Last year for my daughter’s 7th birthday party, we decided on the theme of ‘Weird Science’, and it proceeded to take over my life for a month or so there. I was so happy to be free from stupid girly rubbish, that I kind of went a bit crazy with the experiments and equipment, lolly bags, etc.
This cake was one of the most simple I’ve made, but certainly got a huge reaction from party goers and Facebook friends. Comments ranged from ‘wow – AMAZING’ to ‘Oh my God, that is DISGUSTING’, which just made my day! The final result really was pretty gross to look at, but extremely tasty. A few kids couldn’t get past the brain, and didn’t want any cake (hilarious!).
Creating the brain shape
I cooked two round butter cakes during the week, wrapped them in cling film and froze them whilst still warm. On the day before the party, I pulled the cakes out of the freezer and set to work carving the rough oval shape of a brain (frozen cake is much easier to shape, as it doesn’t crumble or squash).
Crumb layer of icing
I pasted the cakes together with frosting and then coated the outside well to disguise the join. I used just over one tub of basic, Betty Crocker style vanilla frosting, colored to a skin-like texture with food dye.
Making the gyri
I made the outer, noodly bits (correctly termed gyri, as a physiotherapist friend of mine pointed out) from packaged royal icing, or fondant. I added a few smears of blue and red gel food dye to the white fondant block, and kneaded to the point that it was marbled with color (rather than being thoroughly incorporated). I then broke off small handfuls, rolled them into balls and then into long noodle shapes by hand. The noodles were about the size of toothpaste squeezed out of a tube.
Assembling the brain
I arranged the noodles into rough gyri-like squiggles and then stuck them directly onto the frosting. The key to the realistic brain-look (thank you Pinterest) was the line directly down the centre of the brain, dividing the two hemispheres, and the rough symmetry of the squiggle arrangement on either side. This bit was fun, I even let my daughter make a few noodles (for which I afforded myself a mental high-five, considering my harried, day-before-party disposition).
Once complete, I covered the brain in lightly-greased cling film until the actual party day, to keep it from drying out. Oh yes, and I also added a few eyeballs, made with left-over white fondant and (very old) black fondant, which I discovered at the back of the pantry. A few left-over gyri attached to the back of the eyeballs sufficed as the optic nerve and muscle.
Slopping on the topping
On the day of the party I used a pastry brush to coat the brain in basic strawberry topping from the supermarket. No need for precision here, I simply slopped it on. Actually, as you can see, the more you slop it around, the more disgusting and ‘freshly dissected’ it looks!
Presenting the specimen
I realised an hour before the party that such a gooey creation was going to get rather insect-ridden and even more gross if left outside on the party table for any length of time. So, in true last-minute fashion, I raced around to a neighbor’s house to borrow the fabulous cake stand with glass dome, for that authentic presentation. Voila! Brain on a plate.