Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejui…. okay. I’ll stop right there. Just in case. (Ha!)
I wanted to make something seriously fun to celebrate Halloween this year, but I wasn’t sure what that would be until just a couple of days ago. It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie Beetlejuice (it was released in 1988!) but I recently had the opportunity to watch it again. Even though it’s an older movie, the humor and special effects still hold up today. I loved it as a kid, but I didn’t really catch the meaning of some of the quips and innuendo scripted for Beetlejuice – which was a good thing. He’s crusty, lewd, duplicitous, moldy and a bit cranky, but SO funny!
There was no doubt about it, this cake was going to have a sandworm incorporated into the decor, somehow. I love the movie’s version with graphic stripes and crazy-looking claymation faces. An angry, agitated sandworm will reveal a second head inside the first (which is sooo weird and cool), but we decided to make just one head, mostly because of time constraints.
You might remember my Portrait of Poe cake, or Frankenstein cake, or even this Skeleton Pinata Cake for The Etsy Journal. Creating silhouettes for cakes is kind of my thing now, especially for Halloween-themed cakes. I usually cut the silhouettes from fondant or paint the silhouettes on fondant with black food color, but for this cake I decided to trace the image on wafer paper. The lines were drawn with a food color marker and filled in with a light brushing of black gel food color. The end result was a little bit wavy, which is the nature of damp wafer paper. I’m happy to say the image mostly flattened out when I applied it to the buttercream-covered cake.
The sandworm was fashioned from a large chunk of gumpaste, about 3/4 of a pound! It was easiest to roll a large piece into a body, and then to attach the head after it was placed on the cake. The head is pretty much just a hunk of gum paste, rolled oblong and then sliced down the center. The stripes, lips, and mouth are all fondant attached with a damp artists’ brush. The eyes are red sugar beads.
Zagnut cake filling is a cute nod to the movie, and it’s seriously delicious! Even if you make nothing else in this blog post, I’d recommend trying this cake filling. It’s peanut butter buttercream with lots of toasted coconut and chopped dry-roasted salty peanuts added. There’s also a layer of white chocolate ganache in the center of the cake to fully complete the flavors of the Zagnut candy bar.
I frosted this cake in the style of a grocery store birthday cake with shell piping around the edges. The kitsch felt right! A black, white and silver sprinkle mix (called Mr. Gatsby) also seemed appropriate to jazz up the piping.
I’m not even kidding when I say we were blasting Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song (Day O) and dancing the entire time we were styling and shooting this cake. Maybe you should go ahead and listen to it, too.
How funny is this prop book? It reads like stereo instructions (ha!). I had to have it, and thanks to quick shipping I had it just in time to shoot this project. Just the first couple of pages in the book are printed, and the rest is a blank journal which I’ll use for writing recipes. Those interested in getting a copy can find it here.
I couldn’t resist cutting the corner piece of cake with the sandworm head on it! The sandworm’s teeth are white sprinkles sticking upright in the fondant. I just love that little detail!
The cake is my favorite vanilla sheet cake that is baked in a 13×9 pan. It has a lovely texture and really allows the flavors of the Zagnut filling to shine through. I’m including the cake recipe in this blog post. If you’d like to try to Beetlejuice motif, you can find the silhouette template at this link.
Vanilla Sheet Cake with Zagnut Filling
- 13×9 inch cake pan
Vanilla sheet cake
- 3 cups 350g cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups 300g granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup 180ml light olive oil
- 1 cup 240ml buttermilk
White chocolate ganache
- 1 cup 6oz. white chocolate, chopped
- 1/3 cup 80ml heavy cream
Zagnut buttercream filling
- 1/2 cup 113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup 250g creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup 125g powdered sugar
- 1 cup 85g toasted coconut
- 1 cup 150g dry roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Vanilla buttercream frosting
- 2 sticks 226g unsalted butter, softened
- 5 cups 560g confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Up to 1/4 cup 60ml milk or heavy cream, if needed
- Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 13×9-inch baking pan with flour-based baking spray (recommend Baker’s Joy).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and vegetable oil. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, alternating with the buttermilk while mixing on low speed. Mix until a smooth batter is formed.
- Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. When the cake is cool, level the top gently using a cake leveler or serrated knife. Use the cake leveler again to torte the cake down the center.
- Make the ganache: Place the white chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute, or until the cream is hot and not boiling. Let stand for 1 minute, then whisk together until smooth. Refrigerate until the mixture is of spreading consistency, about 40 minutes.
- Make the Zagnut filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and peanut butter. Whip until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat again until incorporated. Stir in the coconut, peanuts, extract and pinch of salt. Beat until the dry ingredients are dispersed throughout the buttercream.
- Make the buttercream: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the butter and confectioners’ sugar by starting the mixer on low speed. Continue on low speed and beat ingredients together until the mixture is crumbly. Increase speed to high and beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and beat together again for another minute until light and fluffy. If the buttercream is too stiff, add milk or heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is of spreading consistency.
- Assemble the cake: Place the bottom half of the sheet cake on a serving plate or cake board. Spread the white chocolate ganache onto the cake, followed by the Zagnut buttercream. Top with the second half of the sheet cake. Frost the entire cake evenly with the white buttercream. Place leftover frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large French pastry tube and pipe shell borders around the top and bottom edges of the cake. Add other decors and sprinkles, if desired.