I am so excited to share my latest cake with you!
Last weekend we had a birthday celebration for my youngest daughter. She loves piñatas so I thought that would be the perfect idea for her cake. I’ve seen lots of fun candy-filled piñata cakes going around the internet so I knew I would want it to hold candy but, in my typical style, I had to take it one step further; I also wanted to suspend it in the air like a real piñata. This was no easy feat. My hubby and I spent a lot of time discussing options on how I could structurally make this work. At one point he got a little frustrated with my insistence on hanging it (after realizing that our original ideas weren’t going to work) and told me, “There is a reason no one has hung a piñata cake.” And my reply was, “And that’s exactly why I NEED to hang this piñata cake!”
Well, we didn’t give up and finally we combined our ideas and figured out something that would work. To be honest, neither of us was really 100% sure it was going to work, we just kept hoping and praying it would, so we both did a happy dance when I finished decorating it and we hung it and it stayed in tact.
I am so happy with this cake….well, actually there is one part of it that I am not that happy with, but we will get to that in a minute. For now, just take a look at how cute and how realistic this piñata cake turned out. And you are in luck because I took tons of photos while I worked on it so I have put together a full tutorial for you on how to make it.
Here is his cute little face.
And his adorable little piñata butt, complete with tail.
And, yes, he is fully suspended in the air.
Here is what he looked like hanging from our chandelier the night of our daughter’s party. The best part is that as the guests came in they asked where the cake was because they thought this was an actual piñata hanging in our kitchen.
And here is my beautiful daughter cutting her cake to reveal the candy hidden inside.
Alright, my excitement diminishes a little at this point because the candy part did not turn out quite as nice as I had hoped. I now know what my mistakes were and really wish I could go back in time and fix them so that we could have had the spilling-candy awe factor when she cut into it, but that’s life. The two mistakes I made were, 1) I made the cake way too moist by adding too much simple syrup on it (I like to use simple syrup to keep my cakes moist since it takes me a few days to decorate them, but I overdid it this time) so the moisture in the cake caused the Skittles candies to melt and all clump together. And 2) I didn’t fill it with enough candies. When I have seen other piñata cake tutorials, they stuff the center full of candy so that it burst out when cut into. I was trying to be economical and didn’t want to have to use a second bag of Skittles so I thought that one bag would be fine even though it wasn’t full.
I now know better for the future, I will be very careful with the amount of simple syrup I use (or not use it at all for a piñata cake), and I will stuff the center full with as much candy as will fit.
Let’s not dwell on my mistake though (yes, I am speaking to myself here) because overall it is such a fun cake and I am sure that you can learn from my mistake and make your own hanging piñata cake that bursts out candies.
So here is step by step photo tutorial of how I did it.
As always, I started with a photo to use as my pattern. I found this free clipart and blew it up to the size I wanted for my cake. I ended up making it 16″ tall by 12″ long (nose to butt, not including tail). I had to guess on a width, since I didn’t have that measurement in my pattern, so I went with 5″ and that seemed to work well.
I used this as a guide for all my measurements but also referenced photos of a variety of different piñatas to help me figure out the way I wanted it to look.
Let’s talk about the structure. Like I said before, this took a lot of brain storming. I needed to have it hang, but I couldn’t have it hanging while I decorated it as it had to stay still and I also needed to be able to take it in and out of my refrigerator. We eventually came up with the idea of a removable stand. So as you look at this photo below you will see the top boards and two pipes that made up the cake’s internal structure and then the bottom pipe and boards below it were just for support while I decorated. The bottom pipe was left loose so that it could easily be unscrewed from its flange, and the bottom assembly removed.
The reason there are two thin boards on the top part is that I originally had just one board and it was just too thin for the screws to twist into. I needed to add thickness but I didn’t have enough board left to make it the same size as the top board so it ended up being a little shorter in length. If you are starting fresh, I would suggest just cutting one board that is 1/2″ thick (instead of using two 1/4″ thick boards like I did.) I attached 3/8″ flanges to the boards and screwed an 8″ and a 4″ steel pipe in them to run the aircraft cable wire through.
At the bottom of the cake board I attached another flange for the 6″ support pipe. A second flange was attached to the bottom support wood. The bottom wood was heavy enough to keep the cake from wobbling. I attached the bottom of the support pipe very tightly to the bottom flange but only loosely to the top flange that attached to the cake board so that I could easily remove it later. When I later removed the bottom supports, the flange on the cake board still stayed there but you couldn’t see it because of all the additional decorations surrounding it.
You will also notice that I have a lot of pointy screws sticking out everywhere. If I were giving this to someone else I would have taken the time to saw the screw tips off with a Dremel tool so that they wouldn’t hurt anyone but, since I was going to be the only one really touching this structure, I didn’t worry about it.
I should also mention that the aircraft cable was held in place by wrapping it under the flange before I attached it to the board. When the flange was attached tightly, it held the cable in place. Be sure to check that there is no slipping whatsoever of your cable before you start to assemble the cake because that would be a tragic end to all of your hard work.
Next, I cut out two cardboard cake boards to fit on the wood cake board. The first one was the same dimensions as the wood and helped make a level surface next to the flanges. I hot glued this on to the board.
The second one I made just slightly larger than the wood board and only cut out circles large enough for the pipes to go through. I threaded this down over the pipes then hot glued it on top of the other cardboard. You’ll notice that the screws aren’t long enough to stick through this board.
Finally, I wrapped the pipes with Press N’ Seal because I didn’t want my cake touching bare pipe.
Now it was time to start assembling the cake. I took careful measurements of the board size and where the location of the holes were to go. The cakes were cut to 9″ x 5″. I used a circle cutter to cut out the holes.
It is tricky threading the cake over the cables and pipes. I suggest you get someone to help you with this. I did it by myself and ended up breaking some of my cake. Once in place, I used a 2″ square cutter to cut the center out. This is where the candy would eventually go.
I then added icing and another layer of cake, cutting out the center again once it was in place. I continued to stack the cakes for 4 layers and then filled the center with Skittles candies. As I said before, I would have done this differently now that I know the results. My cake was way too moist for those candies and I should have stuffed them in there so that they were ready to explode out. If I were doing it again with the same cake, I would probably line the inside of the center with fondant to keep the moisture from touching the Skittles. I used one full 9 oz bag but I should have used part of a second bag to fill it in even more.
When the candies were in place I covered the top with a piece of cut out cake and finished icing the top.
I then use my pattern as a visual guide and carved the top edges of the cake so to create more of a rounded back.
Once I was happy with the carving, I covered the whole thing in icing.
The bottom of the cake needed to be more rounded so I rolled out a long log of modeling chocolate and attached it with melted candy melts, wrapping it around the bottom edge of the cake and forming it with my hands so that it met up with the cake side. I then added some more icing so that it looked like it was part of the cake.
Finally, I covered the whole thing in fondant to give me a clean palette to start decorating on. It was tricky getting the fondant on since I had to lift it above the cake, poke the cable wires through it and slide it down over the pipes. I had my husband help me, as I couldn’t have done it alone. He held the cables in place so that they wouldn’t tear the fondant too much. The fondant did still tear some around the cables and pipe but I wasn’t worried about it because I would be covering it up when decorating.
Now to prepare for constructing the neck and head.
I cut some drinking straws and placed them around the pipe to support the weight of the cake that would create the neck. I then cut a cardboard cake board to the size I needed and cut out a piece to allow for the pipe.
I laid the cake board down, attaching it with a dab of melted candy melts, then stacked cake and icing on it. I also cut out pieces of the cakes to allow for the pipe.
After adding the first two cake layers, I used some armature wire to create a support for where I would eventually attach the nose. I wrapped this wire around the pipe then “glued” it in place with melted candy melts. I put the cake back in the refrigerator at this point to make sure the candy melts were firm before continuing.
I then continued stacking two more layers of cake and icing. After using all my cake I still needed to add a little height to the head. I had made Rice Krispie Treats to form some of the other body parts so I decided to just use a little of those to create the final head layer, instead of baking a whole other cake. It ended up being a great choice because they were very solid for holding up the ears that I would later add.
I then used the rest of the Rice Krispie Treats to create the legs, nose and ears. I used my pattern as my guide and shaped the treats while they were still warm. If your treats cool down too much before you form them, you can just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to soften them up again.
I then covered the whole head/neck in icing and fondant, just as I had done for the body.
I covered the nose with icing and fondant while it was on the table, then attached it to the cake by using melted candy melts as glue and sliding it on to the wire.
After attaching the nose, I stood back and realized that it was looking more like a dog than a donkey. So I took some more modeling chocolate and wrapped it around the nose to fill in some of the gaps. I wasn’t worried about it all being filled in because I would be covering it with fringe later. I just didn’t want it looking like a dog.
Now was time to start creating the fringe. I experimented at first with just using fondant but it was too stretchy and wouldn’t hold its shape so I ended up making a mixture of 50% fondant and 50% modeling chocolate. That worked perfectly to be able to role out really thin but also hold its shape.
I made four different colors. The yellow was created with a mixture of lemon yellow and egg yellow coloring; the green was leaf green coloring; the blue was sky blue coloring; and the pink was a mixture of fuchsia and electric pink.
I covered the legs with fondant and attached them in place with melted candy melts, using jars to support them until they were totally secure. I attached two legs that were diagonal from each other then, once they were set, attached the final two legs.
While the legs were setting, I made the eyes and nostrils with modeling chocolate.
I used a variety of circle cutters to cut out all the pieces of the eyes and attached them with a small dab of water. I then used a circle cutter to cut out the rounded shape off the bottom of the eyes. **Please note that I later realized that I wanted more black on the bottom of the eyes so I ended up removing the black bottoms and creating new ones that left more black hanging down then reattached the whites to them. Look at one of my final photos to see how they turned out once I redid them.**
I also hand cut a couple of nostril pieces out of modeling chocolate for the nose.
When the legs were firmly attached I cut out circle of black fondant and wrapped it around the bottoms to create the feet, attaching with a few dabs of water.
I used a razor blade to cut the feet down to the size I wanted.
To make the fringe, I rolled out my fondant/modeling chocolate mixture really thin then used a ribbon cutter to cut 1″ thick strips. With the razor blade I cut fringes about every 1/4″ around 1/2″ deep. I did this quickly so I didn’t measure them, just eyeballed them as I went along. Also, you will notice there is black fondant still stuck to my razor blade from cutting the black feet. I ended up cleaning it off right after I took this photo.
I used a tape measure to figure out about how long of strips I needed then cut them to size, dabbed some water on the leg, and attached it. I layered each strip on top of the last then used my modeling tool to bend and shape some of the individual fringes.
After every two layers of fringe I changed the color and continued on up the legs then up the body.
Once I reached the top of the body I switched the direction I was going with the fringe, starting at the butt and moving towards the head, adding 3 layers of each color.
For the nose, I first covered the end of it with a flat piece of the pink fondant/modeling chocolate mixture.
Then continued, as before, with attaching rows of fringe around it.
For the head, I started at the bottom and wrapped the rows of fringe around, beginning and ending at the point where they touch the nose fringe.
Once the head was fully covered, I wrapped the ears in white fondant then stuck toothpicks in the bottoms of them and stuck those into the head. I used a little dab of melted candy melts to hold them in place.
I covered the tips of the ears with a piece of the pink mixture then started at the bottoms and added fringe all the way up.
To finish the piñata off I needed to add a tail so I cut out two strips each of all four colors. I attached four of them then twisted the strips to give them a curly look. I did the same thing with the final four and then laid those four on top of the first four attaching them with a dab of water.
I let these set and dry overnight so that they firmed up and held their shape really well when I attached them on the cake the next day.
I used melted candy melts to adhere the tail to the body and then made a little bow out of some additional mixture to cover the attachment point, also using candy melts to attach it.
When it was time to hang the cake, I held it while my husband twisted the ends of the cables around our light fixture. **It is very important that you make sure that your light fixture, and everything connecting your light fixture to the ceiling, is strong enough to support the weight of your cake.**
Once in place my hubby held on to the cables to keep the cake from moving and I spun the base pipe to unscrew it from the bottom flange. We slowly stepped away as I removed the bottom support and, lo and behold, IT WORKED!! In fact it hung there for almost 4 hours before the party even started.
To be honest, I was actually a little surprised at just how solid it was and how well it worked!
I fell in love with my little piñata cake and I hope you have too.
Here’s to sweet dreams and sugar highs,