Hello October! This month brings out the kid in me like no other (even more so than Christmas!), and I get positively giddy for all things spooky. This year I decided to start celebrating early with a Halloween cake project. I'll admit - I got carried away with this tutorial. There are tons of step-by-step photos and lots of instruction for all the tiny details - it's almost like a mini e-course in gum paste sculpture. It's probably the biggest tutorial in all of Sprinklebaking history!
As you may know, I love Tim Burton's stop-motion-animation characters (remember my Sparky cake from last year?) and I've recently re-watched Corpse Bride. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the main character, Emily, so I decided she needed to be cake-ified in blue velvet and chocolate frosting.
(Spoiler alert!) I mean, if she can't have true love she should at least have chocolate frosting. It's kind of the same thing, right?
1/2 lb. ready-made gum paste tinted blue with Wilton sky blue gel food color and a dot of black food color
2 white Sixlets candies
Blue pearl dust
Silver pearl dust
Black gel food color
White liquid food color
Pink gel food color
Artist's brush with a fine tip
Light corn syrup
Plastic pointed fondant tool or unused wood cuticle stick
1/4 lb. ready-made black or dark chocolate fondant
Blue velvet cake baked in 9x13 sheet (recipe link)
1/4 lb. ready-made chocolate fondant
1/2 lb. ready -made red fondant
1/2 lb. ready-made white fondant
18-20 Sixlets black pearls
Royal blue food color
White pearl dust
1 sheet rice paper or wafer paper
Blue food coloring marker
1/8 lb. white gum paste
White flower or snowflake confetti quins
Royal blue gel food color
As I worked and compared images of Emily to my sculpture, I found her head to be very skull-like, which makes sense -she's dead after all. And her nose is teeny-tiny! A Michael Jackson-sort-of-nose, except twice as small, if you can imagine that. Her big round eyes are an important detail, and white Sixlets candies are a perfect uniform size. You can find them at bulk candy shops online and in some craft stores in the baking aisle.
1. You'll start with a large gumball-sized piece of the blue tinted gumpaste.
2. Pinch one end to a point to form a chin shape.
3. Press the two white Sixlets candies into the paste about 1/3 of the way down from the rounded end.
4. Turn the head to the side.
5. Make a diagonal line across the side of the head from the top third downward to the chin with a paring knife.
6. Cut the bottom piece away leaving a teardrop-shaped head. It should be about 2 1/2-inches from forehead to chin.
7. Place the head cut-side down.
8. Holding the fondant tool horizontally, (you could also use the handle of a small artists' brush) roll it between the eye holes to create a slight slope for the nose.
9. Press the fondant tool's end on either side of the nose slope just under the eye holes to create a flat cheek area.
10. Push the pointed end of the fondant tool upward at the bottom of the nose slope.
11. Make two tiny nose holes in an upside down "v" shape with the pointed end of the tool.
12. Just below the nose, delineate the mouth with the pointed end of the fondant tool. Use the blue pearl luster powder and a dry artist's brush to shade the eye holes.
13. Replace the eye. Add a dot of corn syrup to each candy before pressing them in if they do not want to adhere naturally. Shade the sides of the head with the blue pearl dust. Delineate eyebrow lines on the forehead with pointed end of the fondant tool.
14. Using the fine-tipped artists' brush, paint one small dot on each of the Sixlets candies. Allow them to dry for 5-10 minutes.
15. Further shade above each eye with the blue pearl dust. Shade all the way up to the eyebrow lines.
16. Paint on the eyebrows using black gel food color and a fine-tipped artists' brush.
17. Lightly "sketch" lips around the mouth line using the pointed end of the fondant tool.
18. Paint lips using a small artists' brush and pink gel food color mixed with a drop of white liquid food color. Allow head to stand until dry.
The torso. Admittedly, things will look a little strange in the beginning. The most important part of the torso is the décolleté. Emily is extremely withered and thin and one of her most defining features is very prominent collar bones. As you sculpt this part of the body, think of its shape as a coat hanger. The rest of the torso will be covered with a dress made of fondant, so don't worry as much about the detail on the rest of the body.
1. Use about 1/8 lb. of the blue tinted gum paste for the torso; roughly shape it into a 4-inch rectangle. Keep the head on your work board to keep in mind he correct body proportions. Roughly sculpt a waist by squeezing the gum paste rectangle in the center. Shape shoulders with your fingers and pull a long piece of gum paste up from the middle of the shoulders, creating a very long neck. The end sculpture of the neck and torso should measure about 5 to 5 1/2 inches in length.
2. Make a "v" shape at the base of the neck using the fondant tool. This indicates where the sternum and collarbone meet.
3. Press the pointed end of the fondant tool into the gum paste just under each shoulder. The pointed end should be facing inward toward the center of the chest. These indentations create the prominent collar bone.
4. Smooth the neck area away from the collar bone using your fingers. Gently press so that the collar bone becomes more prominent.
5. Create two "cups" using the pointed end of the fondant tool. Start at one shoulder at the collar bone and end at the opposite shoulder.
6. Holding the fondant tool horizontally, roll it downward from the collar bone to create a slope on the breast.
7. Periodically check the head in proportion to the rest of the body. Here I've pinched the waist and hips in a little smaller.
8. Roll a piece of blue gum paste into a long rope. This will be the arm. Orient the arm to the body to check for the correct thickness. Her arms are bone-thin, so make sure the rope is, in turn, very thin. Remove the arm from the body and set aside for later use.
9. Roll a out a small piece of white fondant to 1/8-inch thickness, large enough to cover the body.
10. Cut the bottom of the fondant piece into a large "v" with the point resting just below the bottom edge of the torso.
11. Fringe the "v" with scissors or a small knife.
12. Use the end of a straw to cut away small half circles from the top of the dress. Keep in mind that her dress has a sweetheart neckline.
13. I used a paper doily to cover the fondant piece, and then I dry-brushed on some silver pearl luster dust to create a lacy effect. This is optional.
14. Mix blue pearl dust and a few drops of water to create an edible wet paint, and brush it on the top edge of the sweetheart neckline and on the bottom fringe. Allow this to dry for a few minutes.
15. Lay the fondant piece over the torso to make sure paint and lace shading looks acceptable. Remove and touch up any bare spots on the bodice if needed.
16. Roll out a 12x12-inch piece of white fondant to 1/4-inch thickness.Wrap this piece around the torso piece at the waist so that the bottom of the fondant flares out slightly. Cut away excess white fondant if necessary. Use fondant scraps to pad dress to about 3-inches below the torso.
17. Wrap the bodice around the torso. Secure with a dot of corn syrup if needed.
18. Cut out a small rectangular piece from the left side of the bodice just under the breast. Reserve the removed piece.
19. Use the reserved white triangle piece as a template to cut out a same-size piece of black fondant.
20. Cut the reserved white triangle piece into pieces horizontally to make "ribs". Attach them to the black triangle using a tiny dot of corn syrup to adhere, if needed (mine stuck on without syrup).
21. Fit the "ribs" triangle into the hole in the bodice. Press with a fondant tool to secure.
The blue velvet batter was baked into a 13x9-inch sheet cake. It's easy enough to cut into a coffin shape free-hand, so I didn't use a template. I used chocolate icing to coat this cake, but you could use cream cheese if you want to go the traditional route as with red velvet cake.
Cake covering instructions
For the fondant covering, I used red ready-made fondant kneaded with a little black fondant to give it slightly less "cheery" color. Measure the cake and then cut a same-sized piece of the red fondant to fit the top of the cake (roll to 1/4-inch thick, as per usual). Score quilt lines into the fondant using the back of a knife - just make a line, don't cut all the way through. Place a black Sixlets pearl on each point that the lines intersect. For the wood plank sides, roll chocolate fondant to 1/4-inch thickness. Measure sides of cake and cut chocolate fondant strips to stand about 1/2-inch taller than the top of the cake. Striate chocolate fondant pieces down the length of the strips creating a wood grain appearance. Press them onto the icing on the sides of the cake. Let cake stand while you finish the Emily sculpture.
Emily's arms and legs were probably the hardest elements for me to figure out. I wondered how on earth I'd make something so delicate-looking that would actually hold together without an armature. In the end I had a little help from toothpicks.
Veil, bouquet, arms and legs instruction
1. Her veil is made from a single sheet of edible wafer paper. You can find this at cake supply shops or order a few sheets online. In the movie her veil is worn and ragged with age, so it can be cut into an organic shape without using a template. The only guideline I can give is to cut it about 8-inches in length.
2. Dry brush the edges of the veil with blue pearl luster dust. Draw "stitchings" of curlicues around the edges of the veil with the blue food color marker.
3. Lay the veil on the cake, then lay Emily's body on top of the veil. The bottom of the dress should hang off the bottom edge of the cake.
4. For Emily's skeletal leg, roll a length of gum paste into rope. Cut away a three-inch long piece and gently roll between your palms so the piece is uniform.
5. Cut a small slit into each end of the piece, creating the appearance of bone ends.
6. Roll a much thinner 3-inch piece of gum paste and attach it to the side of the larger bone using corn syrup. Let dry.
7. Roll a small dime-size piece of blue gum paste into a ball, then pinch one side flat so that it fans out. Lay this piece over the bottom of the leg bone, covering a bone end.
8. Wrap the piece around the leg bone and pinch closed on the back side.
9. Scrunch the piece down, so that it has the appearance of a slouchy sock around the leg bone.
10. Wrap a small scrap piece of white fondant around the bottom of the "sock" to form a white shoe.
11. Shape the toe into a point.
12. Fashion a small piece of white gum paste into a 1/2-inch bone end and thread it onto a toothpick. Roll a small scrap piece of gum paste into a ball to form a knee bone and thread that onto the toothpick also.
13. Finally, thread the large leg bone onto the toothpick so that the knee bone butts up against it creating one long skeletal leg, about 5-inches in length.
14. Attach the leg by inserting the toothpick end into the fondant under the dress. I don't have a pictorial for her other leg, but you'll essentially make a long rope (about 5-inches) out of blue gum paste, and then attach the white shoe portion as before with the skeletal leg. Insert a toothpick into the top of the leg and then attach it under the dress as before.
15.To make the skeletal hand, roll a small scrap of white gum paste into a ball and then flatten in with your palm. Make 4 slits to fashion "fingers" in the gum paste.
16. Trim fingers so they are slim and cut them in graduated finger sizes.
17. Create a the lower arm bones in the same way the lower leg bone was created, except make it smaller, about 1 1/2 inches in length. Attach the hand to the bone using a toothpick.
18. Her bouquet wrap is made using a small square of gum paste.
19. Wrap the square into a cone shape. Use a dot of corn syrup if the cone does not hold together naturally.
20. Shape the fingers of the skeletal hand around the cone, and then remove and set the hand aside.
21. Place a drop of corn syrup on a piece of wax paper and cover the syrup with flower or snowflake confetti quins. Stir the corn syrup and quins together using a fondant tool.
22. Pour a little silver pearl dust over the quins and spread the dust with a dry brush.
23. Scoop up the quins with a small spoon and pour them into the bouquet cone. Let this set until the "flowers" are set and stable enough to move without them falling out.
24. Create an upper arm bone about 1 3/4-inches long and adhere it onto the veil with corn syrup beside the left shoulder (your right, her left). Place the forearm upright so that the hand rests on her bodice. Place a dot of corn syrup on the "elbow" portion of the skeletal forearm to adhere it to the veil. Place a dot of corn syrup on the back side of the bouquet wrap and place it under the skeletal hand.
25. Make a hand out of blue gum paste as before with the skeletal hand.
16. Roll out a 1 1/2-inch length of white gum paste and attach the blue hand to the gum paste using a toothpick.
27. Press the white gum paste onto and around the long blue arm. Use a tiny triangle of gum paste over the hand to create the illusion of a bridal glove. Use corn syrup or a tiny dot of shortening to make it stick. Place a dot of corn syrup on the underside of the arm and lay it beside the body on the veil. Butt the top of the arm against the shoulder.
Emily's hair. It's kind of a mess, but that only helps with the execution of this detail. It doesn't have to be perfect. The more ragged, the better!
1. Begin with a large gumball-sized piece of fondant that has been tinted royal blue.
2. Pull the piece into a long 6-inch length. Attach it to the head with a little corn syrup at the center.
3. Emily has a slight side part to the left, so make the part line first using the pointed end of the fondant tool. Make hair striations down the length of the royal blue fondant piece.
4. Increase pressure as you move the tool down the length of the hair so that the bottom portion of the "hair" is fringed. Place Emily's head on the neck and arrange the hair around her face and over her shoulders.
5. To make her floral head piece, roll out a skinny rope piece of scrap fondant or gum paste, about 4-inches long. Brush it with silver pearl dust. Place dots of corn syrup in the center of the rope and sprinkle over confetti quins. Brush the quins with more silver dust.
6. Wrap the head piece around the top of her head. Press it gently so it adheres. Let stand until set and stable.
A few more details to consider.
I tore the fondant at the bottom of her dress so that it looks worn. I also dry brushed the bottom edges of the dress with blue pearl dust. And don't forget to add the slit in the front of her dress, too. This exposes her skeletal leg - a very important detail! I added a few curlicue stitchings around the bottom of her dress with the blue food marker - this matches the stitching on her veil.
Emily has some decay on one side of her face, exposing some of her teeth. I painted this on with a fine artist's brush and black gel food color.
I used some ready-made royal icing white roses around the sides of the cake board. If I were to repeat this project, I might use some black drippy candles around the coffin. I think that might look even better!
So, how long did it take for all this sculpting and baking? Around 8 hours total spread over the course of two days. Five hours were used on the first day for sculpting most of the figure and baking/covering the cake. The remaining hours were spent figuring out the skeletal leg and scrutinizing some finishing touches. Writing this tutorial probably took longer than the making of the entire cake!
Even if you don't make the cake, I hope you've enjoyed seeing my process. The blue velvet cake recipe can be found here (in cupcake form). I promise it's just as delicious as red velvet!
Happy October, friends!