Gothic Borgia Cake

For many of us, Halloween is a chance to indulge in our glam gothic side and this particular cake by Charlotte White is the perfect example. Legend has it that the Borgia family lied, cheated, murdered, and married their way to power in Renaissance Rome and the weapon of choice for any civilised assassin was poison.

Image credit: Gothic Borgia Cake

For many of us, Halloween is a chance to indulge in our glam gothic side and this particular cake by Charlotte White is the perfect example. Legend has it that the Borgia family lied, cheated, murdered, and married their way to power in Renaissance Rome and the weapon of choice for any civilised assassin was poison.

In Lucrezia Borgia’s honour, this cake is topped with a Poisoner’s ring with white sugar poison, show in this tutorial.
The crushed velvet texture has been achieved using beetroot powder. You can recreate this effect using any shade of lustre dust that you like so long as it is a little bit darker than the same shade of sugarpaste underneath. However, knowing how much a small amount of lustre dust can cost and then scaling this up to cover a three-tiered cake and board, the £2 Charlotte spent for 100g of beetroot powder online is a real bargain! Of course, beetroot powder does taste of beetroot so Charlotte recommends a rich chocolate mud cake or red velvet cake to compliment this flavour. Recipes for both are free on 

You will need:



  • 250g white sugar florist paste (Squires Kitchen)
  • edible glue
  • 100g royal icing lustre dust: gold and pearl edible glaze (I used Dinkydoodle Designs Liquid Shiny).
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • paste colours to create my burgundy shade: thrift, poinsettia and blackberry (Squires Kitchen)
  • 15 and 20cm (6 and 8in) round cake tiers, covered in burgundy sugarpaste
  • 20cm (8in) square cake tier, covered in burgundy sugarpaste
  • 35cm (14in) square cake board, covered in burgundy sugarpaste
  • 100g beetroot powder
  • 200g Carlos Lischetti modelling paste (Squires Kitchen)


  • 10cm (4in) cake dummy, wrapped in baking parchment
  • 2.5cm (1in) polystyrene ball pizza wheel
  • cutting mat
  • 9cm (3.5in) round cookie cutter
  • scribe tool
  • disposable piping bag fitted with a coupler no.2 and no.6 piping nozzle (Wilton)
  • cake steamer
  • corner panel decorative silicone mould
  • multi jewel mould
  • large soft blusher/bronzer make-up brush (used ONLY for cake decorating)
  • bead maker mould
  • double-sided tape
  • gold 15mm ribbon

As with any topper decoration made from sugar florist paste (SFP), the poisoner’s ring can be made weeks in advance. Keep it safe in a cardboard box, stored in a cool, dry environment. To make, first wrap a 10cm (4in) cake dummy with baking parchment.


Knead the SFP to warm and roll out a strip of 2.5cm wide and 32cm long. I use the markings on my mat to measure and a pizza wheel to cut without dragging my paste.


Wrap the SFP strip carefully around the bottom edge of your cake dummy. The worksurface will help to keep the line straight and any overlapping paste can be cut away carefully with a sharp knife.


Use edible glue to secure the ends of the SFP strip into a ring. Push the edges together a little and allow to dry completely before moving. For any SFP decoration that I want to be completely sturdy, I always allow to dry overnight.


For the chamber, cut a 2.5cm polystyrene ball in half to get a perfect hemisphere and insert half a cocktail stick into the cut side to secure it to the top of your cake dummy. Dust generously with cornflour.


Roll out some more SFP and cut out a circle that will be large enough to completely cover the hemisphere. I used a 9cm round cookie cutter.


Lay the circle over the polystyrene hemisphere and smooth the paste over the shape.


Cut away the excess and allow the hemisphere to dry overnight with the ring.


Once dry, remove hemisphere and carefully move the ring to the centre of your cake dummy by gently pulling the baking parchment upwards.


With the join at the top, secure the cake dummy on its side. I have used two knives to prevent it from rolling at all.


Knead, roll out, and cut a square of SFP measuring 8 x 8cm.


Paint edible glue onto the ring, working around 4cm away from each side of the central join.


Lay the square over the glued area, allowing the square to mould to the curve of the cake dummy. Leave to dry for an hour.


Place the hemisphere centrally on top of the SFP square and carefully mark around its edges with a scribe tool.


Fill a disposable piping bag, fitted with a coupler, with white royal icing. Use a no.6 nozzle to pipe a circle around the guideline that you have just made. Allow to dry.


Use the same royal icing to pipe a line around the bottom edge of the SFP hemisphere. You will find that the edges are quite rough and a piped line of royal icing, smoothed down with a dampened finger will correct any minor jagged edges. Allow this to dry.


Change to a no.2 nozzle and pipe cornelli (an unbroken, wiggly line pattern) around the outside edges of the circle on your SFP square.


Pipe a bead into each corner of the SFP square.


Once the royal icing is dry, paint the outside edges of your poisoner’s ring with gold paint made from gold lustre dust and edible glaze. Allow to dry.


Paint the bottom edge and inside of the hemisphere with gold paint and allow to dry.


Use a silicone mould (see steps 35 -37) to create a jewel for the top of the hemisphere. Attach with a little royal icing while the jewel is still soft so that it can be moulded to shape.


Pipe extra pearls around the moulded jewel using your royal icing and a no.6 nozzle. Allow to dry.


Once dry, remove the ring from the cake dummy and paint the inside area with gold paint.


Paint the top of the SFP hemisphere with gold paint, leaving any obvious pearl shapes clean for now. Allow to dry for ten minutes.


Paint the pearl details on the SFP hemisphere with pearl lustre mixed with edible glaze to make a paint. Allow to dry.


Pipe royal icing along half of the bottom edge of the SFP hemisphere.


Place the hemisphere on top of ring so it appears to be open, revealing a secret compartment. Allow to dry.


Touch up the white areas of the now dry royal icing join with gold edible paint. Set aside to dry and top the cake when ready.


Cover cake tiers and cake board in burgundy sugarpaste. Allow all tiers to dry completely before stacking.


Steam surface of your cake, focusing on a small area at a time.


Dab beetroot powder onto the sticky steamed surface of your cake using a clean blusher brush. Soft makeup brushes are often inexpensive and give a great coverage for cake – just remember to only use brushes for cake on cakes! You will get a far better finish dabbing than brushing as we want the textures to be uneven and organic. The patterns that are formed by the matte powder against the damp surface of the cake will imitate crushed velvet perfectly.


Continue to work around the surface of your entire cake and board, steaming small sections and dabbing beetroot powder onto it. If you find areas which look suspiciously patchy or bare, you can carefully steam the area again and dab on more powder.


Allow beetroot powder to dry to the surface of your cake for at least an hour before carefully brushing away any loose excess powder with your blusher brush.


I love silicone moulds and have quite a collection. I cannot tell you where I got this corner mould but I can tell you how to use it to create quick and easy corner panels for the square bottom tier of your cake.


Knead a small amount of modelling paste between fingers to warm, roll a smooth ball and press firmly into all areas of the mould that you are using.


Continue pressing your modelling paste until it is almost flat.


Cut away excess modelling paste from the mould with a sharp knife.


Press out shape and fix to each top corner of square bottom tier with a royal icing.


A jewel mould creates long elegant shapes for the top tier of the cake. As before, modelling paste needs to be pressed into the mould and the excess removed.


Press out shape and pipe a little royal icing onto reverse side.


Press the moulded shape onto the top tier of the cake so that its top is slightly raised from the top edge of the cake. Once you have been all the way around the top tier, these raised sections will look almost like a crown.


Once dry, paint all moulded shapes on the cake with edible gold paint.


When painting the long shapes on the top tier of your cake, do not forget to paint the reverse side of the shape where it pokes up above the top edge of the cake.


To make a crucifix for the cake, roll a long sausage of SFP approximately 1.3cm thick.


Trim length into two sections, 10cm long and 6cm long.


Use the handle of a paintbrush to press an intersection into the longer length of SFP, 2.5cm from the top.


Press the 6cm long length of SFP into the intersection with a dab of edible glue to secure. Allow to dry.


Pipe pearls along length of crucifix then across short length using a no.6 nozzle and royal icing.


Set the crucifix aside to dry completely.


Trim the bottom edge of your bottom cake tier with a line of modelling paste beads.


Fix your moulded beads to the bottom of your cake, securing with a little royal icing.


Paint your beads with pearl lustre mixed in edible glaze to make a paint.


Paint the piped pearl details on the crucifix.


Paint remainder of crucifix with edible gold paint, do not worry about painting the back. Allow to dry.


Pipe a thin line of royal icing on the reverse side of the crucifix.


Place crucifix at a natural angle on the middle tier. Rest the bottom of the crucifix on the tier below and hold in place for a few moments to allow the royal icing to adhere.


Press another line of modelling paste beads from your bead maker mould and carefully pipe royal icing along the reverse of the entire length.


Working from the top edge of the crucifix, place a length of beads so that it feels as if it is falling quite organically onto the cake.


Repeat with another length of beads to form the other half of the crucifix’s chain. Having the royal icing already on the reverse allows you to place the beads quite dramatically with their own natural movement.


Continue placing moulded beads in a chain from the crucifix until you reach the top edge of the cake.


Place the poisoner’s ring on top of the cake.


Continue placing moulded beads so that they drape over the back of the poisoner’s ring and eventually join up to form a continuous chain of beads.


Paint the chain of moulded beads with the edible pearl lustre and glaze paint.


Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of white caster sugar on the top tier of the cake to look like poison falling from the secret compartment of the poisoner’s ring.


Finish the edge of your cake with gold ribbon. I attach mine with a length of double-sided tape run around the edge first so that the whole length of ribbon sticks securely.

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