Thursday, October 6, 2011

How To Make a Dragon Cake

Dragon Cake
How to tame a dragon cake, in several easy steps.

When my son requested a dragon cake for his birthday, I did my favorite thing—surfing the web for pictures or instructions.  There are some amazing cakes out there!  But, as always, it comes down to what I am able to actually make myself, and what ingredients and decorating tools I can find.  So, after looking at several examples, here's how I did it:

1.  Bake a 2-layer round cake, and 4 cupcakes.

2.  Cut one of the layers in half, layer with jam or frosting and stack.  This will stand upright on the flat edge to form the dragon's body.

building a dragon cake

 3.  Cut the other layer into the needed dragon parts:  snout, tail, neck, legs.  You can see from the picture that I cut a thin crescent shape for the tail, 2 triangle wedges for the snout and a roughly rectangular curved piece for the neck.  The remaining bits and pieces were used for angles and height and smaller body parts.

how to make a dragon neck and head

4.  The Snout:  Stack the two triangular wedges together, with jam or frosting in between, to form the snout.  

Place the tail behind the body of the dragon.

Put a small wedge of cake at the front of the body and prop the neck of the dragon on it.

Adding the dragon's head

5.  The Head:  Cut the tops off of two cupcakes so that they are level.  Stack two or three cupcakes on each other to form the dragon's head.  I ended up using three, with the top cupcake still rounded on top.  

I also experimented with where to place the head.  Originally, I thought that I would use two cupcakes and place them on the neck, behind the snout, but that seemed too high to me.  I ended up moving the snout forward and putting the cupcake head between the snout and the neck.  I also used a piece of the leftover cupcake to raise the neck in front a bit.  

If you want extra stability, stick a bamboo skewer vertically through the cupcakes to keep them from tipping over.  You could use another skewer horizontally through the whole head area to further the stability of the pieces.
finish building the dragon's body

6.  The Legs:   Cut the remaining two cupcakes in half, horizontally.  

Use the rounded halves as the rear legs of the dragon (see picture).  Stick them on with frosting or jam, and use a small piece of skewer to further secure them to the side of the dragon's body.

Out of the remaining cake pieces, cut two small triangle wedges.  These will be the front legs.  Adhere them with jam or frosting and skewers to the body of the dragon.  (It will really help if these pieces of cake are frozen as they tend to crumble into bits when frosting otherwise.)

7.  Crumb coat the entire cake with a light layer of frosting, the color of your choice.  I had originally wanted to do a khaki green dragon but didn't have the right colors, so I ended up with more of a Chinese dragon look— going for orange.  It took a lot of fiddling with red, yellow and orange to get a strong enough color (that didn't look pink).  In the picture below, you see that it started off a bit pink, but by the afternoon, it had darkened nicely.

8.  Once the crumb coating is on, go ahead and frost the entire cake again, with buttercream frosting.  Lay it on thick and swirl the knife a bit to give the dragon a rough, somewhat scaly look. Thick globs of frosting also help cover any joints where cake pieces are.  

9.  Use a frosting bag or your fingers to make feet for the dragon.  This was just a blob of frosting, shaped into a roll, starting from the end of each cake leg, with the frosting smoothly joining the two.

10.  The Decorating Finish!  This is always the fun part!  For this dragon, I was able to find triangular orange gummies (also one of reasons I went with an orange dragon), and a Toblerone bar.  

As you can see, I placed the gummies in parallel up and down the spine of the dragon (with the remaining ones around the back of the head, like a collar), and the Toblerone pieces down the middle. I cut one gummi into little strips and stuck them on top of the dragon's head as hair (or something), and another to make toenails.

Next, I pushed the frosting on the snout into two indentations, and placed two oblong, indented pieces of orange-colored marzipan into them as nostrils. 

Eyes were jelly-filled mini marshmallows.  
The teeth were cut up strips of marshmallows.  
A strip of sour fruit leather was cut into strips and placed on the snout, with one end coming out of the nostrils, and flaring over the mouth onto the front of the tray.

Dragon wings for cake
11.  The Wings:  I had originally thought that I would just buy Fruit Rollups and cut them into wings;  however, when I needed them they were nowhere to be found!  Back to the drawing board.  I ended up taking marzipan, mixing it with orange food coloring (which gave it a nice mottled look), and rolling to out as thinly as possible to be the skin of the wings.

Next, I cut bamboo skewers into pieces.  I taped two long pieces together at right angles for the wing frame, then added on two shorter pieces in between for the veins or structural wing support. 

I placed the frame on the marzipan, folded the marzipan in half over the frame, then pressed and trimmed until I had the final shape.  Voila!
When the cake was ready to be presented, I added the wings to the cake (otherwise their weight would probably have caused them to fall out) by pushed the exposed skewer into the body of the dragon between the front and rear legs.  

The finished dragon cake

Make sure you take pictures before sending it out — the boys had the cake stripped of all its candy decorations in about 2 minutes!  And then they devoured the cake itself.  

I really had fun with this cake and the end result!  And my kids and their friends think I'm a pretty cool baking mom!