Now, in my house, birthday parties are a BIG deal. We have a big family get together at our house, with TONS of homemade food! Usually, the lead up to the party consists of massive amounts of cleaning (we aren’t overly neat on a regular basis), food preparation and of course homemade cakes….or home baked and decorated. We usually end up using store bought cake mixes to cut down on time. For my daughter’s recent 6th birthday party, she requested a Monsters Inc. Sulley Cake. Well, in case you are currently looking, let me tell you now….they do NOT make a Wilton pan for Monsters Inc…… Did that stop us? Heck no! My kid wants a Sulley cake for her birthday, well my wife and I are going to do our best to oblige. Keep in mind, that cakes like this are a team effort. I do the sculpting, shaping, and layering, and my wife does makes, colors and applies the icing.
If you’re looking for step-by-step directions, or picture you’re going to be disappointed. We made this cake prior to my journey into the blogging world. Even so, most of this was based on shaping, reshaping, reshaping more and reshaping again until it looked decent….so there is no paint-by-number formula. However, I can give you the basics on how we did this. Or, maybe you’re looking at this like we looked at some Google images cakes while trying to get ideas and thinking…”that looks HORRIBLE, why would I copy it??). Either way, here I go. My first psuedo-how-to:
As I indicated above, we started with Google image searching. I highly, highly recommend that if you’re looking to make a cake (or anything creative) but have no idea where to start…well, start with Google Images (Pinterest is great, but Google will search that for you, plus everything else)! Great place to get ideas (or on some occasions directions). Google can make the least creative person appear brilliant! My wife and I found a Sulley cake from cakecentral.com that looked reasonable to accomplish and looked pretty darn good too! Unfortunately, there were no directions. So, with our inspiration in mind, we set out to make our own Sulley cake. I’ll make a list of products we used at the bottom for easy reference.
Step 1: Bake two 9 in round cakes
Whenever we plan to sculpt, modify or shape a cake, my wife and I always use a 1:1 mix of Betty Crocker’s “Super Moist Butter Recipe Yellow cake and Pound Cake mixes. In one bowl, combine the two dry cake mixes as well as all of the the required extra ingredients listed on BOTH cakes direction set. Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth. Split the batter in half and pour into two well greased 9 in round pans. We have found that Wilton’s Cake Release is the most reliable product for effortless cake removal! Simply coat the inside of the pan with Wilton’s Cake Release using a basting brush and if you don’t miss a spot, your cake is going to fall right out of the pan EVERY time!
Once your batter is in the pans, bake at 350 °F in a pre-heated oven until a toothpick (or knife) comes out clean. Baking times can be extremely long with the duel mix, but keep an eye on your cake. If its starting to look done, check it! The batter will rise significantly, and dome but thats good! After you get a clean toothpick check, allow your cakes to cool for ~15 minutes (so that they hold thier shape) and then, with a serrated knife, slice off the bulging middle section to give a nice flat surface for your cake to sit on. Go slow and don’t push, just use the serrated edge to cut through carefully. DO NOT DISCARD ANY CUT OFF CAKE…we use that for sculpting later. Once your bulge is removed, allow the cake to cool for another 5-10 minutes. In order to prevent breaking, put a cooling rack on top of the cake face down, grab the pan and rack and (smoothly) flip both upside down (both cakes, but one at a time!). If you used Wilton’s Cake Release, it should fall right out onto the cooling rack with minimal effort, but if you didn’t (or it doesn’t) gently twist the pan back and forth while lifting and hope for the best. Once the cake is out allow to cool for another hour. The cooler the cake, the easier it will be to sculpt, and fondant/icing requires completely cooled cakes. Once the cakes are sufficiently cooled, you want to move both cakes to your display board (whatever you want, though we use Wilton Cake Boards and Fanci-Foil Wrap to cover them). Be careful when moving to your display base, cracked cake is no fun after you waited a couple hours to get started. We use the cooling rack flip trick again, but then RE-flip onto the cake board.
Note: While you are free to use any cake mix or recipe you might prefer, some cake mixes are crumbly, spongy, soft or otherwise difficult to cut and sculpt.
Step 2: Shaping The Face
Now, I’m not going to lie…this is all feel. And, unfortunately, I didn’t take step by step pictures (though I have a few I will share). I’m not terribly talented, but I’m 3-D capable. So, I can’t really tell you exactly what to do here, but I can give pointers (though, I feel silly giving pointers when I’m basically a novice myself). You decide if you want my help with this or not…
I left one 9 in cake basically round but shaved off one side. The other, I made the shape more ovular, and cut a concave piece into the bottom edge so that it matched the convex arc of the first cakes shaved edge. Again DO NOT DISCARD CAKE PIECES and try to avoid cutting them into little pieces. The picture shows the BASIC shape of both pieces using a red line to show you where the two cakes are separated. See the shaved edge of the bottom cake and the concave shape of the ovular piece. Just make sure the top piece fits against the bottom piece and the top piece is narrower than the bottom. Cut a little bit at a time. It’s easier to take more away then add!
After you have the outline correct, then you can build in the 3-D elements using the cake you cut away (told you to save it!). Again, this is mostly feel and I am sure many many people can do a far better job than I!! Essentially, I first bevel the edges of the cake to give it a rounded feel. Then, I built up his lower chin using the bottom cut off piece of the top cake and matching it’s rounded edge, to the bottom cakes bottom, however I cut it in a wedge shape so that it sat with a grade towards his mouth (shown with red line). I then used extra cake to smooth out the gradation down to his mouth (blue line). Next I added a wedge shaped on top for the chin (shown with green line) Then, I put a thin layer of cake around the outline of the top cake to build up his brow a bit (purple line). Finally, I put two “eyebrow” pieces of cake on top of the brow (grey) and a piece of cake shooting up from his head to make hair. Everything was held in place with icing except the hair…had to use a triangle of tooth pics for that (just remember they are there for eating!). If you omit the hair, its more like a Monster’s Inc. Cake. With the hair, it’s more Monster’s University. The pictures below outline the not so obvious gradations.
That is really it for the build up, except the lips, which you have to do after the fondant. I know, its not really “how to” instructions, but it’s all I got for now! One note, after the fondant, I did add a ring around the mouth for lips, but honestly, I dont think it was worth it. We ended up having to make the lips too big just to cover it. Now, onto the fondant work….
Step 3: Fondant Fun!!
Now, if you’re looking for an expert, well, this was the first time I ever used fondant! It was…a learning experience. Now, you can search the internet or open a cook book and learn how to make fondant. I wanted to spend my time sculpting, not preparing, SO, once again we turned to Wilton for their Ready-To-Use Rolled Fondant (we used white and black with food color to get the rest). Fondant is essentially edible, quick-drying clay. You have to knead it, shape it and all that jazz, but it holds its shape! I can’t give you sculpting directions, but I looked at a picture and based everything off of that. The white parts are just straight up Wilton white fondant. The black mouth is Wilton black fondant. For the colored bits, we just used Wilton Icing Colors and a LOT of kneading and re-kneading to mix it to a solid color. The eyes are a mix of Royal Blue and Violet (more blue, less violet). The nose is a mix of Dolphinium Blue, Kelly Green and Teal (couldn’t even begin to tell you rations…just until it matched the picture fairly well). The horns are Ivory with a HINT of black.
I rolled the mouth out using a powdered sugared rolling pin and rolling mat, then cut out the shape I wanted. The eyes, nose, horns and teeth I just worked with till I got them right. The horns, I added rings to them using the back of a butter knife. I did learn a couple of tricks during my research phase. I read that you should make sure you put down a layer of icing before the fondant or it wont stay in place. Also, to get fondant to stick to fondant just use a HINT of water. Dip your finger, shake it off, touch the back of the fondant piece and put it in place. Takes some practice, but its not overly hard (unless you let it sit to long, then it gets REALLY hard). Sorry, that’s all the help I can give with fondant! Then, after the easy part is all done, I hand the cake off to my wife for the fancy icing process.
Step 4: Icing
Now, I know NOTHING about the icing process. I will warn you right up front. I can tell you that you should ALWAYS make your own icing. My wife makes unbelievable buttercream frosting (guess where she got the recipe…yup, WILTON). Follow those directions and add milk/sugar if needed to get the right consistency and taste. We generally make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge and sometimes even color it ahead of time (it keeps for up to two weeks in the fridge). You definitely want to chill it for some time before you use it or it might run after you put it on the cake. For Sulley’s fur color my wife used a mix of Royal Blue and Teal icing color (again not sure on the ratio…). For the eye brows and hair she used Royal Blue and Delphinium Blue on top of the standard Sulley color. I’m not sure you can see it, but there is also a little section of violet on top of his head. To actually create the fur she used the Wilton Icing Tip #233 (grass tip). The trick (or so my wife tells me) was to pipe the icing and prior to pulling the tip away, she held it for a second in the direction she wanted the fur to go. If she didn’t, it just flopped down and looked terrible. Also, it takes a long time because each little bit of fur is done separately! Again, I can’t be of much more assistance for this part of it! One thing to note, no matter HOW great or complicated the fondant work or sculpting…people will rave about the fur icing….trust me….
Here are a few more pictures of the end result. You can easily see that I should have rounded the top piece more on the left to even out the jaw, some of that is icing, but mostly my horrible sculpting ability. Also, as I noted above, the lops are a bit bigger than we would have liked because we had to cover the cake I put down. The crooked mouth and nose were intentional to give a crooked smile look that Sulley seems to give a lot. All in all, I think it turned out pretty well!
Lastly, while this post seems to be a walking add for Wilton, I am in NO way affiliated with Wilton, I don’t get paid by Wilton and Wilton has in no way endorsed our work! We just really like their products (and that’s mostly what you can buy at A.C. Moore and Michael’s!