Let Them Eat Cake! – Making Fake Cakes

Here’s another fun faux food project I learned from Deb Erb at the Stratford Off The Wall Faux Food course.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Dense styrofoam (the type you use will depend on the type of cake you want. While it can get pricey, Deb suggested asking stores like Home Depot if they have broken pieces or scraps you can have discounted or for free)
  2. Cutting tools and file
  3. Super 77 Adhesive Spray
  4. Acrylic paint
  5. Benjamin Moore Stays Clear Acrylic Polyurethane (either Low Lustre or Gloss depending on the effect you want, I used a bit of both – from here on I’ll refer to this as “Stays Clear”. These come in paint cans – you may want to pour it into a smaller container for easier pouring. We used those condiment bottles from the dollar store)
  6. Non-silicone caulking
  7. Gel medium
  8. Spatula, large flat paint brush or jumbo popsicle stick

Optional Supplies:

  1. For strawberries: artificial plastic strawberries (I see these for sale online, and I suspect that in the right season you can get them at craft stores like Michaels, in the floral section), acrylic paint (red, yellow, orange – to give them a more realistic colour), Stays Clear in gloss.
  2. For whip cream: see my instructions in this post, or follow the icing instructions, minus the paint.
  3. Decorative cake plate or doily
  4. For marachino cherries: see my instructions in this post.  
  5. For sprinkles: see my instructions in this post.  

And again, get creative! Try fun foam for chocolate slices, or put a different type of berry on top. Substitute baby powder for icing sugar, or stick on some birthday candles or other topper. You are only limited by the scope of your imagination!

How to Make Your Fake Cake:

1. Prep the styrofoam base

Find a strong, dense styrofoam. If you want a crumbly cake, like carrot cake, go for one with a more textured middle. Decide on the size and shape of your cake. It is best to base it off of a standard cake pan size, so that it looks more realistic; I went with an 8-inch circle. If you can find pre-cut styrofoam in the shape and size you want, great. Otherwise you’ll need to cut it; I cut mine with a bandsaw. You could likely also use an exacto knife, though it would take longer. After you have the shape you want, round off the edges to give it a more realistic shape, like this:

Round the styrofoam into a cake-like shape

Round the styrofoam into a cake-like shape

File down the edges to give it the look of the top of a cake, one that rose to a slight dome in the oven

If you want a layered cake, like the one I made, repeat this. You may also choose to have a slice removed from the cake, as I did. Simply cut it out with the same tool you used to cut the initial piece (again, I did this on the band saw). When you are happy with the shape and size of your pieces spray the entire surface of each with Super 77; do not stick them together yet.

2. Create a lift for the top layer

If you are not doing a layered cake, skip to step 3. Cut out some thin foam, like Ethafoam  (that thin foam electronics sometimes come wrapped in. This term is also used to described the rounded foam used to seal around windows and doors) to a size just slightly smaller than the size of your cake. You want all the edges showing so that no one notices this foam lift. Attach with Super 77.

3. Paint the “cake”

If you are not taking a slice out of your cake, skip to step 4. Paint the inside of the cake with acrylic paint mixed with a low lustre Stays Clear. To get a realistic effect, it is best to use several shades, sort of sponging some of them on. You can pick out pieces of the styrofoam (before you paint) if you want a crumbly looking cake. I went over parts of mine with a high gloss Stays Clear to give it a moister appearance.

The inner "cake"

The inner “cake”

4. Make the “icing”

Mix up some caulking, gel medium, Stays Clear and acrylic paint in whatever colour you want your icing to be. Work with the ingredients until you get a smooth creamy mixture similar to real cake icing. You can add water if necessary. Sometimes if it gets lumpy, it’s easier to thicken it first with caulk, mix out the lumps,  and then thin it out with Stays Clear or water, rather than just continuing to thin it.

Caulking + Stays Clear + Gel Medium + Paint = icing

Caulking + Stays Clear + Gel Medium + Paint = icing

5. Ice the cake

Starting with your bottom layer (if applicable), apply the icing, being sure to apply a thick, generous amount. It’s up to you whether you go for a more homemade, rustic look (as I did) and leave big, noticable spread marks, or go for something more polished and smooth looking. When you have iced the top of your bottom layer, stick it under the top, and then ice the entire cake, starting with the top and moving onto the sides. You can apply the icing with a thick, flat brush (as I did for most of it), or use a jumbo popsicle stick (I used one for some of the side parts). You could even use a spatula. Just think of it as the same as when icing a real cake.

The foam lift and some "icing"

The foam lift and some “icing”

The iced cake

The iced cake

6. Decorate the cake

I chose to put whip cream and strawberries on mine, but you can really let your imagination go wild here. Look at pictures of cakes online, or better yet, use this as an excuse to buy one and copy it!

To make the strawberries I took artificial plastic ones, and added some depth by painting them a better colour and glazing them. If you can’t find plastic ones, you could likely mold some out of clay (though that may be heavy) or even carve them out of foam, then paint them. The devil’s in the details with this one; be sure to really look at a strawberry and see what’s there. Thinking about adding seeds, making the shape slightly uneven – the closer your copy is the better it will look onstage!

See the original colour underneath

See the original colour underneath

For the whip cream, I used more of the same kind of icing mix, without the pink paint (I did use a bit of creamy white in the mix, but the caulking itself could work as well) and piped it out through a decorative tip. You could use Dry Dex for this but it may be too heavy. Stick the strawberries in while it’s wet.

Strawberries pressed into "whip cream"

Strawberries pressed into “whip cream”

In the end, you should have something like this:

The finished product

The finished product

All done!

All done!

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