Chris was in the army.
  • Racing flag: I actually don’t know the story behind this besides one of them (or both) likes racing.
  • Soccer and basketballs: Colleen played these sports in school.
  • “Old Head”: In typical younger-sister fashion, this is an affectionate nickname that Tracy has for her brother.
  • Dave Matthews Band “Under the Table and Dreaming” album cover: Colleen is a big DMB fan! I put it near Phan Jam because I thought that would be a fitting design idea.
  • Florida with an engagement ring: This is my favorite part, which is why it’s front and center. And it’s so important. The couple got engaged in Florida!

So that is the story of this cake. I had so much to include and at first it seemed impossible. I tried to make everything as symmetrical and organized as I could because I didn’t want it to look too cluttered.

Notes about the cake process

FONDANT TROUBLES: When I made my vintage shoe cake, my fondant rolled out perfectly. It was cool and there was no humidity. But the weather is changing and we don’t have our air conditioner in yet. It was extremely difficult to get my cakes covered this time. I almost thought at one point that my cake was going to wind up on Cake Wrecks! But, thankfully, I managed to save it (I think!). I am glad I’m not covering any more cakes in fondant for a while. Though, soon we will have the air conditioner in and that will help.

BLACK ICING BORDER: When I have to make black buttercream, I start with chocolate buttercream and add Wilton black icing color until satisfied. I keep in mind that the color will deepen. And it didn’t taste horrible, either. Tasted like chocolate!

OTHER COLORS: The electric blue and electric green are Americolor. The black fondant is Wilton black fondant. The green fondant is my semi-homemade LMF fondant by Arisan Cake Company.

DECORATIONS: I made a collage of everything they wanted to include in Gimp (because I don’t have Photoshop and also because I have no idea how to use Photoshop). Then I ordered it through an ebay store that prints edible images. They were thick and relatively easy to work with. But while they are thick and seem durable, they are quite fragile and tear easily. Making the flags was a challenge because of the small tears. Here is a picture to give you an idea of how I made the decorations:

: 80s cake decorations

Here is the sketch when it was just an 80s theme cake:

80s cake sketch

And here is my second sketch, after it was more about the couple:

80s sketch 2

Hope you enjoyed a look into my process and the story behind this special cake! If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading! I appreciate it. Nichole

Vintage lace shoe cake: Part 2. Putting it all together

Danielle's Cake 5.4.14

In my last post, I wrote about doing all the prep work before putting my cake together: making the shoe, the flowers, practicing with my stencil, and so on.

If a cake is due on Saturday or even Sunday, I usually start it on Thursday night. That’s just what I did with this cake. I took it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours so it could defrost enough.

I made a simple syrup earlier in the day, which is one cup of water mixed with one cup of sugar. You heat until the water dissolves and let it cool to room temperature. Then, when my cakes had defrosted a bit, I took my simple syrup and my pastry brush and let the leveled part of the cake absorb some of the simple syrup.

Then I made a fresh, five pound batch of my favorite decorator’s buttercream:


FILL THE CAKE: After attaching the bottom cake with the leveled-side up, I made a dam with my #18 pastry tip around the edge of the cake and filled the inside of the circle with about a cup or more of buttercream. I placed the other cake on top, making sure to match the chocolate and vanilla sides (the cakes were half and half). I made sure to press down hard to ensure that there wouldn’t be too much room for settling. I then brushed the outside of the cake with some more simple syrup.

I wanted the cake to be moist — yes, moist. There is no better word.

NOTE ON FILLING: If you don’t want your cake to bulge, make sure not to over-whip your buttercream. This creates air pockets that will settle and then your cake will have a bulge. Also, you don’t want to make it too thin, because that can also create a bulge.

CRUMB COAT: After that, it’s time to do a basic crumb coat. I try to make my crumb coat thin, but not too thin. After it was nice and coated and smoothed with a hot knife, I put it in the fridge to settle over night. Since I cut the board the same size as the cake, I put it on large, clean board for easy handling.


DAY 2: Friday night

On Friday night, I took my cake out of the fridge, like above. It was cool and settled.

I prepped my area by cleaning and disinfecting, then I put down my Fat Daddio’s fondant mat. I love this mat because the fondant doesn’t stick to it and it covers my entire surface area.

Using my scale and Wilton chart, I had determined that my 10″, 4″ tall cake needed 36 ounces of fondant. I rounded up to 40 to be extra-safe. I have been in situations where I didn’t have enough fondant and it was annoying and unfortunate.

KNEAD YOUR FONDANT! I kneaded my fondant in small sections, then kneaded it all together. I made sure it was slightly warmed by my hands and pliable. There is really no such thing as kneading too much.


ROLL, BABY! Then, I rolled out my fondant with my Wilton fondant roller until it was even and maybe 1/8th” thickness. I like my fondant thin, but not so thin that it will tear easily.


BRUSH YOUR CAKE: I took my simple syrup out again and poured just a bit into a cup. I didn’t want to dip into my main container and contaminate it with cake crumbs and buttercream. The simple syrup (or water, if you prefer) gives something for the fondant to stick to. The buttercream is so cold at this point that it isn’t enough on its own.  Plus, going over with a pastry brush helps get your buttercream even more smooth. To coat with my syrup, I proceeded to brush it with my pastry brush like so:


COVER AND SMOOTH: Then, I gently picked up my fondant with my hands and put it on my cake. I did not have my cake on the cake stand at this point because the weight of gravity pulls on your fondant and can cause it to tear. I would rather it rest on the table around it.


Then, working quickly with my hands and my fondant smoother, I made sure to adhere the fondant to my cake. I got a sewing pin and quickly poked out any air holes. After that, I took my pizza cutter and closely cut around the cake. This was my first time doing the large, main cake NOT on the finished cake board. I really prefer it. It allowed me to really work with the cake quite easily.


ATTACH TO CAKE BOARD: Next it was time to attach it to my decorated cake board. I used three 14″ cake boards taped together and covered with my Fanci Foil wrap. I used a little hot glue to attach the cake to the board. At this point, I put it on my revolving cake stand.

TIME TO STENCIL! Next, it was time to stencil. I made a quick and slightly thick royal icing and attached my stencil to my fondant.


Using my offset spatula, I scraped the royal icing onto my cake. After letting it rest a moment, I carefully pealed off my stencil. After this, I put on the timer for 15 minutes. I cleaned my stencil with soap and water and patted dry. Then I put it between paper towels so it could dry even more. After the timer went off, I put a little more shortening on my cake, lined up my stencil, and did it all over again.


FINISH THE CAKE: At this point, I neglected to take pictures because I was concentrating and wanted to finish. I attached the heel over the shoe to the main part of the shoe with my royal icing. Then I dipped a tooth pick in royal icing and put it into the heel where I had previously made a hole.

I put some royal icing on the bottom of the heel and on the bottom of the shoe and placed it on the cake.

Then I placed my flowers, again using royal icing. I had to break some of my stamen so that the roses would rest on the cake well.

Using some vodka, I attached the letters to my cake. I was going to put it on the cake board, but that wasn’t working as well as I wanted it to and I was getting tired!

After that, I took some of my extra buttercream and my #18 tip and made a regular-old shell border around my cake.

Everything after stenciling moved pretty fast (another reason I neglected to take pictures). And this is how it ended up:

Danielle's Cake 5.4.14

And this is how it looked at the bridal shower. I apologize for it not being the very best picture:

cake on the table at shower

NOTE: After the cake was finished, it did not go back into the fridge. I put it in a big Amazon Prime box lined with a slip proof mat and wrapped it in Press and Seal wrap.  Putting it in the fridge risks the cake being dried out and you also risk ruining your fondant due to condensation.

My friend told me that everybody LOVED the cake and that it was very moist and delicious. I am always so anxious to hear how it TASTES, even though I have made my recipes a million times. Taste is the MOST important part!

Whew! If that seemed like a lot, that’s because it is… This is why people pay others to make their cakes! If you have questions (because I am sure I missed something), put it below.


Do you want to build a snowman?

… Come on, let’s go and play!


Olaf, roses, and lilies … for two different cakes

Next, I am working on a “simple” giant cupcake for my friend at work. We are obsessed with Disney’s Frozen, as are some others around the office. It has become a bit of an on-going joke around here. I watched an amazing video on YouTube about how to make Olaf out of fondant, which made me feel better about trying it myself. I made him even more like the original by adding very light blue around his eyes and in his crevices. I can’t let my daughter see him, or she would would want to keep him!

Here is the video:

So, one night after the kids were in bed, I got to work! And he wasn’t that hard, relatively speaking. I added toothpicks in the bottom of his feet so he will stay in the cupcake better.


Finished Olaf!

I also had to bake a cake! The birthday girl had a unique idea. Why not mix chocolate cake and funfetti cake? I thought about this and decided that it would be worth a try. If I did it the way you make marble cake, then it wouldn’t be to hard. How do you make a marble cake? Many recipes call for making a basic yellow cake, then adding chocolate (cocoa powder or melted chocolate chips) to half the batter, then swirling them together.  That’s what I decided I would kind of do. But funfetti cake is usually just white cake with sprinkles thrown it, so I did some research and figured I would try yet another white cake recipe.

I found this one from a blog called Add a Pinch: http://addapinch.com/cooking/2013/08/09/the-best-white-cake-recipe/#axzz2ziYZjeJo. Best White Cake EVER? That’s a tall order!

I whipped up a batch of the stuff, divided it in half. I added Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder to half the batter and a handful of sprinkles to the other half:


Then, I added the batter alternatively into my Giant Cupcake pan (which I sprayed with Pam with Butter baking spray) and let it bake for well over an hour. I definitely think I added too much batter! It took way too long to bake.

photo 2 photo 3


Since I had to level the cake anyway, I stole some off the top. And, you know what? I think this may actually BE the best white cake recipe EVER! I can’t wait to make it again! After it cooled a bit, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and tin foil and stuck it in my freezer.

When I was ready to make my cake, I took butter out as SOON as I got home so it could get room temperature. I will be making a post about how to make buttercream at some point.  I made a nice double batch of buttercream, Crisco-free this time.


Prepped buttercream


Covering my 12″ cake board

I filled the inside of the cake with chocolate buttercream. I took some buttercream from the big batch, added cocoa and some more cream and mixed it together. Then I proceeded with a quick crumb coat. over both the top and the bottom of the cake.

I usually cover the bottom parts of my giant cupcakes with fondant, but I didn’t feel like getting everything out for fondant on a Wednesday night. And I was tired. So I dyed some of the frosting a nice blue to go with the Frozen theme. I crossed my fingers that I would have enough buttercream for the top of the cupcake … I tried a technique I saw on a google search of making verticle lines with my buttercream with my offset spatula. I went around a few times until I thought it was right. Then I decorated the top of my cupcake using a basic #18 swirl. I BARELY had enough buttercream, which is nerve wracking! I know now to make a full triple batch (5 lbs) of buttercream when making a cupcake this way. I added my border to the bottom of the cake and declared it DONE.

On Thursday morning, I stuck Olaf in a plastic container and his hair fell off! Note to self: stick in the hair LAST! When I GET to a party or whatever as opposed to ahead of time. Then I stuck him into the cupcake as soon as I got to work and waited for my friend to show up and see him! It was a great birthday surprise!

Here is the finished cake:


And here is what it looked like all cut:

cut cake


Om nom nom nom. Swirls of chocolate and funfetti goodness! Since I had to bake it so darned long, it got just a bit dried out around the edges, but it was still good, homemade cake!  It was rich and sweet and the buttercream was as addicting and sugary as usual! 🙂

Questions? Comment me!


April-May Works In Progress

I will be making three cakes this month: an Easter cake for my family, a small birthday cake for a friend and a fancy wedding shower cake.

Last year for Mother’s Day, my husband made me my own fondant drying rack. I guess he got really tired of cookie sheets full of fondant everywhere. Where, you ask? I would have them in the craft closet, on top of the toaster oven (which we would have to scoot somewhere else to use said oven), on top of the microwave, on top of the refrigerator …

So, he built me this:

Fondant drying rack

Drying rack for decorations

And it has improved our sanity greatly! I am grateful to have such a crafty husband.

My first work-in-progress is for Easter. I saw a project on Wilton.com and decided I just had to try it our because it is just so beautiful. And I knew my mother would love it.

Easter cake prep 2

Fondant branches

Easter decorations

Blossoms, birds and leaves

I learned a lot about the Wilton mold, too. That for the more intricate cavities in the mold, you just need to let your fondant rest a couple minutes and flip the entire thing over and your shape falls right out. Also, use corn starch. It is your FRIEND!

I had an entire section about one other cake I’m working on, but it’s a surprise and she might see this … So I took it out for another post for another day!

My last cake is for May. My husband’s cousin has ordered so many cakes from me. I guess you could say that she is my best “client”. This time it is a shower cake for her sister. Her original idea involved a shoe box, but I’m not sure I can execute that perfectly, so I’m doing something a little different.


Gumpaste shoe and two heels

A must-have was the shoe. After a lot of Google-searching, I found a tutorial that got me started. Find it HERE. I bought a styrofoam block from Michael’s and made a shoe dryer with a serrated knife. Then, using my template, I cut out the shoe and the liner out of gumpaste. I brought in teal to tie in with her invites by making the show liner teal.

There are two heels above because I’m not happy with the first one that I made. I made it in a rush, so I re-did it. This is one of the many reasons why I work so far in advance. It gives me wiggle-room for screw ups!


Gumpaste roses

She also wanted flowers. A week or so ago, I prepped my buds and the yellow-part of the lilies (technical terms here, haha)! Having really set, I then made two roses and two lilies. I’ve gotten her feedback so far and she LOVES everything that I have made for her cake so far.


I also cut out their names with Tappits and have prepared some leaves.

Well, that’s all I have for now! I look forward to showing you how these cakes all come together over the next month.



UPDATE: I wrote a majority of this on Saturday … Well, on Sunday I made one more thing. A “40” cake topper. I think I am officially out of room for decorations. This is for a cake due May 17.


40 gumpaste cake toppers