Shape it up! - How to make a shaped cake

 Even a cake likes to be in great shape;o)!!  When I got this order for a graduation cake I thought, what a creative way to make a big impression at your party!  And what a FUN cake!  I was excited to start this project and with this post I want to share with you just HOW to make it.  Basically, for ANY shaped cake (2D flat style) I follow the exact same procedure. To get the nice clean cake look it does take a bit of practice, patience, planning, and time budgeting to ensure everything 'sets up just right'.  My goal with this tutorial is to save YOU a lot of time in figuring these steps out:).  Now you can focus on practicing and don't forget to leave a comment if you have any questions!  So let's get started!!:)


  1.  Desired Cake Shape - printed on regular paper or cardstock.  After printing the shape out test that it fits the cake pan size just as you would like.  In this case since this was a very large A get the image you want onto a word document and appropriately, size, cut and move in order to print out all parts of the image in the correct size.  Tape them all together and cut.
  2.  A baked cake large enough for your print out - Here is the thing about the baked cake... you can try to do this by putting smaller cakes together (especially useful with very intricate and 3D type of cakes), HOWEVER, this might introduce a lot more working/manipulating time and you will see as I go through the steps that if you increase your working time you will have a harder time obtaining that perfect clean look that you want for your cake.  As they say in engineering "the more moving parts, the more failures" - avoid this whenever possible;-)!  Also, a more dense-'ed' cake is preferred, however, not necessarily required.  It will be more dense if you do scratch baking or incorporate pudding mix into box mixes.
  3. American buttercream - you can try this with swiss meringue buttercream, however, SMB can have a harder time staying firm in say a high heat summer party (especially June parties!).  If you a going for a very 'sharp' look I recommend ganache.  But to get a look just like I like American buttercream and I use this recipe.  Off the shelf buttercream should work just as well too.
  4. Solid Cake Board - Cake boards need to be solid in order to not get shaped cakes out of shape.  A lot of times I like to use wood boards from the hardware store.  Sometimes Home Depot has partial boards that have been cut down for remodels and you can purchase them (and have them cut it for you) at a discount, however if not they have new boards that they can cut to any size you want!
  5. Cake knife - A small/medium cake knife is perfect for cake shaping
  6. Very Sharp Small Knife - I use a Messermeister model: Petite Messer.  It is the most PERFECT knife for 2D cut outs and this cake incorporates 2D cutouts as a topper to complete the look.
  7. Marshmallow Fondant - lots of recipes online!.


1. Let your cake cool COMPLETELY.  After completely cool layer/cut your cake into it's two layers using your preferred method.  Most 2D shaped cakes look best a s a 2" tall cake so in this case we will only be working with one 2" tall cake (cut/layered into 2 cake layers).    
    2. Time to chill your cake.  Place on a cake pad/cardboard and chill your cake until firm at least 6-8 hours.  Ok so when I say chill I mean freeze, yes freeze.  So let's talk about freezing for a little bit... as far as I am concerned freezing a cake has gotten a really bad rap.  It turns out freezing not only helps in the decorating process but it actually makes your cake MORE moist!!  I know I didn't believe it either until I tried it!!   So what do I mean?  What happens is when a COMPLETELY COOLED cake freezes and later thaws, the condensation that is created in the thawing process fills your cake with moisture.  This DOES NOT work if your cake isn't completely cooled.  If your cake is still very warm/hot, the heat that is trying to escape the cake fuses back into it and water freezes inside the cake making the texture kinda 'dry'.  This also doesn't as well in a freezer that has a lot of other things in it.  Preferably this is done in a cake dedicated freezer.  So if you are a caker and haven't tried you have to try it! If you choose not to freeze your cake I can assure you it will not turn out as clean looking.  Ok, so moving on...

    3. BEFORE bringing your frozen cake out make sure you are well prepared.  Your job when you bring out the cake will be to carve it AND fill it.  You will have about 15-20 minutes ONLY until the cake will start to get soft.  You have to work very quickly.  If you take more time you will have to re-chill it before continuing and once a little firm (about 20-30 minutes) you can continue.  You may find yourself doing this your first time as it takes a number of shaped cakes to get the practice right.  DO NOT refreeze your cake the full 6-8 hours (the moisture that is starting to build in your cake from the condensation process will ruin the cake if you do).  So make sure to have your cake knife, the cake filling (in this case it was buttercream and really that is the best filling because it is very firm), and enough buttercream to crumbcoat the cake.

    4. Using your print out, carve out your shape!  Carefully AND quickly.  In this case and in other shaped cakes I have done I really like the look of a softer edge.  So after cutting the shape I cut just a little bit at the edge to 'take the edge off' and soften the cake look.

    5. After carving your shape out carefully separate the cake layers from each other and fill.  Replace the layer and begin your crumb coat.  By this time if it hasn't already your cake may be getting soft.  The goal is to finish your crumb coating just before  it gets soft (all of that moisture is sealed in once you crumb coat!:)  If you need more time re-chill for 20-30 minutes and continue.

    6.  Let stand for 6-8 hours at room temperature.  Buttercream will crust and really firm up.  You don't have to wait that long but if you don't the cake will not look as clean.

    7.  Cut the cardboard away from the shape with a sharp exacto knife.  This will leave only enough cardboard for the cake itself.  I found the PERFECT knife at Home Depot called SmartEdge.  It worked beautifully.

    8.  Prepare your solid large board.  I used a wood board and covered it with white shelf liner for a grease proof backing and secured with electrical tape (works superb).  Dab some glue in the area you want your cake to sit.  The cake will stay right where it needs to!  Be very careful moving shaped cakes sometimes you will need 3 hands!:)

    9.  Dab some water at the edges all around your shaped cake
    with a brush

    10.  Before rolling out your marshmallow fondant make sure you are ready with your fondant smoother and edge cutter (and be ready to work over many different edges!).  Here you will also have to work quickly to ensure your fondant shapes well.  Roll out your fondant, cover your cake, and smooth over all edges.

    11.  Smooth with your fondant smoother and trim edge.  Let the cake set for another 6-8 hours at room temperature.  DO NOT refrigerate marshmallow fondant as it will sweat.  And do not worry about having your cake out at room temp for so long.  The cake is sealed with moisture and actually the longer it sits like this the more moisture builds inside.  Sugar is also a natural preservative and keeps the cake very well (we store bread for longer at room temp!;-))

    12.  For this particular cake I thought a big cake topper would complete the look so I followed my steps for a regular 2D cut out.  Rolled out white fondant and let it sit for 10-30 minutes, trimmed out a big A with my little sharp knife and gently placed it on the cake (you might need 3 hands here!).  To adhere you can use sugar glue or shortening.  I like shortening because you can move/reposition if you make a mistake.  Then I made & rolled out crimson red fondant and and let that sit for 10-30 minutes (careful not to make it before working with white otherwise no matter how much you wash your hands you will get your white's dirty!), cut my A temple down to just the red part and trimmed this thinner A with the little sharp knife.  Place on cake with again with shortening.

    13.  Soften your cut out edges with your finger and a little shortening.  Straighten any edges with your tools.  Give it a clean sharp look with a thin coat of shortening over the entire red A portion.
    And you are done!!!  Whew... happy cake shaping!!:)


    1. Hi lovely cake which font did you use on the letter "A"

      1. Hi thank you! I actually enlarged the logo itself so I worked with an image and not a font. Pretty font though I wonder what it is!?:)

    2. Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. california crab cakes


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