Make this Black Velvet Nebula Cake for the star-gazer in your life. Layers of black chocolate cake hold a galaxy of stars inside, thanks to white confetti sprinkles.
I recently ordered a couple of Hubble Space Telescope picture books and – wow, are they ever gorgeous! I’ve been paging through them every day for two weeks, just soaking in all that beautiful imagery. Seeing all those colorful nebulae inspired me to buy two extra-large canvases to recreate some nebula images for my office walls. I’ve yet to set brush to canvas though, because I was also inspired to practice my galaxy-painting on cake!
I settled on black velvet cake for the cake’s interior, but I also wanted to make things a little more interesting. I added 5 ounces of white confetti sprinkles to the batter, hoping it would make the interior speckled to mimic a starry galaxy. It worked pretty well! The cake was well-speckled throughout, though some of the confetti didn’t dissolve completely and turned a bit marshmallow-y. I really love the effect, but I think next time I will experiment with some white jimmies to see what magic it can offer black chocolate cake.
The cake recipe makes a standard 9-inch double layer cake, but I used three 6-inch pans and had enough batter left over for 6 cupcakes. The cake is almost completely black on its own, thanks to dark cocoa powder, but I added an additional teaspoon of Americolor Super Black gel food color to make it even darker.
To get started, you’ll need to cover the cake with black ready-made fondant according to these directions. Don’t worry if your fondant work doesn’t turn out perfectly because the paint will disguise many flaws. You’ll need pink, blue and violet gel food color and most importantly white food color.
You’ll also need some painter’s sea sponges and a stiff-bristle (hog bristle) artist’s brush. Below I’ve outlined the basic steps for painting the nebula on the black fondant. In my opinion it’s easy, and you have but one real task with the painting process – don’t overthink it!
1. Prep the sea sponge by dipping it in water and ringing it out well. This softens the sponge and makes it more flexible. Mix a little white and pink food color together and dip the sponge into the ‘paint’. Tap the sponge gently onto the cake so that the paint creates an organic oblong-ish shape. Dip the sponge in undiluted pink paint (not mixed with white) and tap it in the center of the lighter shade of paint.
2. Using a finger, smudge the white portion of paint a little to create a cloud-like aura around the darker center paint. Remember, nebulae are basically clouds of dust and gas. Repeat this process with other colors over the entire cake but don’t over-do it! Be sure to leave some black areas.
3. With a fine point brush and undiluted white gel food color, paint a few white dots inside and around the nebulae and then smudge them slightly to create circles of gas or ‘auras’. Paint a white dot in the center of each aura. (You can see the finished effect best in step 5 just above my index finger.)
4. Mix a little white food color with drops of clear vanilla extract. Load the stiff bristle brush with the white color; bend the bristles back and flick the paint onto the cake (you can practice on a scrap piece of fondant first, if you wish). The closer you hold the brush to the cake, the smaller and more controlled the ‘stars’ will be. Hold the brush further away for larger random clusters of stars.
5. Use undiluted white food color and the fine point brush to paint bright white stars with no aura.
6. Use a small piece of parchment paper with the edge dipped in white food color to create star rays. Tap the edge of the paper onto a white star vertically and then horizontally.
The painting part turned out a little more abstract than it would be on canvas, but I still think it looks a little bit like a veil nebula. Even if it isn’t an exact replica, it was still a lot of fun to paint, which is the whole point of making a cake like this!
Cutting into the cake was fun, too. All those white confetti speckles made the cake’s interior look positively interstellar! I searched and searched for white star confetti sprinkles, but turned up empty handed. I ended up using some white snowflake confetti sprinkles I had on hand. They did the job, but as I mentioned earlier I’d like to try white jimmies next time.
The cake is deeply chocolaty and its matching chocolate frosting is truly rich! It’s not a true ‘velvet’ cake in any sense (so says this southern girl) but it’s a great little chocolate cake recipe that can also be made in a 10 cup bundt pan.
I used black vanilla ready-made fondant for this cake, but if you’d like to keep things chocolate, then you can add a little black gel food color to dark chocolate fondant. Dark chocolate fondant is so much easier to tint black than white fondant, as it is already quite dark.
One last thing! If you like this cake, you may also like my Zodiac Constellation Cake!
Black velvet cake
- 2 cups 260g all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups 300g granulated sugar
- 1 cup 125g unsweetened dark cocoa powder, (Dutch process preferred)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup 240 ml cold coffee
- 1 cup 240 ml buttermilk
- 1 ⁄2 cup 120 ml vegetable oil
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons black gel food color I used Americolor Super Black
Dark Chocolate Frosting
- 1 cup 1/2 lb. unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1 ⁄3 cups 170g dark cocoa powder
- 6 cups 770g powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 ⁄3 cup 160 ml milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon black gel food color
- Make the cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray one 10-inch bundt pan or two 9-inch round pans with a nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, milk and oil. Mix in the black food color; batter will be thin.
- Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes for bundt pan, 25 minutes for 9-inch round pans, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl, mix together melted butter and cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
- Add a small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla and black food color.
- Frost cake and decorate as desired.