Mad Science Cake

because halloween!

I had a vague 'science cake' idea cross my mind once that seemed like an awesome fit for a Halloween cake! I had a couple of hang-ups though...I’d had some ideas for where to get a set of test tubes and maybe a flask or graduated cylinder or two….but those leads didn’t end up panning out and all of the places I checked for them online were *UBER* expensive. :/ Wasn’t super interested in investing fifty bucks in some science equipment I was never going to use again….for a cake idea. Meh. 

But! Then Michaels (craft store near me) was having a super sale on all of their Halloween decorations – and wouldn’t you know, in the set of said decorations was a set of test tubes and a perfectly-sized flask. BOOM!

Disclaimer. No actual booms. I’ll leave the explosions to the *real* science nerds.

The only significant noise I made with this cake was a shattering sound when I accidentally dropped one of the test tubes and it shattered alllll over the floor.

Yeah. Sucked. Verdict: do NOT recommend. :/

But that fiasco aside, I’m in love with the way the cake turned out! Recipe below!


Vanilla Cake Layers: 

Note - this is a slightly-modified/simplified layer cake recipe from - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!! 

3 1/4 c.  all purpose flour
3 c.  granulated sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t.  salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
5 eggs 
1 ½  cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 colored sprinkles – if you want to add them for color  
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick 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 egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients in two installments, on a low speed. Add in 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 colored sprinkles to your cake batter at this point – if you’d like to add a little color to your layers – and marble it in with an offset spatula or knife.

Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8 inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

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
¼ c milk or whipping cream   
1/4 t. salt
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with whipping cream until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add salt and beat until well combined.


Additional Supplies/Equipment:
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- several glass or plastic test tubes, beakers, flasks, or graduated cylinders
- about ¼ c colored sprinkles
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! 

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. These cake layers bake fairly flat though, so I don’t think I bothered to level them for this cake. 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 and toss on some more sprinkles if you’d like. Repeat the process with the next layer and add your last cake layer on top. I put mine on upside-down to make shaping the frosting on top of the cake easier.

Crumb coat:
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - 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 *freezer* to set the frosting. Usually the fridge is sufficient, but you need a frozen cake to set your ganache drip. 

Speaking of which...

White Chocolate ganache (for drip) 

1/2 c heavy cream (77 grams)
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips (175 grams)
1 squirt each purple, green, yellow, and orange gel food coloring (I used Americolor gel color)

Combine heavy cream and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe container, and microwave on half-power in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth, stirring in between.
Divide into four small bowls and color one purple, green, yellow, and orange – blue+red=purple, blue+yellow=green, and red+yellow=orange, if you’re unfamiliar with color mixing and don’t have that many colors on hand.  
I don’t recommend liquid coloring; it can occasionally make the white chocolate seize and harden… could give you a weird lumpy drip.


Okay! Now that all the pieces are ready, it’s time to decorate your cake! My cake was pretty well set after about 20 minutes in the freezer, which was what I wanted to make sure that the drips would set and the flask and test tubes would stay put. ALSO – make sure your ganache is in the 90-95 degree range – it should be liquid and at or just slightly above room temperature. Too cold and it won’t drip, but if it’s too hot it might melt your frosting!

I started with the beaker since it was the biggest, and piped some ganache into the inside before I set it on top of the cake, letting it run out onto the top of the cake once I set it down. With a piping bag – which I was actually out of, so I used a small zip-lock bag – pipe more ganache around the opening of the beaker to the cake edge, letting it run over in several drips. Repeat with a test tube (or whatever you’re using), adding them at various angles around the cake so there are several drips coming off the sides. I used one smaller test tube set straight up in the cake with ganache coming out the top, and another larger test tube with a ‘sprinkle explosion’ coming out the top and over the top and down the side of the cake.

I’ve added pictures to give you some ideas, but feel free to take creative liberties with this part! 

Refrigerate until ready to eat - and enjoy! 

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

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