My sister’s birthday was only a few days ago and to celebrate, I made her a darling little Sparky cake! The two of us are avid Tim Burton fans (his stop-motion films are our particular favorites) and as soon as I saw this cake on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it. So when her birthday rolled around and it was time to select what kind of cake to make, this was the obvious choice.
Aside from the dozen sugar sticks that I made 24 hours in advance (toothpick-like strands of gum paste used to anchor body parts), the cake took about 8 hours from start to finish. Out of all the elaborate cakes I’ve made before (namely Strawberry Maria and Blueberry Swan Lake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible), this was surprisingly the easiest. The cake itself is an earnest white cake dyed an electric shade of “Frankenweenie green,” and the frosting was an almost-too-easy buttercream dyed various shades. While a time-consuming and a touch tedious to sculpt and paint, Sparky wasn’t too much of a challenge. Since this was my very first time working with gum paste, I’m pretty darn pleased with the results.
Unfortunately, the camera I was using died during the creation of Sparky, so I don’t have any step-by-step photos of the sculpting process. Rest assured, though, for I have included a link to the original post in the recipe. I also wrote a little blurb of how I created Sparky’s tombstone, the kitty tombstone (look hard in the gray frosting!), and the grave hill.
Unfortunately I learned the hard way that you shouldn’t chill gum paste figures. By the time Abigail’s birthday had come around (the following afternoon), Sparky’s pupils had begun running. In the future, I will leave my elaborate sculptures out at room temperature overnight and place them in their forever homes before serving!
Regardless, this cake was incredibly fun and rewarding to make! I’m sure I’ll be experimenting more with gum paste in the near future. Until then, enjoy!
The original post with all of it’s lovely step-by-step photos can be found here, http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2012/10/frankenweenie-sparky-cake.html. You will also notice that this cake is striking compared to the other cakes that I make in that it readily uses white sugar and bleached white flour. The reason? I wanted the whitest cake possible for that signature shade of green. Besides, it was a birthday, and those only come once a year. If you want to sub in unbleached all purpose flour, unrefined cane sugar, and the like, feel free to do so.
In the original recipe, the cake was covered in white rolled fondant. Abigail explicitly requested notfondant, so I opted to double the buttercream frosting recipe and use the paper towel technique to smooth it to a fondant likeness (see assembly for how to do this). If you want to cover the cake in fondant, just halve my buttercream frosting recipe and you’ll have enough for the inside of the cake, the dirty icing, the border piping, and the graveyard hill piping.
300 grams / 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 180 grams / 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 330 grams / 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 egg whites (about 180 mL)
- 175 mL / 3/4 cup soy milk
- 7.5 mL / 0.25 oz green liquid food colour
- 1/4-3/8 teaspoon Wilton gel food colour in leaf green
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the rack to be in the middle of the oven. Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans and set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.
Place butter and sugar in the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites and soymilk until combined. Do not over mix.
Reduce mixer speed to low and dump in about 1/4 of the dry mix. Let mix until combined, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in 1/3 of the liquid mix, mix until combined, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and repeat, ending with the dry mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add in your food colours. Mix again until consistently green. If you need to, feel free to add a touch more of the leaf green to give it a definite vibrancy.
Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and place them in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the cakes are well-risen. A toothpick inserted near the center should come out clean. In addition, when lightly pressed, the cake should immediately spring back. Let the cakes cool in their pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before turning the cakes out to cool completely.
- 360 grams / 3 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 480 grams / 6 cups confectioner’s sugar (10x sifted)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (vodka-based if you’re concerned about the colour; I used bourbon-based but you can’t tell at all)
- A smidge of black gel food colouring (for the grey frosting)
- A smidge of leaf green gel food colouring (for the writing)
- Soymilk, if necessary
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the butter and confectioner’s sugar on low speed until crumbly. Once crumbly, increase speed to high and whip for 3 minutes straight, until gorgeously fluffy and aerated. Add in the vanilla and beat again for another minute. If your frosting is too stiff at this point, add a smidge of soymilk and whip until your ideal consistency. To colour the frosting, you’ll need to divvy up what you’ve got. Reserve half of the frosting to be white, take a heaping spoon from your soon-to-be grey portion to be green, and dye the remainder grey.
- 30 grams / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 120 grams / 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar (10x sifted)
- Black gel food colour
Begin by combining your melted butter and confectioner’s sugar. You can either do this with your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or you can do it by hand with a fork (what I did). Mix all of the powdered sugar in. It’ll be pretty dry, but go with it. Start by adding a 1/4 teaspoon at a time of soymilk until you reach your desired consistency (GO SLOW in your soymilk additions to ensure a smooth icing). Add in plenty of black food colour and mix well to achieve a homogenous, inky black.
- One packet of gum paste
- 10-12 sugar sticks (roll out toothpick-like strands varying in length and allow them to dry for 24 hours)
- Black gel food colour
- Corn Syrup
- Two white Good & Plenty candies for the eyes, just gently cut off the ends to use (alternatively, you can use two whole Sixlets, if you can find them)
- Very fine-tipped artist’s brush (the finer the better!)
- A plastic straw (like one from Starbucks)
To make sparky, you can use this link here for step-by-step instructions http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2012/10/frankenweenie-sparky-cake.html. A few tips. Don’t be afraid to use shortening as needed to keep your gum paste pliable and smooth! And when it comes time to paint on those lovely details, take a few deep breaths. Even if your a competent artist, a few of those will help steady your hands. In addition, to make Sparky even more authentic, let a smidge of black food gel “dry” on your artist brush, then gingerly begin shading Sparky around his eyes and some of his stitches to give a darker edge to him.
- Leftover grey gum paste from Sparky
- Black gel food colour
- Very fine-tipped artist’s brush
- Corn syrup
To make Sparky’s tombstone, begin by taking a sizable chunk of grey gum paste to make the base (use your Sparky figure to help you decided how big it ought to be). Form this into a sort of tall rectangle, keeping the edges rounded and level.
To make the cross, take another piece of gum paste (bigger than your base piece) and form a fat sausage shape. Using your fingers, tug on some gum paste about two-thirds up the sausage on either side. Gently continue pulling these pieces out to form the perpendicular element of the cross. Squish lightly around the vertices to give the posts some definition. Then on the ends, form round protrusions to give the posts a bone look.
Using a toothpick, secure the cross to the base, allowing it to stick out at the end of the base (this will help us secure it into the cake), and lay it down to set up a while. Using a toothpick, now very carefully carve “SPARKY” onto the base. Begin the Sparky bust by forming a piece of gum paste into a triangle. Using the same tugging technique, mold some ears. Gently narrow Sparky’s snout to give him a somewhat gaunt and angular look. Using a toothpick, cut in two deep eyes. Using some corn syrup, place Sparky’s head at the origin of the cross. Let the cross lie flat for a while until everything has sufficiently set.
To make the kitty tomb, begin by forming a small but sizable bit of gum paste into a rounded triangle. Using a toothpick, carve out a well-defined triangle within the gum paste one. Now form another triangle, but smaller this time. Make the edges of this one even more rounded. This is the kitty’s head. Form two even smaller triangles and affix them onto the kitty’s head to become the kitty’s ears. Using your toothpick, carve out a sleepy and sorrowful kitty face onto the head. Gently affix the head to the initial triangle and let it set.
Once both Sparky’s tombstone and the kitty’s tombstone have sufficiently set, you can add in a few details with your artist’s brush and the black gel. You can again use the “dry” gel-on-brush technique to give your pieces some depth.
- One green cake
- One batch buttercream frosting
- One batch black icing
- Sparky figure
- Graveyard extras
- Additional gum paste or fondant (for the hill)
- Piping bags
- Star tip
- Grass tip (optional)
- Small round tip (for writing happy birthday)
- Grey or black sprinkles
Begin by putting about 1/2 cup of the white icing on top of one of your green cake layers. Smooth it out and place the next one on. Generously frost the rest of the cake, being careful not to get any green crumbs mixed into the white frosting. If you’d prefer, you can dirty ice your cake, chill it, and then finish frosting it. Keep the frosting as smooth as possible and let it set for about 20 minutes, or until it doesn’t stick to your finger when you lightly touch it. Using a paper towel with minimal texture, gently lay it on the top of your cake. Either using your hand or a spatula, gently begin smoothing the paper towel over the icing, working in small sections. Continue to do this all over the top and sides to achieve a smooth, fondant-like appearance. Chill your cake for about 20 minutes.
Using the light gray frosting and the star tip, pipe a small border along the bottom.
Pour your black icing on the top of the cake, allowing some of it to drip down the sides. Chill for about 20 minutes.
With additional gum paste or some fondant (if you’ve got it on hand), form a sort of hill. Place this near the back of your cake and gingerly work Sparky’s tombstone into the top of the hill with the toothpick. With your light gray frosting and the star or grass tip, begin piping in little spikes to give the hill a nice craggy look. Be sure you leave room for Sparky. Nestle in your kitty tombstone. Eyeball a spot to write happy birthday with the green frosting and do so.
Before you are going to serve the cake, place Sparky in his nook. Generously sprinkle the hill with the grey sprinkles to give it some depth. Enjoy!