Words Take Flight: A Book Cake

Remember that song that says "I want to be the girl with the most cake"? At this moment, I think I can safely say - I am that girl.  My freezer is packed with desserts in their various stages of completion.  Book aftermath, I call it. There's one cake in particular that I had special feelings for (cake is emotional, okay?) and felt it could realize greatness before my manuscript was turned in.  This was not to be.  I ran out of time, and frankly, my creative energy was waning.  My editor loves this new project so much, he's decided to make an exception and include it in the book!

Then, I fell in love and  my creative energy returned.  The object of my affection?  The artwork of Su Blackwell.  Her re-purposed book sculptures are so beautiful, they made me feel good about life after having seen them.  Dramatic, I know.  It can't be helped.  Just look at them.

Not long after, I was digging out the cake that never knew greatness for a second attempt.

This cake is loosely based on her book scupture "The Quiet American".  Although my version is nowhere near as beautiful (or permanent) as hers, mine probably tastes a lot better *wink.

The stamped wafer paper technique I use is featured in the impending SB book, so I guess this is a bit of a sneak peek. Black gel food coloring is thinned with water then painted on the raised portions of a rubber stamp.  The stamp is pressed into the wafer paper and lifted as if you were stamping any ol' piece of paper.
I'm posting the directions to make the cake although I do not yet have a fondant tutorial for this blog.  This is something I hope to add soon.

Note:  Wafer paper tastes...papery.  It's kind of like a communion wafer that dissolves on your tongue.  You don't have to serve it with the cake if you don't want to.  Just cut under/around it.

Butterfly Book Cake:
[Printable Version]

Special equipment and supplies
10x10x2-inch square baking pan
2 cake boards 10 x 14-inch
1 lb ready-made white fondant
1 lb ready-made chocolate fondant
Rubber stamp with detail of handwritten or typed words
8 sheets of plain wafer paper
This butterfly template, scaled down (or other butterfly template of your choice)
Black gel food coloring
Natural bleached white wood stems from the floral department
X-acto knife
Serrated quilting wheel for fondant
Serrated knife
Confectioners' sugar
Corn syrup
Artist's brush

Bake your choice of cake in a lined 10x10x2-inch cake pan (use a dense variety like pound cake or this one used for tiered cakes).  When done and cooled, place the cake on a cake board and carve small pieces away from the middle to create the book crease.  Evenly trim the sides of the cake until it measures 9x9".

Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
 Milk or heavy cream, optional
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners sugar.  Begin mixing on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes. 
  2. Add vanilla extract and beat again for another minute until light and fluffy.
  3. Crumb coat cake and let buttercream crust.
Note: If you find the buttercream is too stiff, you may add milk or heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is spreading consistency.

Dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the 1lb of white ready-made fondant with a large rolling pin. You can either drape the entire cake with the fondant and fit it around the edges, or you can measure the top and sides of the cake and cut individual pieces.  I did the latter to create a more crisp edge. If you do this, you'll need to coat the pieces with a little corn syrup before pressing them into the cake so they're sure to stick.  Using the back of a knife, create multiple long, strait indentions around the sides of the cake to mimic stacks of pages.  Also make one vertical indention on each end of the book at the crease.

Re-dust work surface and roll out the chocolate fondant to 1/4-1/2-inch thickness.  Roll the piece large enough to place the fondant covered cake in the middle, with at least an excess of 2" fondant on each side.  Transfer rolled chocolate fondant to the 2nd cake board.  Slide the fondant covered cake onto the middle of the chocolate fondant. Trim away fondant leaving a 1-1 1/2-inch border of chocolate fondant all the way around.  This makes the book cover.  Run the serrated quilting tool around the edge of the book cover to make a seam.  You could also do this with a toothpick- though not as evenly.

Stamp the wafer paper:
Thin a small amount of black gel food coloring in a small condiment cup.  Using the artist's brush, lightly paint the raised portions of the rubber stamp.  Stamp 4 sheets of wafer paper on the matte side, re-inking as necessary. Space them evenly to look like paragraphs in a book. Allow them to dry for 5 minutes.

Note: wafer paper has a matte side and shiny side - avoid stamping the shiny side.  

Cut two of the pieces to fit over the surface of the cake - like two pages of the book.  Apply corn-syrup to the crease of the cake and press just the inner edges of the two pieces of wafer paper into the corn syrup.  Hold it there for a few seconds to make sure it adheres well.   

On a cutting board, place a piece of stamped wafer paper over the butterfly template and cut around the the image with the x-acto knife.  You may need to print out a few templates, I accidentally sliced through the wafer paper and the template a couple of times.  Cut a few butterflies out of the plain wafer paper in the same manner.  You can make as many or as few butterflies as you like.  I say, the more the better.  You can use the extra to garnish individual pieces of cake.

Butterflies in flight:
Snap a few fine twigs of various lengths (3-5) from the bleached stems and gently press the ends of the stems into the center of the cake (the book fold) so they stand upright.  Make a tiny hole in each of the butterflies and thread them onto the stems.  Be careful when doing this, wafer paper is fragile.  Position the butterflies so they are radiating upwards.

If you like my presentation, cloud wallpaper can be found here.  Cover two foam-core boards with the wallpaper and use them as a background and display surface.

link Words Take Flight: A Book Cake By Published: Words Take Flight: A Book Cake Recipe


  1. This is ingenius, great birthday present for a librarian.

  2. ridiculous! completely ridiculous.

    everytime I come here I am prepared to be blown away with gorgeousness.
    How do you continue to outdo yourself?

  3. Amazing, you did it again. How different. I'm thinking book club party !! Really love this !!! Happy Days.. Jules ♥

  4. Girl...there are no words.


    You are an artist, truly.

  5. oh my...what words can fully describe this???? Such a talent both in cooking and art.

  6. amazing. that fondant work is amazing.
    you know a lot of the goodies i make i do giveaway and one of my biggest fans is my doctor. i know funny. but he sent me a cake that he fell in love with while vacationing in Europe. It's les tartes tropeziennes. I took this as a subtle hint that he wants one. When i researched how one is made i almost passed out. they are very hard. I might have to hire you for some lessons in brioche dough making. Have you ever made this?

  7. YES, I think that was more than a subtle hint! I have never made or heard of tartes tropeziennes before. I just looked it up and uh...incredible! I wonder if you could make the 5 minute brioche for this... the recipe is here http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2008/09/24/brioche-dough-recipe-and-all-of-its-wonderful-uses

    The tart looks pretty labor intensive. He must really think highly of your baking. I'd take it as a huge compliment.

  8. Simply stunning - literally nearly moved me to tears on how incredibly gorgeous this is and the beauty of the idea itself. Thank you so very much for the incredibly inspiring blog post,

  9. Wow, such an exquisite cake! I love your stamped wafer paper technique and the way the butterflies are soaring above the pages.

  10. Wow. This is absolutely gorgeous and would have been so perfect for the baby shower that I threw this past weekend!


  11. truly a vision of beauty….s-o-o-o creative & magnificent.
    cannot wait for SB cookbook to grace my home!

  12. Wow, that is too beautiful for words. That cake looks fantastic. I wish I had that kind of skill to do that, but alas I do not. I tip my hat to you. :)

  13. Work. Of. Art. Like your inspiration, this is truly creative, unique and beautiful.

  14. Wow, that cake is so beautiful! I love its romantic and pristine looks.



  15. Wow, this cake is awesome! It's really very very beatiful. It looks like a real book.

    Have a nice day!

  16. What cakes I've just not seen, but this surpassed all!

  17. This is a work of art, no questions asked!

  18. absolutely gorgeous! I love how you captured the delicacy of the original.

  19. This cake is quite impressive. You are so talented! It's the work of a genius!

  20. Well, I´m a rubberstamper for more than 10 years now - but this is fantastic !

  21. My cousin is graduating with her degree in Library Science in a few months. This will have to be the centerpiece of her graduation party! Thanks for the ALWAYS inspiring recipes/photos. I cannot wait for the SP book!

  22. No words for how cool this is. Breathtaking, rather!

  23. Wow! That is all I can say - WOW!! So pretty!

  24. I'm just going to be the nth person to say "Wow!" I'm very impressed.

  25. delicate and gorgeous! talent out the wazzoo over here!

  26. What a PERFECT and BEAUTIFUL way to celebrate your book! It may be as long-lasting as the sculpture if I had it...I would just want to look at it and marvel:)

  27. I've gotten pretty used to beautiful things coming from your kitchen... but this one stopped me in my tracks! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    And I can say I'm stunned :) with the beauty.

    Also... this is perfect for Roxy's Alice in Wonderland Party this fall. DO you think I could recreate but with cards on the wire sticking out and the paint with food color a scene from the book on one page? Can you paint with food color?

    Love You Bunches Sweet Cousin!

  28. I have to say that this post is made for me :). As a bibliophile, an aspiring librarian, a romantic, this cake seems perfect... plus you unveiled it on my birthday! I can't stop looking at it and can't wait to try it for myself. Thanks for sharing your art with us!

  29. You amaze!! Seriously you are a perfect blend of artist and baker. I can't wait to check out your book. Thanks for inspiring perhaps a book club dessert--although my artistry will never live up to yours.

  30. Oh my goodness Heather, there is just no end to your ability to WOW! Absolutely incredible. What artistry you possess and I do believe you are part magical!! I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of your book. xoxo ~Lili

  31. This is absolutely beautifully!

    Cindy B.

  32. I am an incurable recipe addict (collector more than baker/cook), and for the better part of 3 years, have been gorging myself on the abundant recipes available on food blogs over the Internet (bless all you bloggers!). And I can say without exaggeration that I have NEVER encountered anything as exquisitely gorgeous as this cake. You are a true artist, and I am blown away by the beauty of your artistry! Thank you!!

  33. What a gorgeous cake! your a very talented and patient baker.

  34. This is so so surreally stunning, i didnt even realise it was a cake to begin with! Its just perfect. I would love to be able to make this kind of thing and maybe even do it as a living, but I dont think i could ever come close to this kind of beauty! Wonderful

  35. This is one of the most beautiful cakes I have ever seen. I can't stop looking at it. Thank you for the beauty you brought to my week! xo

  36. Well look at you! This is gorgeous and reeks of talent!

  37. Your cake is absolutely breathtaking!! Beautiful=)

  38. Simplemente maravilloso. Eres única y haces cosas magníficas. Te felicito.


  39. I am willing to bet that Su Blackwell would be flattered and impressed with Your sculpture! Stunning. And thanks for turning me on to Ms. Blackwell's work, they really are pieces that you can easily fall in love with and your reinvention is just as fairytaleish. Thank you for sharing.

  40. I think this is one of the most beautiful cakes I've seen. I have a feeling Su Blackwell will be delighted with your take on her work.

  41. Heather, I just love reading the comments above...but they cover every single word that comes to my mind... wow. stunning. incredible...true artistry. I'm even so impressed with your ability to FIND these types of gorgeous edible creations.

  42. That is incredible! Truly amazing work!

  43. a wonderful homage to Su Blackwell! Thank you for introducing her work to me. You are both inspiring!

  44. OMG that is so freakin cool. I wish I had 1/2 the skills you do.

  45. Oh god its a cake! Sheer genius. If you lived close by I would do anything so as to make you agree to bake a cake tinkerbell themed cake for my 2 year old daughter.
    You would have done something spectacular for sure.

  46. This is a stunning piece of confectionery work! I had never heard of the printing technique before either.

  47. I am blown away by how gorgeous this cake is!! So worth the effort!!

  48. I'm not sure I can handle the insane beauty and creativity of this gorgeousness. Heather! You are amazing. xo

  49. This is the perfect cake for readers.

  50. Oh my! what a beautiful cake. Not only gorgeous but also meaningfull.

  51. As I sit with a book on my lap, dreaming of the exotic world of 14th century Cornwall, I suddenly feel the desire to rip out page 87, crumple it up, and mow it down. But I doubt anyone would benefit from this scenario.

    That Su Blackwell artwork is incredible. I like The Woodcutter's Hut best - the trees really come alive, I think, and the texture of the book surface is sweet sweetness!

  52. You are amazing!
    This post has been 'bookmarked' for a future special occasion.

    xx's Felicity

  53. it's just "woah !!!!"
    I put a link to your article on my french blog.

  54. WOW!! This is a beautiful cake.. Luv luv luv it

  55. thanks for being such and amazing source of inspiration! made a version of your cake for a library function... not as pretty as yours, of course, but people thought i was a rock star! thank you so much!

  56. Just made this cake for my sister's 21st birthday! It turned out awesome and she loved it! Thanks so much-- you are a genius! ;D


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