Halloween ‘Eyes in the Fog’ Cake

I've been on a run of pretty light-hearted Halloween cakes...

...and this one's really kind of in the same vein, but it doesn't feel the same to me! 😉

One of the CREEPIEST things to me as a kid in movies was seeing eyes open through fog. It could be in a scary movie or in an animated Disney movie; didn’t matter.

SCARY.

So when that came to mind – with the realization that I knew exactly where to get candy eyes and dry ice to create the illusion of fog – this cake! There’s a cake-pop-mix ‘eye’ hidden in the center of the cake, with a bit of red color marbled into the white layers to create ‘veins.’ Black frosting and candy eyes cover the outside, and the dry ice fog is optional but HIGHLY recommended! 😉 Recipe below!

(Disclosure: As a way to keep my kitchen stocked with butter, sugar, and flour I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn a commission by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
My posts often contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you!) 

Cake Layers: 
Note - this is a modified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!! 
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup  granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon  salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 7 eggs, or use egg whites from a carton if you don’t want to waste any yolks!)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
3-4 large drops red food color (I used liquid, but gel food color could be used as well!)
Cake pop filling:
1 box white cake mix + ½ cup oil + 1 cup water + 4 egg whites + 3-4 large drops blue gel color (I used Americolor royal blue) (You’ll also need a few additional drops of black gel food color, but don’t add this until later!)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly. 
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

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. Add a few drops of red food color to each layer, and marble it in with a small knife or offset spatula.
Mix cake mix according to package directions, and bake in the pan of your choice – I used a 9x13 pan, but it really doesn’t matter; you’re going to crumble it into cake pop mix!

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). The boxed cake mix may not take quite as long depending on our pan.
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. (This is a great time to make your frosting!) 
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.
Level the cakes (if needed; mine baked flat & I didn’t trim the tops) with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler.
To create the hole for the ‘eye’ in the center of your cake, use a glass or medium-sized biscuit cutter to remove the center from one of the three cake layers, and to mark a circle to carve out a small circle out of the other two (to create a circular hole in the center of the cake for the eye!)

Black Chocolate Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
5 ½ -6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
4-6 Tablespoons milk
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
5-6 large drops black gel food color (I use black pretty frequently, especially around Halloween, so I bought this large bottle from Americolor!) 
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Reserve a few tablespoons to make your blue cake pop mix! Add the cocoa powder and more milk if necessary, vanilla, black gel color, and salt if needed and beat until well combined.

Additional Supplies/Equipment:
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) 
- Candy eyes – I liked the look of two different sizes, so I bought this set from Amazon!
- 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)
- small piece of dry ice + hot water – dry ice can be found at most large grocery stores; I called ahead to the store to make sure they had some on hand. I also recommend oven mitts (these Halloween oven mitts I found are pretty awesome!) and a pair of tongs so you don’t ice-burn yourself! Adult supervision required here.

Crumble the blue cake with a fork (or your fingers) and divide the cake crumbs in half. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of frosting to make a thick cake pop mix. Leave one half blue; add a few additional drops of black food gel to the other half and mix it in to create a black mix. Shape the black cake pop mix into a large circle – I used the largest of this silicone circle mold set.

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 (one with a hole scooped out from the center) in the center of the circle. Spread the top of layer with frosting. Spread a layer of blue cake pop mix in the base of the scooped-out hole. Center the black cake pop circle in the blue cake pop mix, and place the second (center-punched) cake layer on top. Fill the empty space around the black ball with blue cake pop mix, and mound it on top to create a blue layer around the black center. Flip the last cake layer over and center it on top.

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, add on your candy eyes and place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.

Now the *really* fun part – dry ice! I carved out a small hole from the top of the cake, and placed a small plastic cup in the hole, using more frosting to hold it in place. This was where I put a few 1-2-inch chunks of dry ice and poured about ¼ cup of hot water over the top to make them ‘melt’ (I think ‘sublime’ is the technical term?) and turn into gas/steam. And there you go – eyes in the fog!

And you’re done! Cut in and enjoy!

Make this recipe? Let me know  how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo! 

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