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I turned 33 years old on Saturday. I was not all that excited about it like I have been in years past. Usually I go all out and celebrate my birthday all month long. Losing my son six months ago takes a damper out of most of my celebrations these days. However, I still want to find ways to enjoy it. So I decided to make my own birthday cake for the first time ever. And I unveiled my “masterpiece,” my steampunk hat birthday cake, at dinner with friends the other night.
So What the Heck is Steampunk?
I love all things steampunk. Steampunk is a Victorian/industrial style that has so many options and variations. There are Steampunk inspired movies, video games, clothes, home decor, and some of my favorite books are Steampunk, too!
As a side note, if you want some seriously good books to read, or just want to see what steampunk is all about, check out these two series! The Osiris Ritual by George Mann is the first book of the Newbury & Hobbes mysteries, a Steampunk mystery reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes with fun gadgets and supernatural elements. And Prudence by Gail Carriger is the first of the Custard Protocol Books with supernatural creatures and plenty of action. I couldn’t put either series down!
But back to Steampunk…I truly love Steampunk so much. The Hubs and I even cosplayed in our self-created Steampunk outfits at Megacon several years ago. Aren’t we adorable??
As I was scrolling through Pinterest I saw these adorable paper Steampunk hat and thought it would make the coolest cake. And who else would want a Steampunk hat birthday cake but me?! Such a fun project to keep myself busy with the week before my birthday.
My Favorite Cake
My favorite cake and frosting flavors have always been yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It’s surprisingly simple for someone who loves so many unique flavors while baking. But there is something to be said for delicious simplicity.
The buttercream was honestly so good that I had to put it in the fridge after I made it so that I would stop eating it. It’s a silky and sweet, simple chocolate buttercream. The addition of warm coffee does not actually add coffee flavor, but adds a richness that boosts the flavor of the rich chocolate buttercream.
I originally set out to do just a yellow cake and chocolate buttercream. But I wanted a flavor addition as a nod to Steampunk-era flavors. So I also added a rum wash on each layer and then topped it with a Creamy Whiskey Caramel Sauce in between each cake layer. The flavor combination came out better than I could have hoped for.
My mom and I used to make fairly elaborate cakes for family and friends when I was younger. There was some sculpting, fondant work, detail work and painting. We did a pretty decent job. BUT I haven’t done any of that in a long, long time. And definitely not by myself. So I knew the adventure could be dicey but I had a pretty good picture in my mind of what I wanted.
I started by making gum paste gears of various shapes several days ahead so they had time to dry and harden. After my first time working with gum paste I realized I needed to work in smaller bathes because it dries out quickly. I improvised a lot with how I made them, just using random cookie cutters or icing tips to shape them.
I then painted the shapes with an airbrush gold metallic paint and a little bit of brown gel coloring. Both colors were mixed with a little vodka because it helps the paint adhere after the vodka dries. Then when the pieces were fully dry, I brushed on silver luster dust and brown petal dust to accentuate the aged look on each of the gears. I thought overall the gum paste gears came out pretty well for the first attempt and first use of all the materials!
Materials I Used for Decorations
If you aren’t sure where to start to find the decorations for a cake like this, I’ve got you covered. I got all of my decorating components for this cake from Hobby Lobby. Here’s a list of what I used so you can check them out, too. Click on the Hobby Lobby link to be taken directly to the website where you can find the same materials!
- Gum Paste
- Sunny Side Up Bakery Gold Cake Sequins
- Wilton Edible Metallic Brush Pen in gold
- Edible Petal Dust in brown
- Edible Luster Dust in silver
- Dowel Rods
- 8 inch round cake board
- Sunny Side Up Gel Color in brown
- Lucks Premium Airbrush Color in gold
Assembling the Hat
I made the buttercream first, refrigerating it until I was getting ready to use it. Then I made my cakes, putting a rum wash on top while they were still warm. As they cooled, I made the whiskey caramel sauce. Once all three components were at the correct temperature, I was ready to begin cautiously assembling.
I put the first cake layer on a plastic cake board with a smidge of buttercream underneath to hold it in place. Then I began assembling the layers. Using a piping bag, I piped a thick border of chocolate buttercream around the top edge as a was to keep the caramel sauce contained. I then spooned enough sauce the cover the layer inside of the ring of buttercream. Feel free to be heavy handed on the caramel sauce, I wish I had doubled the amount I put between the layers!
I repeated that until I got to the top layer. Then I put 4 wooden dowels into the cake to keep it stable while I shaped and decorated it. I began to cut away at the sides trying to achieve the topsy-turvy look I wanted. Using a large bread knife, I went little by little so I wouldn’t take too much out.
Once I finished cutting it down to my satisfaction, I began to crumb coat it. The problem was, my frosting was too thick and would not adhere to the crumbly cake no matter what I did. So I added more coffee to the frosting in the mixer and got a perfectly spreadable chocolate buttercream. Once the crumb coat was finished, I popped the cake in the fridge to set and until I was ready for a second coat of buttercream.
I actually left the cake in the fridge overnight and pulled it out the next morning, letting it sit on the counter about 45 minutes before I began to spread another layer of chocolate buttercream on top. After the cake was covered I began to carefully smooth it down. I used a spatula but I would definitely recommend investing in one of these icing smoothers you can find at any craft store. OR you can use sheets of acetate like the pros do and get an almost perfectly smooth frosting! Those will be my next big kitchen investments for cake making!
After that I began to carefully place the gold confetti with tweezers painstakingly in a rivet-like pattern all of the hat. Then I gently placed the gum paste gears, using a little extra frosting to adhere them to the sides of the cake.
The Final Results
As you can see, it’s not perfect. In fact, I could have just done a regular cake with all these flavors and not tried to be fancy with my steampunk hat birthday cake. But it was fun and it was at least recognizable enough to not land me a spot on Nailed It!! If you’re looking for a slightly easier cake and that doesn’t require shaping and designing and definitely won’t send you to Nailed It, take a look at my Fruity Naked Sangria Cake.
But really, it is one of the best cakes I have ever made. The flavors work so beautifully together and it was fun to look at and photograph. I just wish I could have eaten the whole thing without gaining 15 pounds! For the cake and buttercream recipe, make sure you head over to this post to get it!
Tell me what you think of my first foray back into crazy decorated cakes! And have you ever heard of Steampunk before? If you have, do you like it or love it?
And if you have any detail questions about how I made and decorated this cake, feel free to comment below or email me at Allyn@aussiemomma.com!
Steampunk Hat Birthday Cake
- 4 layers yellow cake
- 2 cups whiskey caramel sauce optional
- 4 cups chocolate buttercream
- Begin by putting a little bit of buttercream on a cake board or cake plate and placing the first cake layer on top of it.
- Pipe a border of chocolate buttercream around the layer and spread about ½ a cup of caramel sauce in the middle. OR you could just cover the layer in buttercream if you want to skip the caramel.
- Repeat for the next two layers. Place the last layer on top and put in the fridge for about 15 minutes to help the buttercream and caramel stiffen.
- Insert dowel rods to help the cake keep it's shape. Carefully cut layers into the desired hat shape. Take your time and take off a little bit at a time. Don't rush or you may take off too much!
- Cover cake in a crumb layer, Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. If leaving in the fridge for any longer, loosely cover with plastic wrap.
- Cover cake with a final layer of frosting, smoothing out as carefully as possible.
- Begin decorating with gum paste, fondant, or confetti decorations. Let set for at least half an hour before serving.
- Cake will keep for a week if loosely wrapped in plastic wrap.