Friday, January 14, 2011

The Shoe Box. Tutorial Part One - The Box

Hello Kidlets! Welcome to 2011. Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Years.
Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back here. I was shaking my booty at Falls Festival for New Years, and then I returned home to a nasty case of bronchitis! Thanks, 2011! Ya big jerk.

When I left you last year I had just completed a 21st Shoe Box cake. Remember? Good. Great. On we go.

As promised, here is Tutorial Part One of ‘The Making of the Shoe Box Cake’. In today’s lesson we will be learning how to make the box, and get those super straight edges that make it look realistic.

You need to set yourself at least two days to complete the box. One for the ganache to set, and one for icing the cake with fondant.

**I cannot apologise enough for the HORRIFIC photos that accompany this post. Would you believe me if I said it wasn’t my fault? My camera died in late December and unfortunately Santa forgot that I moved this year. I’m thinking he must have left my brand new SLR somewhere else.. hmmm? So these pics were take on my mobile phone. **

What you’ll need
2 x rectangular mud cakes (size depends on how big you want your box. I do not have that exact size cake tin so I will show you a tip for cutting your cake to size).
1 large batch of chocolate ganache (because it’s Summer I used 2:1, that is two parts chocolate one part pure cream so the ganache sets real hard)
Long skewers
Apricot syrup/pastry brush (Dissolve one part apricot jam in two parts boiling water and strain).
Large knife
Small knife
Cake board
Cake Spatula/Palette knife
Cake scraper
Tall glass with boiling water
Baking paper
Baking tray

Day 1 – Ganaching the cake. Using a skewer, aerate the cake with lots of little holes, then liberally brush with apricot syrup. This will ensure your cake stays super moist. Once the syrup has soaked in, whack a good amount of your ganache on the bottom of your cake board, then place one of the cakes on top. This will stop it sliding around. Next whack some more ganache on the top of the first cake so you will end up with a nice layer of ganache between the two. Then carefully put your second cake on top, lining it up evenly with the bottom.

Now, if you need to cut your cake to size, here is a good tip. Grab your ruler and measure where you need to cut the cake. Use the skewers to mark out where to will make the cut. Push them all the way through the cake. Now, use these to guide your knife as you cut so that you get a straight edge.
Now the important part, the ganaching of the cake! Using your spatula, grab a generous amount of ganache and go to town on that bad boy, starting on the sides of the cake. What we are doing is called a crumb coat, and only needs to be rough so it gathers up all the crumbs that keep falling off the cake. Once you’ve done the sides, get started on the top. Now, leave the cake for as long as you possibly can to set. If you are time poor, there is the cheat method of popping the cake in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes or so.
Once the ganache is set, we will start on our SECOND layer of ganache. This layer needs to be smooth and crisp, or the bumps and lumps will show through the fondant. Again, starting with the sides, use your palate knife to coat the cake in ganache. Now, to get the perfect, straight edges that we all so desire in a cake, we’re going to use our cake scraper to level out the ganache, and remove any excess. This takes A LOT of practice – I still haven’t got it right, but it will definitely make the cake look a lot more professional if you give it a good try. Leave the cake in a box in a cool space to set overnight. Never put your ganached cake in the fridge for extended periods of time, because it will sweat once brought back to room temperature. Also, because you’ve cooked the cream that is in the ganache, there are no issues with leaving it unrefrigerated.

Day 2 - Looking good? Excellent. Once the second layer has set, we will ‘hot knife’ our cake to really smooth out any final lumps and cut off any excess ganache that may have built up around the top edge. I use my spatula for this because it is metal and retains the heat. Just dunk it in the glass of boiling water, wipe off the water with a tea towel and run the spatula along the sides and edges of the cake. The hot knife will melt any excess ganache right off your cake.

Now, once the ganache has set again (this won’t take long as you haven’t applied a whole new layer), it’s time for the fondant! We’re going to be making four panels that we will stick to the side of the cake, as opposed to the more traditional method of covering a cake in fondant with one big piece of icing.

Measure the sides of your cake and make a template out of baking paper, then roll your fondant out to about 1 cm thick (if your cake is still a little lumpy, roll the fondant thicker. This will help to hide the lumps). Using a small knife, cut out the side panel, pop it on a baking tray lined with baking paper and whack it in the freezer. Now, don’t freak out! We’re only going to leave it in there for a little bit, 15/20 minutes max. I promise! This will harden the fondant slightly and make it easier to stick onto the cake as a panel. I’d recommend checking your panel every 5 minutes. We don’t want it to freeze, but we just want it stiff enough that you feel comfortable that it won’t slide off your cake.
Once ready, brush a little water or apricot syrup on the side of the cake and stick the panel on. Now, repeat with the remaining three sides. When attaching the next panel, brush a little bit of water on the edge of the first panel so the two join properly. Because they are stiff, you shouldn’t have any issues with warping the panel by pressing on the two to join them.
If you’re anything like me, your measurements may not have been perfect and you’ve ended up with a bit of excess overhang at the top. Measure the panel and mark where you need to cut using a skewer. Use a small knife to cut off the excess, and volia!

Now you should have a beautiful box. Because we’ve used this technique, and not just laying one piece of fondant over the cake, we end up with perfect, sharp joins to create a realistic box look.

Next, the lid. We’re going to make another template based on the size of the top of the cake, plus adding an inch or two depending on how big you want the lid to be. I made my template a bit bigger than what I needed, so I had the option to cut some off and straighten the edges once it was on the cake.

So, once you have your template made, roll your fondant to about 1.5cm thick, cut out the fondant and place on the top of the cake (because you’ve made the lid bigger than needed, you can just eyeball the placement).

Now you’ll need to trim the corners. Pinch the corner together and using a pair of scissors cut away the excess fondant. While the fondant is still pliable, rub and mould the fondant to the corner (use some water if need be).
One you’ve finished all four corners, you’ll now need to even out your edges. Measure the size you want for your lid and mark where you need to cut with a skewer. Using a small knife, slice off the excess fondant.
Ta-dah! Now you should have a lovely, realistic box.
Phew! I hope this is comprehensive enough for you all. Feel free to ask me any questions, or even if you’ve got some tips of your own - I’d love to hear them!

Next up, the shoe. Stay tuned folks!


  1. Wow, that is so much work put into it but the result is so spectacular!

  2. Nice work! Smoothing out excess fondant is so tricky so using 4 panels is a fab idea.

  3. Very excited about the next installment! I am following your tutorials and hoping to improve my own decorating skills :) thanks for the tip about the sharp box edges.

  4. wow srsly..

    do i even need to go to planet cakes for a class.. when i have ur awesome blog.

    WB... an keep up the awesomeblog :)

  5. Hi,

    I was looking for some detailed step-by-step instructions on creating a gum-paste stilleto and I found your blog. Your steps are really easy to follow - but it cant seem to load the pictures !!!

  6. Hi Anonymous.. I think it should be fixed now. let me know if you need any more tips :)

  7. Do you then refrigerate the cake to keep the panels from falling off if you are not using it until the next day?

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial, it's very helpful. If I want to make a cake for 20 ppl what size pan should I use and how big does the high heel shoe on top needs to be. Please help.