In honor of upcoming Chinese New Year (January 23) and the exciting fact that this will be the year of the dragon, I’m reposting pictures and instructions for the awesomely fun dragon cake we made for the girls’ birthday. This thing is foolproof (really, truly -- I am NOT a baker or cake decorator by any stretch of the imagination) and you can make your dragon as big or as small as you want – use just one bundt for a family gathering and use more bundts for more people. Hope some of you make these for your CNY parties this year, how cool would it be to see edible dragons popping up everywhere?!
The making of a dragon cake:
My friend Dawn heard that we were doing a Chinese theme for the girls’ birthday party and sent me an email saying that I just HAD to make a dragon cake. She makes one every year for their big FCC Chinese New Year’s party and pinky swore that it was easy enough that even I -- a mama who has bought all of the girls’ other cakes -- could do it.
She was right. This cake is foolproof. Here’s what I did to make our 4.5 foot dragon.
Get a large board or shelf (1 to 1.5 feet wide and about 5 feet long) and cover it with a colorful plastic tablecloth.
Bake four bundt cakes. (If you’re nervous about cake disasters like me you can bake them a day or two in advance and wrap tightly in saran wrap.) Cut each cake in half and slide one half down to make an S shape. Arrange the cakes on your board.
Tint your icing with food coloring (we used really dark yellow, but any color of dragon would work) and ice one bundt, using icing to join the halves. Put fruit candies along the spine of the dragon. Then decide how you want to finish the cake – you have a lot of options here. Dawn has used smooth icing with bright sprinkles or “color mist food color spray” for contouring, her friend (the original dragon-cake lady) has covered the entire cake with star-tip icing stars, another friend Kelly just made the cake and covered it all with “rough icing,” and I woke up one morning at 5:30 and had the mad thought “I can cover that baby with M&Ms to make scales!!” Mwah ha ha. After this manic wakeup, I called my friend Maggie (my cake cohort) and began the phone call with the words she has come to fear “I have an idea!” Heh. (Update: people sent pictures of the different ways they decorated their own dragon cakes and I posted them in The Dragons of 2012. The creativity and ideas are awesome!)
Anyhow, work on one bundt at a time rather than icing the entire cake at once, because the icing will set up and make the M&Ms hard to place near the end. We used 3 pounds of yellow M&Ms, and about 1.25 pounds of orange M&Ms to create the look of an underbelly.
Make a tail however you’d like, by cutting the end of the cake to a point, adding candies, or, like we did, with Twinkies. We stacked up four Twinkies and slightly shaved the end of the cake so it sloped into the Twinkies.
You can use icing to make feet, or the fruit candies, or whatever floats your boat. I used Gummi Chicken Feet, purchased at the mall candy store (same store where I got the pricier-than-gold single-colored M&Ms in bulk). I didn’t like the extra toe thing that stuck straight up so I cut those off with kitchen shears (you’ll see what I mean if you use them). Oh, and we put lots of feet on the dragon.
My father-in-law counted, and we used over TWO THOUSAND M&Ms to cover the reptile. Wooeeee!!! It took Maggie and I about four hours and one bottle of wine to decorate the cake. We took breaks for shopping and lunch. Wouldn’t you?
Dawn, bless her, sent me an illustration and instructions for the dragon’s head. So I opened the image in Photoshop, colored it to my liking, then printed it, cut it out, added colored paper gills, and got it laminated. Used a hole punch on the gills and added red curly ribbon. And used the hole punch again on the mouth and added twisty candles – so when we lit the candles we had a fire-breathing dragon.
I popped the head illustrations up on Google docs, in case anyone wants to download them and make your own dragon cake (original black and white version here, and colored version here). Just make the head, then lean it up against the cake and the icing will act as glue. Kelly used a totally different head for her dragon here, and it’s a cool one too.
This cake was the hit of the party. The kids gasped when they saw it, and the parents all grabbed cell phones and posted pics of it on Facebook. Hee. The cake would easily feed a crowd of about 100 people. We used four bundts to make the cake, had about 46 people at the party, cut huge double-size slices, and ended up with one full bundt left over.
Thank you to Dawn for the incredible idea, for sending many pictures, and for answering all of my hundreds of questions. And thank you to my friend Maggie, my right-hand woman and fellow cake decorator, who is always on board with whatever craziness I can conjure up. Mwah!