A Skull cake tutorial

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So I’ve had friends asking how I made the skull in that last post. I thought to share it before Halloween got here. And while BIY is still having their sale. For those of you thinking to make cakes or cookies for Halloween, head to BIY. They are having 40% discounts on all their Halloween items. FYI: they aren’t paying me to advertise. I just thought it was a really good offer. I bought a whole bunch of creepy cake moulds.

So back to the Skull cake. I started with Wilton’s 3D Skull Pan.

Skull Pan

 

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Here’s what it looks like inside. Cool right? I love the little details on the handle and the border… gorgeous

The pan is non-stick but I would still recommend prepping it with a cooking spray before putting your batter in. I used some butter and flour. For chocolate cake though, some bakers suggests using cocoa powder which is a good idea if you’re not going to ice your cake.

I used this recipe from the William Sonoma Website. The recipe is in the comments section. I added a cup of cocoa and reduced the flour to make a chocolate cake. For a vanilla cake, remove the cocoa powder and use 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour instead.

For the cake:
 2 3/4 cups (428g) all-purpose flour
 1 cup cocoa powder
 2 tsp. baking powder
 1 tsp. salt
 20 Tbs. (2 1/2 sticks/315g) unsalted butter
 2 cups (500g) granulated sugar
 5 eggs, lightly beaten
 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 1 1/3 cups (340ml) milk
For the buttercream:
 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
 3/4 cup (90g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
 1 1/2 tsp. milk
 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
 Pinch of salt
To decorate (optional)
Food colourings
Gummy worms 
Toothpicks... lots of toothpicks...

 

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Grease and flour both wells of the skull cake pan; tap out excess flour. Place the pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

To make the cake
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla just until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each addition just until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spoon the batter into the prepared wells, dividing evenly. Tap the pan gently on a work surface to release any air bubbles. Bake until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 65 to 70 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

Tap the pan gently on a work surface to loosen the cake. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan.

* Let the cake cool completely, at least 2 hours, before assembling. This is very important. I got impatient and tried to assemble the cake before it cooled and the icing melted into a huge mess I had to make another batch of buttercream.

To make the buttercream
* I recommend making the buttercream just before you’re ready to assemble. If you want to make it early, pop it in the fridge and take it out about 5 to 10 mins before assembling.

In the bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla and salt and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute more, stopping the mixer to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.

Set aside about a tablespoon or two of the buttercream.

To assemble the cake
Return both halves of the cooled cake to the pan. (This is easily done by placing the pan over the cake halves and inverting the rack onto the pan.) Level the cake by using a serrated knife to gently saw off the part of each cake half that rose above the edge of the pan. Then remove one half of the skull cake from the pan.

* I removed the back part of the head instead of the face to reduce handling the face too much. I wanted to reduce the chance of breaking any part of the face. I also recommend that if you had cleaned up your pan already, to put some butter or non stick spray topped with cocoa powder or icing sugar (depending on the colour of your cake) into it. My skull face got stuck when i tried to take it out due to the weight of the cake pressing down on it.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream, about 1/3 cup (80ml), over the cut side of the cake half that is still in the pan. Place the other half on top of the buttercream and press down gently to secure the 2 halves. For added stability, insert a 4-inch (10cm) skewer into the base of the skull and another skewer into the upper half of the skull from the back side of the cake. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cake until the buttercream is firm, about 30 minutes.

In the center of a serving plate, place a mound of buttercream (about 1 1/2 Tbs.) half the size of the cake’s base. Remove the cake from the pan by lifting the pan vertically and tilting it forward, then catching the cake with your hand. Place the cake upright on the plate, on top of the buttercream. Decorate as desired. Serves 16.

So here’s what the cake looked like out of the oven. I didn’t intend to do a tutorial then so I only have a picture of the face.

That’s a creepy one isn’t it? Some of my friends actually liked the cake without the cream. It was less “gross” for the faint-hearted or maybe just weak-stomached. lol. It looks pretty good on it’s own so if you choose not to decorate, it’s still pretty impressive.

The white bits are from the flour i put in the pan to prevent sticking. To avoid this, you can use cocoa powder instead.

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Let’s cream the guy
To start decorating, start with a thin layer of cream. This doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s what we call a crumb coat. The purpose of it is to catch any loose crumbs and to seal up the surface so that you don’t get bits of cake in your decoration. You can use a spatula or palette knife but i just used a butter knife and used my fingers in the nooks and crannies. Well, make sure you wash your hands first!

*Do make sure you get into that area just behind where you see the teeth. There’s a hollow there that you want to keep otherwise the teeth will look like it’s sticking out of nowhere. I used my fingers and a butter knife and for some smaller areas, a toothpick. But if you have fancy tools, go ahead and use them. I was at a friend’s place. I just had to work with what i had. 

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*Yes… do let your housemates, family members or whoever staying in your house know that there’s a skull in the fridge. Or NOT… >.< I had abit of a laugh when i saw this. On a serious note, do let any elderly or anyone with a heart problem know about the skull…. 

Back to business, so you can see there are lots of bits where you can still see the cake. Don’t worry about it. This isn’t the end product.

Stick this in the fridge for about 15 mins so the crumb coat can harden.

*It’s warm where I am so I usually stick the butter cream in the fridge when the cake is in the fridge and take it out about 5 mins before I do the next coating. 

I did a total of about 4 coating. And here’s the final coat. (Although i might have done some touch ups before the end.) I had quite abit of dilemma with the teeth. You want to see the design but you want them white. I decided i can’t have both so I covered them.

 

And got creamed again... Poor guy...
And got creamed again… Poor guy…

 

For the fun part
Remember where that tablespoon or two of buttercream i asked you to set aside? Here’s where they come in.

Decide how many colours you want to use and split them accordingly. You really don’t need too much each. I’m more the on the fly type of person so I just grab a tiny spoon when I think of a colour. I used red, grey and black. Gel colours are awesome, a little goes a long way but liquids are fine too. I used a black gel colour and a red liquid colour.

The main thing here is having fun. I’ve realised over the years that you’re usually your worst critic. Most people can’t see the imperfections. I really didn’t know what i wanted to do with the skull. I just though gummy worms, make it look dirty and just went with that.

*Teeth were a problem as mentioned before. I made some very light greys and ran over where I thought the teeth lines were with a toothpick with them. I tried just using the toothpick initially but they created really harsh lines that weren’t believable. I had to run them through then pat them down with my fingers right after. A friend suggested using a paintbrush yesterday when I shared this. I haven’t tried but i think it could work. A stiff paintbrush. If any of you try it, do let me know if it works. 

I used my fingers to dab the black colour into the eye sockets and the indent where the nose is. There after, I just ran the colours all over with my toothpick and smudged some of the areas with my fingers. Then I put gummy worms all over! I used the “Yupi” gummy worms. I thought it was too small when I opened it but it turned out okay.

It’s not a “pretty” cake so go crazy with it.

So this is my take on my skull cake. Let me know what you think and if you try it, I would love it if any of you would share your cake with us!  Check out my previous post for more pictures.

I am reborn again.... Erm.. where's the rest of me?
I am reborn again…. Erm.. where’s the rest of me?

Happy Halloween!