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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Make your own dragon cake this year!

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?!

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The making of a dragon cake:

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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.

Gather your ingredients (you can bake from scratch or use mixes like I did):DSC_8375LR3

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.DSC_8497LR3

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. DSC_8513LR3

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.DSC_8524LR3DSC_8617LR-23DSC_8742LR-23

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.DSC_8648LR-33

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.

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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.

DSC_8548LR-54Thank 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!

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PS: see also party activities, party decorations

44 comments:

  1. Coincidentally, I just told my daughter yesterday that I needed to find your dragon cake again. She has decided on a Chinese theme for her February birthday and wants this cake. Oh, and she wants me to make one for her CNY celebration at school too. I hope this really is easy!

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  2. Theresa1/11/2012

    Hmmm, I thought this would be great to do at home for our family, but then I realized we couldn't eat it all. I am now thinking of doing the cake with my class. Thank you for sharing this. I am inspired.

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  3. so is the Salsa bunch going to make another for CNY? Or is one dragon cake all you have in you?

    Just call me curious.

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  4. This is INCREDIBLE! I will be making this for sure for my adorable boy :)

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  5. I am totally all over this...just as soon as you promise to come over with an extra Maggie or two and several bottles of wine to help me. :))

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  6. Anonymous1/11/2012

    What is the date of CNY 2012?
    Thanks!

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  7. As amazing as the first time for sure!! Sadly I can't locate single coloured M&Ms here and it would cost almost a mortgage payment to ship them from the US. ;o)

    If we make it we'll have to skip the candies but can still make the bright frosting.

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  8. OmegaMom1/11/2012

    Has anyone who made one of these transported it anywhere? My dotter's bday just happens to be the day of CNY this year...It might be nice to do this for her class, using mini-bundt pans...

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  9. OmegaMom, my friend Dawn makes this at home then transports it to her local FCC party every year. Assemble and decorate it on the board, then it can easily be lifted and transported. You'd need a large trunk or van, of course. She uses icing with contour spray along the curves, not the M&Ms.

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  10. I did mine and transported it! I took the bottom shelf off my coffee table in the playroom and wrapped it in alumimun foil. You could get a board cut to specifications too. It was so much fun to make - we didn't use m&m's either - I didn't have them so I iced it in white, then took red frosting in the can and made squiggle lines across the top and bottom of the dragon. Next I took a spreader (a wide short spatula with a cirrated edge) and moved it up through the frosting and it created a cool two color look. I loved making this cake - it took me an hour to bake two cakes and an hour to frost them, and put the candies and the head on....very quick!

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  11. M3...a question, did you decorate it the day of your party?
    I have been "studying" your instructions for this and have assembled most of the ingredients. I stood at the Bulk Barn with a bag on my hand and picked out the yellow and orange M&Ms...over a 1000! (it was the saleslady's suggestion, she said people do it all the time!) Someone walked by me and said "they all taste the same dear!" lol
    I am making it half the size...hoping it is foolproof because I have never decorated a cake before!!
    wish me luck!!

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  12. Love it! Will make it if you can send Maggie over to help me.

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  13. Angela, we decorated ours the day before the party because I was scared that it wouldn't come out and we'd have to run to the grocery store bakery for backup cakes the morning of the party. Turned out to be no sweat at all -- the M&M scales mean that you don't need any cake decorating skill (phew). I baked the cakes two days early then wrapped them tightly in saran wrap.

    Good luck!!! It's going to be great!

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  14. ooooh, do you think this could be adapted to a dinosaur cake? My husband would love that!

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  15. thanks so much M3 ~ one more question, I swear!! did you wrap it once decorated?? I am trying to think of how I will cover it once I decorate it. If it turns out ~ I'll send pics!! I think this cake will be turning up everywhere :)

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  16. ps ~ I am also decorating a day early in case I need to go buy a back up ~ lol!!!

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  17. Hi Angela, I didn't wrap or cover it after decorating, just left it on the table where we were going to serve it. Can't wait to see your cake!!

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  18. I loved your cake the first time around, and I am planning on making one for CNY! I have the perfect accompaniment for this awesome cake--lucky dragon eggs! Check it out.

    http://likeaprettypetunia.blogspot.com/2012/01/lucky-dragon-eggs.html

    Love your blog!

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  19. M3 thanks so much for all the advice and directions ~ making it as we speak!!

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  20. AMAZING!!! as always, Love your words, your honesty, your creativity!! I thank you for letting us glimpse into who you are and your journey. It has made me pause and think. I have decided to make a few changes myself. Thanks for all you do..

    Sis
    http://adoption-thecrookedroad.blogspot.com

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  21. Anonymous1/16/2012

    Can you provide the dragon head template? Thanks!

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  22. Happy Birthday to your cutie-pie girls!

    We made our own, simpler version--it's gluten free, and just for our family. http://www.add-one-chinese-sister.blogspot.com/2012/01/chinese-new-year-year-of-dragon.html

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  23. Wow am I impressed! And I like to bake. It looks like this was quite an undertaking!

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  24. Oh wow! When Kim K. said you had an amazing dragon cake, she really meant it. I proudly present you with the China mom of the Year Award! And Mulan in person! Double wow! I know your sweet, beautiful girls will always remember the love and time you put into their party. Happy Birthday to them, by the way.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Cindy

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  25. This is just fantastic!

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  26. So cool!! But here in South Africa it will be hard to find all these one colored M&M's or any M&M's for that matter... Although my twin girls are from Thailand they would love it if I made this!! We celebrate Chinese New Year as well at the International school they go to.

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  27. I was kind of thinking about not doing anything this year....yeah, I am lame. But, maybe I will try this. It looks easy enough.

    Good idea!

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  28. If you have any one in China that the girls (or any of your friends or their kids) would like to speak with there are free calls to China for four days....

    http://www.freecallshub.com/2012/01/free-phone-calls-and-more-offers-for.html

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  29. love this! i may make it for our fcc party this year. fyi to all: amazon has the gummi chicken feet and yellow m&m's by the pound.

    does anyone know how many m&m's in one pound?? i am trying to estimate how many pounds i will need.

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  30. oops! just read in the post how many pounds of m&m's i need - great!

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  31. I think I will do this for my daughter's class for Chinese New Year next week. That is awesome. I might need a bottle of amaretto to get through the decoration, though. Not much of a wine person. Great ideas. Thanks.

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  32. Just amazing! great step-by-step instructions! Can't wait to try it!

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  33. Thanks so much for the inspiration! Here's my version!

    http://www.myoverthinking.com/2012/01/chinese-new-year-cake.html

    Kelly

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  34. My husband and I made this for our CNY party and it was a huge hit! We credited you at the party so youll likely have some new followers! Thank you for the face template! I'd love to send you a pic but I'm not quite sure how? Do you have a face book page for blog followers?

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  35. Awesome! Amy, can you email it me?! Just click "Email M3" in the left sidebar under Contact Us. Can't wait to see all the dragons.

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  36. My daughter and I made the dragon cake this weekend for fun and it turned out so cool! Thanks so much for sharing! Since we were only making it for the family, we used 2 bundt cakes and cut each one in 4 pieces. It fit perfectly on a long cookie sheet for storage. We also didn't have access to single colored m&m's, so we used all colors. :)

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  37. Thank goodness I read your blog and thank goodness you made a dragon cake I could as an example!! Did one for my daughters' annual CNY Party and it was a hit!! Easiest cake I've made, only took me 1 1/2 to ice using 3 bundt cakes. Didn't use M&M's but piped the scales on with icing (I'm a cake decorator!!!) Even the servers at the restaurant were amazed! Thanks for the idea! I'm sure I'll be making this again!

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  38. Oh man, I want to see pictures of all the dragons!! Click on "Email M3" over in the sidebar and send them over. How fun!

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  39. Thank you so much for your sweet comments!! They always put a smile on my face. And talk about creative - oh my word, this is awesome!!! And it looks oh, so yummy!!!!

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  40. WEll, I finally made one! I've been wanting to gently pressure one of my kids into doing a chinese themed party, but Year of the Dragon was perfect! We just had my own family, and one other family overt celebrate CNY tonight, but with 10 kids between us they were able to put quite a dent into the cake!

    I used two bundt cakes, and didn't use the M&Ms. Budget wouldn't permit it. I did snag the other dragon face and melded both dragon ideas into my own. I will email you a picture when I get them uploaded.

    Thanks for the idea!
    Becky
    (still wondering if I will bump into you one of these days!)

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  41. Anonymous1/26/2012

    That cake is ambitious and astonishing and fantastic!

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  42. Wow--your cake is incredible!!

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  43. Anonymous1/11/2014

    Thank you so much for the idea! We had my son's party today and the cake was a HUGE hit!

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