Sugar Skull Birthday Cake
by Jenn Mancini
(Huntington Beach, CA, USA)
I made this cake for my boyfriend's birthday because I wanted it to be pretty, but also COOL so a guy who tattoos for a living would like it! It would also be an excellent option for a Halloween or Dia de los Muertos theme party.
The cake itself is marbled vanilla and chocolate cake, placed on a silver foil covered, round cake board. It was frosted with the standard two layers of vanilla buttercream frosting in white. I tinted some of the frosting lime green and used it to pipe a shell border around the bottom and a star border around the top edge.
The dark purple roses are Wilton style roses, each piped on a small piece of wax paper with a rose nail off the cake and then placed on it after they dried, with more lime green frosting used to create the leaves around them.
The most fun part, as you can probably imagine, was making the sugar skull. To do this, I found a design on the internet as inspiration to refer to. I printed it out to get at least the outline and size it right for the cake, and traced it with non-toxic markers on a piece of edible rice paper.
I simplified the original design so it would still be detailed but not overly complicated to fill in. Then it was cut out and colored in with the non-toxic markers in the bright and cheery colors that make Day of the Dead celebrations so festive. Notice he has one gold tooth! haha
When the design was finished, I painted it with clear piping gel, and covered it with Wilton's white sparkling sugar. It is hard to see in this picture, but in person it was very striking and sparkled like a jewel.
Due to the somewhat liquid consistency of the piping gel, the edges started to curl up, so I put sheets of waxed paper on top and bottom and pressed the skull overnight between a few heavy cookbooks.
The following day, I painted a little water around the edges on the back of the sugar skull decoration to help it adhere to the buttercream which had hardened up a bit. I purposely placed it off-center on the cake because I like designs that are not symmetrical, and it is more interesting to look at. The boyfriend loved it!
The sugar skull decoration, in case you were wondering, was not unpleasant to eat and didn't need to be removed first. Rice paper has basically no flavor and the sugar crystals just gave it a little crunch. After a few hours, it had completely fused to the cake and it was no problem to cut right through it.
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