Mermaid Cake Layers:
Note - this is a scaled (x1.5) and slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
4 7/8 c. all purpose flour
4 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 3/4 t. baking powder
1 ½ t. salt
1 ½ cup unsalted butter (or 3 sticks) room temperature
3 t. lemon extract
1 ½ c egg whites (about 10 eggs, or use egg whites from a carton to avoid wasting the yolks)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
½ c vodka (I used Pinnacle vodka)
½ c Malibu rum
¼ c Blue curacao
1-2 small drops blue gel food coloring, if desired
1-2 small drops teal gel food coloring, if desired
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, vodka, Malibu rum, and blue curacao 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 between 5 bowls if you want colored layers – I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part, and I had about 675g in my 3 large layers and about 450 in my smaller ones. Color the large base layer blue, the middle layer and one small layer teal, and the tops light blue. It will already be slightly blue from the liqueur, so whether to add any more color is up to you! Transfer batter into the prepared cake pans.
Bake for 35-37 minutes, (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack, 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.
While you’re waiting…make your frosting!
Ocean Blue Frosting:
12 oz (one and a half packages) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
10 c powdered sugar
2 T vodka
2 T Blue curacao
2 T Malibu rum
2-3 1-2 drops teal gel food color
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with vodka and triple sec until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add liqueurs and beat until well combined.
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle, and 2 6-inch cardboard cake circles – one option is to buy a set like this one that contains a variety of cake circle sizes and trimmable dowels
- 2-3 small limes
- Tablespoon or jigger (I used a 45/30mL jigger from my new Nau mixology set)
- additional ½ c each vodka and triple sec
- small knife and cutting board
- small piping bag & tip (for frosting)
- additional small piping bag or drip bottle (for decorating with white chocolate ganache)
- martini glass – these cake layers bake dense enough to hold a real one, but feel free to use a plastic martini glass if you’d rather – I found mine at the Dollar Tree!
- Few silk flowers, if desired – mine actually came with my glass set, but you can find similar ones here!
- Ruler (for spacing your dowels and ensuring your tiers stack evenly)
- Large offset spatula
- Small piping bag & small round tip (for frosting) – this set of tips and reusable bags has been one of my favorites!
- 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)
- Fondant and a circle cutter or bottle cap – fondant can be purchased, or here’s a link to my favorite marshmallow fondant recipe!
- 1-2 crushed graham crackers or nilla wafer ‘sand’ to spread around your cake base!
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired; these cakes usually bake fairly flat so I didn’t trim much from the tops). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your large cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your large first cake layer in the center of the circle. I wanted a bit more of a liqueur kick to the cake layers, so I used a bottle to infuse each one with about a few tablespoons of a mix of ¼ cup each vodka, Malibu Rum, and Blue curacao and a splash of lemon juice. Optional but recommended! Spread the layer with frosting. I like a bit of color between my cake layers, so I tossed in a few sprinkles – up to you! Add your next cake layer on top, and repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Next, repeat the same process with your smaller cardboard circle and cake layers. Of note – if your circles aren’t pre-center-punched, be sure to grab a dowel or straw and make your own hole in the exact center of the circle! This will allow you to center the tier on the base tier later on.
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. Don’t stress too much over smooth icing on your base layer; you’re covering it in fondant scales! I struggled getting the sides smooth on my smaller one. Using a bit of tape to hold my cake circle still and using the base circle as a guide for my bench scraper work fairly well!
Whether you’ve purchased or made your fondant, roll it out with a bit of cornstarch and powdered sugar until it’s just a few millimeters thick. If you own an airbrush this is a fantastic time to use it; otherwise a bit of liquid food color and a paintbrush will do the trick! I used a mix of blue, aqua, light green, and yellow for my scales. Work your way around the cake, offsetting each layer but about half of a circle. Repeat until the cake is covered! I used 7 layers with about 26 circles per layer (just over 175 circles!) but if your punch is bigger than mine you won’t need so many. Place in the fridge to set the fondant into the frosting!
(This is a great time to make your ganache for the drip, but I’ll include instructions for stacking your tiers first. Ganache recipe is below!)
Okaaaay. The stacking process!
Basically, doweling a tiered cake is done to ensure that the top tier doesn’t crush the lower tier, as well as keeping it centered. I used four shorter cut-to-height plastic straws for my base tier dowels, and one taller one cut at an angle in the center to hold my top tier in place.
Grab your ruler for this next part! Since I was centering a 6-inch cake on top of an 8-inch cake, I pushed the straws down into the base tier just over one inch from the cake edge, placing them evenly at quarter intervals around the cake. Place your last, tallest straw or dowel into the exact center of the cake, making sure to keep it straight up as you press down. Now you’re ready – center the hole in the bottom of your top tier cake circle over the tallest dowel and let the top tier gently down onto the base tier. The dowel will poke into the center of the top tier to hold it in place.
Pat yourself on the back; you did it! I found that my cardboard cake circle showed more than I was happy with, so I piped some extra frosting onto the base of the top tier to hide it.
Candy Melt ganache: I used a pink-colored white chocolate ganache for this cake – I found my favorite white chocolate ganache recipe so far on ChelSweets.com .
- 2 ½ Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz blue candy melts – I used Wilton blue candy melts for mine!
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 until liquid and smooth.
I used small zip-lock bags to pipe this drip since my drip bottles were full of chocolate ganache from another project. A drip bottle would work well also!
When your ganache has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to your piping bag or squeeze bottle. Slowly drizzle ganache around the edge of the cake, pausing about every ¾ to 1 inch to let ganache flow down the side of the cake to create a drip. Pour a few tablespoons over the top of the cake and spread gently with an offset spatula, then turn your martini glass over and center it on top of the cake.
Pipe a bit of frosting onto one of your leftover candy melts and add another one on top to make a ‘clamshell’ with a sprinkle sugar pearl if desired! Add on a few flowers and a bit of crushed graham cracker ‘sand.’ You know, for dramatic effect.
Step back and admire your amaaazing cake! Enjoy!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!