This cake is dangerously delicious. A deep dark buttermilk chocolate cake wrapped in thick white marshmallow fondant stabbed with shards of sweet sugar glass, topped with a white chocolate skull, and drizzled in sweet raspberry blood is a showstopping way to say Happy Halloween!
The first thing we’ll need to do is make your white chocolate skull. This is a step that can be done quite a while ahead of time (as in days or weeks, depending on your schedule). Plan for at least 2 1/2 hours to make the skull as it is a little labor intensive. (This is the exact same technique we’ve used on previous cakes like the mossy skull and the flaming inferno!)
Start with a skull mold. There are a number of them online for purchase right now. My personal favorite is one I picked up a while ago that is a 1:1 anatomically correct mold in food-safe silicone.
You’ll also need 2 bags of white candy melts.
Assemble the two halves of the upper cranium and secure. I placed mine inside a box that just happens to be almost the perfect size to hold the two halves together. I brace the sides with a little extra foam to keep it from wiggling.
Melt one of your bags of candy melts. You can do this either by placing them in a crockpot or electric fondue pot set to low, or by zapping in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time and stirring between cookings.
Once your candy melts are melted and smooth, pour the entire pot into the half of your mold that makes up the upper cranium. Tilt the mold back and forth to make sure you get an even coat on all sides. A pastry brush can also assist in getting the chocolate into the grooves and spots that might be a bit tougher to reach just by tilting. Set this aside and allow the chocolate to cool.
Melt your second bag and repeat the process with the lower portion of the mold, again allowing it to cool and harden.
Melt your third and final bag of candy melts, but this time allow it to cool almost to room temperature. You want to be able to pour it into your mold without having it melt through the layer you’ve already poured.
When it’s cooled down enough, pour the entire bag into the upper half of your cranium and then assemble the mold, placing the two halves together.
Now comes the fun part…rotational casting.
Make sure your mold halves are secured together. I use a strap wrapped around the entire thing to make sure all the pieces stay where they are supposed to stay.
Carefully start rotating your mold around 360 degrees. You want to make sure that the liquid chocolate inside the mold fully coats and covers every inch of the mold which means you have to turn it upside down and all around.
Do this for a good hour. It’s a workout, but worth it.
Now place your mold in the fridge. Every five minutes for the next 30 minutes, rotate your mold by flipping it onto each side.
At the end of those thirty minutes, turn the whole thing upside down so the front of your skull is facing down and leave it alone for 2 hours! WALK AWAY. Go watch a movie. Take a stroll. Do whatever you want, but leave the mold alone.
When it comes time to open the mold, do it carefully. Gently rock the silicone pieces back and forth to help release their hold on your chocolate.
Be prepared, you’re going to have breaks. It happens…but for this cake, it’s okay… If it happens, save the pieces and you can either glue it back together using more liquid candy melt, or simply leave it broken and tell everyone you meant to do that. It’s art…it’s subjective. Do what makes you happy.
Your skull can be safely stored in a dry and cool space for several weeks.
Now let’s make cake!
- 3 Cups flour
- 3 Cups sugar
- 1 1/2 Cup dark cocoa powder
- 1 Tablespoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 Cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup brewed espresso (can be substituted with 1 cup warm water and 2 Tablespoons espresso powder)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup sour cream
Start by preheating your oven to 350F/170C. Mix together your dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix together your wet ingredients. Drizzle your wet ingredients over your dry and mix to combine.
Place into 2 greased and floured circular cake pans (I used 1 9″ pan and 1 8” pan) and bake for between 45-50 minutes.
While your cakes are cooking, it’s time to make your sugar glass.
For this you will need:
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup white corn syrup
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
In a large pot, combine together your sugar, corn syrup and warm water. Simmer on medium and stir until all your sugar is dissolved.
Once all the sugar is dissolved, turn your heat up to medium-high and allow to reach 300F/148C. DO NOT STIR YOUR SUGAR AT ALL WHILE THIS IS HAPPENING. Just ignore it. I mean, don’t totally ignore it…you don’t want it to boil over or anything…but just don’t touch it. Leave it alone.
Once it reaches 300F/148C (the hard crack stage) turn off the heat. Pour your liquid sugar onto an oiled cookie sheet (make sure your cookie sheet has 4 raised sides all around it. The last thing you want is a wave of screaming hot sugar flowing off your cookie sheet and across your counter!) Let your sugar completely cool and harden.
Now let’s make the white fondant.
For this you will need:
- 3 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
- 4 cups powdered (icing) sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2/3 cup white candy melts
Add your marshmallows, candy melts, and your lemon juice together in a microwave-safe bowl. Zap in your microwave for 30 seconds at a time and stir between zaps until smooth and liquid.
Pour your powdered sugar into a large bowl and scoop out a small well in the center. Pour in your melted marshmallow/candy melt mixture and cover with powdered sugar. Knead the sugar into your liquid mixture until you achieve a smooth, pliable dough. Don’t worry, you won’t use up all the powdered sugar. Save some of your excess sugar to use when rolling out your fondant.
Let’s start assembling the cake! The first thing you want to do is frost it with a good crumb coat. I used a simple buttercream fudge frosting.
To make your own you will need:
- 2 sticks (1 cup) room temp salted butter
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup whole milk (or cream if you really want to make it rich and thick)
- 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sift your powdered sugar and cocoa powder into your mixer’s bowl and then add in your softened butter and vanilla. Whisk on high until fully incorporated. Slowly add in milk one tablespoon at a time until you achieve a thick, heavy frosting.
To make the next steps easier, we suggest placing both cakes on appropriately sized cake boards. I placed the larger 9” cake onto my 12” cake board and the 8” onto an 8” round.
Slather that chocolatey goodness onto your cakes and give them both a nice thick crumb coat.
Next, divide your fondant into 1/3 and 2/3 sized balls. Roll both out until roughly ¼ inch thick and large enough to cover both cakes evenly.
Reinforce your larger bottom cake with wooden dowels and then carefully stack your two cakes.
By now your liquid sugar should be cool. Using the back of a spoon, rap on the surface of your sugar sharply. It should shatter into large angular chunks.
Using a knife (be careful) slice through the fondant on your cake and slide in shards of your sugar.
Decorate all around your cake layers, adding in shards wherever you see fit. Top with your chocolate skull.
The final step is to add the bloody drizzle. To make this you will need:
- ¼ cup raspberry jam
- 1 package unflavored gelatin
- 1-2 teaspoons light corn syrup
- Red food coloring
- ¼ cup cold water
Bloom your gelatin in your water until fully saturated. In a pot, bring the gelatin water to a simmer. Add in your raspberry jam and your corn syrup and enough red food coloring to give you a good, bloody look. Simmer until all gelatin is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Using a ladle or large spoon, carefully spoon your ‘blood’ over the sugar shards on your cake.
For an extra layer of gore, use a small paintbrush to splatter your cake with your blood.
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