Throwback – Howlin’ Halloween Cake

A mind-boggling throwback to two years ago, my FIRST ever carved cake. Now, two years on, I’m about to enter Cake International – Sculpted/Carved category. Madness, I tell thee! Who’d have thunk it!

My bestest friend in the whole wide world is Hannah. She’s been kicking around for almost 11 years and I still can’t shake her! I visited her to drop off her belated birthday cake when I received a request…

“Please can you make me a pumpkin cake for Halloween?”

I must just add that this was not a request for a pumpkin cake, it was a request for a pumpkin shaped cake.

Now, this in itself was a mean feat. I have never before hand carved a cake. Yes, yes, I know you can buy pumpkin shaped cake pans but why buy a pan that will get used once a year at best, when I have a tonne in the cupboard already?! And have you seen ‘ow much they are!?!

After much consulting with my cake guru, Emma, various other blogs, youtube tutorials and my tutor at college, I can offer the following advice:

  1. Make a sandwich cake, I did an 8″ chocolate orange cake sandwiched with chocolate ganache. Put on an 8″ cake board.
  2. Once cooled and filled, ‘gerrit int fridge to chill. Probably a good few hours or overnight if you have the time. This will help to reduce ‘crumb-age’ when carving.
  3. Once ready to carve, whack it on a turntable and have a picture of the shape you want the cake to look like to hand. I eyeballed mine but there is probably a more accurate way to do it! Slowly start to carve incisions, taking a little more in at the bottom to give it a rounded ‘bum’ – not too much though as it’ll make it tricky to cover in fondant later. Don’t throw your trimmings away or worse, let your significant other try to scoff them… Yeah, I’m looking at you, RC. Remember, the ridges should be quite deep (mine were maybe just a touch overboard) as when you cover with fondant you will lose a bit of definition.
  4. Once it’s starting to look a bit ridgey like a pumpkin, put another layer of ganache/buttercream on the very top of the cake and then mould your off-cuts on the top of the cake to finish off the shape.
  5. Once carved, crumb coat the entire cake. My ridges were very deep so it did take a bit of work. I used a green buttercream for spooky factor [it definitely wasn’t leftover in the freezer from another recipe!]
  6. Chill again in fridge until ready to cover with fondant. Be sure to remove from fridge around 30 mins before wanting to cover. I used Renshaws ready to roll orange fondant. Now the trick in covering is making sure the fondant gets in all those ridges! Make sure your fondant doesn’t start to dry out too much – work in a bit of Trex if needs be for more pliability. Take your time, it’s worth it for the end result. Trim the fondant from the bottom of the cake carefully, being sure to tuck it in so it looks perched on the board. Once covered, trim excess board off, or cover if using a drum.
  7. Make a funky stalk! I made a dark green/brown coloured stalk, photo doesn’t really do it justice but it is flecked with different colours. I twisted the colours together for a marbled effect and then twisted in a rope fashion to create the stalk itself. Glue on with edible glue or water and let it rest for 24 hours before starting to decorate.
  8. I ‘ummed and arred’ about whether to do a scary face on my cake and transform my humble pumpkin into a Jack-o-lantern. I’m very glad I did decide to go for it as it turned out great – however… my deep ridges caused a bit of an issue and I had to scale down my scary eyes as trying to stick fondant eyes into and around the ridges distorted the shape. Not good! Next time I’d definitely carve shallower ridges or in fact just decorate it to look more life like! To finish it off, I used petal dusts to ‘contour’ and give a deeper orange/brown colour inside the ridges and then hand shaped the eyes and mouth. Once glued on, I finished the eyes with a glaze of black colour paste and vodka to really make them stand out. You could use lemon extract instead of vodka but our Hannah’s cake wasn’t being eaten by wee bairns so vodka it was!
  9. Ta-dah! The finished product! Admire your work and then chow a good ol’ chunk. Happy Halloween!


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