Trend alert: Silhouette Cake

If you're not confident hand painting, this silhouette cake design in honour of Elvis Presley by Charlotte White will show you a technique you can use...

If you're not confident hand painting, this silhouette design in honour of Elvis Presley by Charlotte White will show you a technique you can use to put anything or anyone on a cake! The 16th August 2017 will mark 40 years since the sudden death of Elvis Presley. When the King of Rock’n’Roll died, he became an icon and left a legacy that would span generations of music lovers and, frankly, anyone with even a passing knowledge of popular culture. When I thought about a silhouette to use to showcase the trend for silhouettes in cake design, I could think of no silhouette more striking and more recognisable than that of Elvis Presley. There are countless fabulous cutters and stencils on the market that will allow you to create quick and effective silhouettes, but I want to show you how to create your very own designs from scratch. I promise that this is easily enough done with a little patience and will allow you to put anything or anyone on a cake! This approach is perfect for anyone who, like me, is more comfortable with a piping bag than a paintbrush.
For the cake:
  • 15cm (6in) cake tier covered in dark violet sugarpaste
  • 25cm (10in) cake tier covered in light violet sugarpaste, dowelled for stacking

To decorate:

  • 20cm (8in) polystyrene separator tier, covered in white sugarpaste
  • 500g (1lb 1oz) white sugarpaste mixed with 3 tsp tylo powder
  • 500g (1lb 1oz) royal icing
  • 2-3 jars of silver balls
  • black paste food colouring
  • oval cutter
  • scribe tool
  • disposable piping bags
  • No.2 round nozzle
  • squeezy bottle (or another disposable piping bag)
  • 2m (6½ft) of 1cm (½in) width sequinned ribbon
Stage 1: Cover the boards
  1. Begin by covering your 25cm (10in) cake tier with a light violet sugarpaste and your 15cm (6in) tier with a darker violet sugarpaste. Aim for nice sharp edges and allow to dry overnight before decorating.
  2. At the same time, cover a 20cm (8in) polystyrene separator tier with white sugarpaste. Allow this to dry overnight with your cake tiers.
  3. Dowel your 25cm (10in) cake tier.
  4. Mix up your royal icing. You will eventually be covering a large amount of this black so ensure that the bowl is covered with a damp tea towel whenever you are not working with it to prevent the icing from drying out.
  5. Spread a thin layer of white royal icing around the edge of your covered separator tier and roll the edge in silver balls. Bizarrely, the rougher the finish here, the more sparkly the finish! Alternatively, you can press silver balls onto the royal iced separator tier with your hand, but be warned they get everywhere!
  6. Stack your cake tiers and allow them to set.
Step 2: Create, draw and fill the silhouettes
  1. To create your silhouette plaques, you will need to mix 500g (1lb 1oz) white sugarpaste with 3 tsp of tylo powder. Knead the powder through the paste until you start to feel a slight change in the consistency. This paste will stand up to being cut into plaques that will hold their shape.
  2. I have cut plaques in three different sizes using oval shaped cutters. To complete this design you will need 8x6cm (3¼x2½in) ovals, 8x8cm (3¼x3¼in) ovals, and one large 13cm (5in) oval. Roll your paste to around 3mm (1/8in) thickness, cut out the shapes, and allow them to dry completely on a foam mat.
  3. You will also need to cut two very crisp identical triangles from this white sugarpaste and allow them to dry with the ovals. These will form a stand for your large oval topper.
  4. Trace your five Elvis silhouettes onto greaseproof paper and scribe each one through onto a dry sugarpaste plaque using a scribe tool. Normally I would recommend a cocktail stick for this job in place of a scribe tool but, when accuracy is required, this will not work. You will have 2x small Elvis silhouettes, 2x medium Elvis silhouettes, and 1x large Elvis silhouette.
  5. Spoon a few tablespoons of white royal icing into a disposable piping bag, do not snip the tip, and tie up its open end to save this for gluing purposes later on.
  6. Colour the remaining royal icing black.
  7. I recommend using the Black Pro Gel by Rainbow Dust for this as I have not found a better paste for getting that really true black shade in royal icing – you do not need to add vast amounts to get to a good black.
  8. Spoon a few tablespoons of stiff black royal icing into a disposable piping bag fitted with a No.2 round nozzle. Use this to pipe the outline of each silhouette.
  9. Water down the remaining black royal icing to a runny consistency – ideally you are looking for a ‘7 second’ icing that dissipates to a completely flat puddle after a count of seven. Pour this into a squeezy bottle or disposable piping bag, snipping the tip only when you are ready to start flooding.
  10. Flood each Elvis silhouette with runny black royal icing so that each shape becomes beautifully contrasted on the white sugarpaste plaques. Allow these to dry for at least 2-3 hours or leave them overnight.
Stage 3: Finishing touches
  1. Snip your white royal icing ‘glue’ piping bag and use this to fix a sequinned ribbon to the bottom of your 15cm (6in) and 25cm (10in) cake tiers.
  2. Fix your small plaques around your top tier with royal icing, evenly spacing them and alternating designs as you go. Repeat with the medium plaques around your bottom tier.
  3. Stand your two sugarpaste triangles on a worksurface so that they create a solid V-shape when viewed from above. Allow these to dry for an hour.
  4. Pipe a generous helping of white royal icing along the long edge of the V-shape and carefully stand your large oval topper against it. The V should provide support for the topper but the join will need to be allowed to dry thoroughly.
  5. Gently prop anything that you have to hand at either side of your large oval topper while it dries. I used my large foam drying mat and a block of oasis! It did the trick. The topper will not fall forwards or back but may start to lean to either side and this prevents that from happening.
  6. When you are ready to top your cake, pipe a little royal icing on the bottom of your V-shaped support and place the topper on top of the 15cm (6in) tier.
  7. Serve this cake, fit for a King, any time you need to say ‘thank you very much’ to someone special.
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