Maybe you never imagined that anyone could possibly sculpt a cake that could look like a realistic Grumpy Cat, the international feline superstar. But master cake decorator Kara Andretta has done it!
Here, she shares her process and offers some valuable lessons for anyone who's ever wanted to sculpt a cake. With these tips you'll be on your way to sculpting awe-inspiring cakes too.
1. Plan Your Attack
When Kara's son asked for a Grumpy Cat birthday cake, she got right to work on this totally reasonable request. Her first task: printing a photo to scale.
You can do the same using Photoshop or whatever program you like. Decide how tall you want the cake, approximate the portions, then print out the different sections. Line 'em all up and tape them to the kitchen wall for reference.
Take a marker and draw the general shape of your sculpture. Grumpy Cat was mostly a mound shape. Because the cake would only be nine-inches tall, with a slight taper towards the top, it didn't need extra support.
2. Choose Your Cake and Frosting
A tender, open-crumbed cake won't carve well. Ditto fillings that don't firm up when chilled. But with thick, solid layers of cake and buttercream (always a good option) you'll get less crumbling and fewer chunks of cake falling off as you carve. Plus you won't have to go over the same areas over and over and over again to refine.
Just be sure your layers are level and rest firmly on one another.
3. Chill, Then Cut
Before you start carving, remove the excess buttercream and stash the cake in the fridge for about two hours to firm it up. Then use a knife with a straight blade to carve. (Serrated knives tend to cut unevenly, and take off bigger chunks.) Keep in mind that it's better to carve too little (you can always do more) than too much (it's tough to go back).
4. Save the Scraps!
It's hard not to nibble on those yummy scraps of cake, but resist: You never know what they'll be useful for later. In the case of Grumpy Cat, they rounded out the head.
5. Frost with Ganache
Ganache, smoothed out with a spatula, always works well for a carved cake you're planning to cover with fondant or modeling chocolate. Check out the photo above: The results speak for themselves! Sooo smooth.
6. Work Through Any Ugly Stages
Cakes go through the same phase most of us did in middle school — an awkward, ugly stage. Just work through it, like you did in middle school (right?!).
7. Finish Strong
After more of Kara's amazing and painstaking artistry, may we present: Grumpy Cat! Notice how every detail matters, from the delicate whiskers to the nonpareil-covered baseboard.
Feeling inspired? Check out our full class on sculpting cakes! And just remember to take your time and power through the tough parts, and with patience and perseverance you too can become a cake sculptor making people go, Whoa!
All photos via Kara's Couture Cakes