First note – you have options here!
You can use your favorite layer cake recipe, you can use my Favorite Vanilla Cake recipe, you can use the Red Velvet Cake recipe that I used, OR – you can ‘bakery-level-up’ a couple of boxed cake mixes!
To make ‘bakery-style’ cake mix layers, I use
- 2 white cake mixes
- to make them taste richer, I replaced the combined 1 cup of oil the mixes called for with 1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks, melted & cooled)
- total of 8 egg whites (no yolks),
- replaced the 2 cups of water with 2 cups of buttermilk, (room temperature) and
- 2 tablespoons of clear vanilla extract!
- feel free to color the layers if you’d like! I prefer Americolor gel food coloring.
Mix your cake batter according to recipe / box instructions, and divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles)
- squeeze bottle or piping bag for the cake drip
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)
White candy melts + whipping cream for the cake drip (recipe below; I use the Wilton brand Bright White candy melts)
Blue (or whatever color you’d like to make your dragon) + gold & silver edible paint or lustre dust for the drip (I used the gold and silver airbrush color from this set) & small new or food-safe paintbrush
1 recipe of Rice Krispie Treats – (recipe below!)
Gum paste – here’s a link to the gum paste I used
Few toothpicks or skewers – to help hold the front of the dragon in place
Small paring knife
Small piece of acetate (for smoothing the frosting on the dragon)
Round gold and silver sprinkles – I used Wilton’s gold and silver sequins
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler.
Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting.
Add your next cake layer on top, and repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
This is a great time to make and color your ganache drip(s)!
Candy Melt Drip:
- 6 oz white candy melts (I use the Wilton brand Bright White)
- 3 ¾ Tablespoons heavy whipping cream (the brand I usually use comes from Costco and is incredibly thick; you may need a bit less depending on the thickness of your heavy cream!)
(This recipe is very similar to my favorite white chocolate ganache recipe – you’re basically using candy melts instead of white chocolate to make a very similar drip ganache. I prefer this drip when I want bright vibrant colors that aren’t tinted yellow from the white chocolate!)
Place heavy cream and candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between.
When your candy melt mix has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to a squeeze bottle, piping bag, or small ziplock bag. A spoon will work if you don’t have either of those; I’ve just found spoons to be a little bit more difficult to work with.
Slowly drizzle candy melt ganache around the upper edge of your cake, pausing every inch or so to let more fall in a drip down the side of the cake. Pour enough on top to cover the cake, and smooth any gaps or bumpy spots with a small offset spatula. Place the cake into the refrigerator to set the drips!
Once they’re set and dry to the touch, color alternating drips with gold and silver paint or lustre dust mixed with a bit of vodka or clear vanilla extract (the alcohol will dry more quickly than water!)
NOW for the fun part! Dragon time!
I used a sketch as a guide and shaped the dragon head, neck, wings, front legs, and ridge-back from gum paste, and painted them with liquid food color. I made and painted the head, neck, and wings the day before to give the gum paste time to set and dry. I used two black sugar pearls for the eyes, but these could be painted on as well.
My tip for the wings is to start with a quarter-circle-shaped piece of gum paste and set it over three skewers or chopsticks – this gives a start to the folds in the wings and will let you crease them more easily!
Rice Krispie Treats (for dragon):
- 3 c mini marshmallows
- 4 c Rice Krispie cereal
- Leftover frosting from cake – I microwaved it for a few seconds to make it a bit easier to cover the dragon in frosting
- 1-2 T Crisco or butter (Optional – to coat your hands while shaping the dragon)
- 2-3 toothpicks or skewers – also optional, but I found this to be the easiest way to keep the dragon’s head in place
Place marshmallows in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-45 second intervals until melted and smooth. Add in rice cereal, stirring until evenly coated and smooth. Shape the dragon’s body and tail with rice krispie mix – it helps to coat your hands with Crisco to make the process easier!
Once you’re happy with the dragon’s shape, cover it in frosting with a small offset spatula, and smooth with a small piece of acetate. (Gum paste or fondant could be used to make a smoother-looking dragon at this point, but no one in my family likes the taste – so I stuck with frosting and food color!
With a skewer or toothpicks (or both), place the dragon’s neck and head onto the front of the dragon body.
For the ridge-back, roll out a strip or two long enough to run down the back of your dragon. Flatten the strip with your hands, and then use a knife to make a ridged pattern down the strip. Once the frosting feels dry to the touch, paint the dragon body and ridgeback with liquid food color and your paintbrush.
ALL dragons hoard treasure, so I used some gold and silver sequin sprinkles and added these around the dragon on top of the cake – to make it look like the dragon was sitting on top of a pile of treasure!
And you’re done! Step back and admire your cake – and enjoy!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!