So my first born child – Musical M as she’s known to my readers – turned 17 recently. (Frankly, I’d only just wrapped my head around her turning the big 16 but anyhoo, less of my parental oversharing and more of the all important cake details!) I’d originally planned a cake featuring her favourite books, films, shows, singers and actors but then realised this was too ambitious and likely to induce a 4am cake decorating meltdown. So one shopping trip and an 11pm-talking-sense-into-myself later, I decided the cake should focus purely on her love of all things music….a music themed cake was the obvious choice. And I’ve GOT to say, after a bit of trial and error, I was absolutely thrilled with the result! Most importantly, the birthday girl herself was over the moon (seriously, it took her three days to stop thanking me). In fact, out of the 40 or so birthday cakes I’ve made over the years, this music-themed cake is easily one of my faves.
So I thought I’d share the details of everything I used to make a music themed cake and how I decorated it for those of you with a music-lover in your life!
Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links which simply means that if you purchase a product as a result of clicking on its link, I earn a (really tiny) commission at absolutely NO cost to you.
250g caster sugar
2tsp vanilla essence
250g self-raising flour (or plain flour plus
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp cocoa powder
9-inch spring form cake tin
360g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp milk
1-2 tsp vanilla essence
4 tbsp cocoa powder dissolved in 2 tbsp of boiling water
black cake board or cake board covered in wrapping paper
1kg ivory (or colour of your choice) fondant
100 – 150g lilac fondant (or other)
100 – 150g black fondant (or other)
50g dark grey fondant
cornstarch or icing sugar for dusting
silver food paint
edible musical decorations
edible ink pen (colour of your choice) or icing bag/gun
fondant modelling tools*
silicone rolling pin
*see Stage 5 note below
Stage 1: Baking the Sponge.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease (with butter or vegetable oil) a 9 inch spring form cake tin. Now, there are two ways to make this music themed cake: the all-in-one method and the traditional method. The first option: sift the flour with two teaspoons of baking powder, add all the other ingredients and then whizz with an electric blender. However, I’m a ‘traditionalist’ when it comes to baking so I use the second option described below.
Using an electric blender or cake mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla essence plus the eggs individually, beating them briefly after each addition.
Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl, folding them into the wet mixture before whisking with the blender/cake mixer.
Once fully blended (no more than 30 seconds), pour your cake mix into the prepared tin and place in top half of oven for 40 minutes. (Note, 35 minutes might be enough depending on your oven.)
To see if your sponge is cooked, check if the sides have shrunk slightly from the edges of the tin; if they haven’t, you will notice the sponge wobbles ‘loosely’ when you gently shake the tin. If you’re not sure, stick a cake tester/thin skewer/long cocktail stick into the centre.
If the tip comes out clean, the cake is cooked; if it still has batter on it, bake it a few more minutes depending on how ‘wet’ the tip is. Remove cake from the oven, leave to rest in tin for ten minutes and then turn upside down onto a cooling rack. The flat underside of the cake will now be the top. Transfer the cooled cake onto a large flat plate or cake-holder base, ready for icing.
Stage 2: Buttercream Icing.
If you are certain sure that people will eat the fondant, you may want to skip applying a buttercream as icing underneath and use a jam or sugar glue instead as buttercream frosting plus fondant is a heart attack on a plate!
To make the icing, add the vanilla essence to the butter and beat til smooth.
Sift the icing sugar onto the butter and gently fold it in a few seconds.
Then add the milk and cocoa paste and beat the mixture to a smooth consistency.
Voilà! You’ve got yourself buttercream icing (or frosting as the Americans say).
Using a flat silicone spatula/butter-spreader/fish slice, place medium-sized dollops of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake, spreading after each application. Repeat til the cake is covered by a layer of icing at least a centimetre deep. Don’t worry about cake crumbs coming off on the spatula or becoming visible through the icing; you’ll be able to smooth the icing down afterwards and anyway, the fondant will cover this buttercream icing.
Stage 3: Transferring the Cake onto the Board.
I have always used the standard ‘foil-edged’ cake boards and covered them with wrapping paper. It always end up being more time-consuming than expected. So if you can get hold of a coloured cake boards, it’s the way to go…they are a game changer!
Cut off enough greaseproof paper to cover the cake board. Place the cake board onto the sheet of paper, draw around it with a pencil and cut out.
Now position the cake tin (or its removable base) exactly on the centre of the circular sheet, so that every part of the tin’s circumference is equidistant from the baking paper’s own circumference.
Draw around the tin and then, while holding the baking paper that you have gently bent in half…
Cut along the outline of this inner circle. (Be careful not to press down on the middle crease like you would usually when folding paper as you need this sheet to remain flat.)
Put a small amount of buttercream icing or sugar glue in the centre of your cake board (to prevent the cake from slipping) and lay the baking paper on the cake board. Now the tricky bit…moving the cake from its temporary location to the board! The anticipation of this is always more daunting than the act itself to be honest.
Grab two sturdy spatulas, the wider the better. Slide each one underneath the cake from opposite ‘sides’ and lift the cake slightly off its base. Don’t lift too high! Once you’re confident the cake is steady on both spatulas, carefully move it til it’s above the cake board. Check that it looks centred and then gently lower the cake onto the board. Tip: make sure the cake board is right next to your cake before you lift the sponge; you don’t want to lift the cake only to realise you’ve left the board on the other side of the kitchen!
Stage 4: Covering the Cake With Fondant.
Soften the ivory fondant for a few seconds in the microwave to make it easier to handle.
Either on a large silicon mat or a clean dry counter, sprinkle a generous amount of cornstarch or icing sugar (if you don’t do this, the fondant will stick when you roll it).
Using your hands, start rolling and shaping the fondant into a large ball, always making sure you have enough starch/sugar to prevent the ball from sticking to the surface. Gently pat and press the fondant ball into a thick flat ‘disc’.
Using a silicone rolling pin (or a wooden one generously covered with cornstarch/icing sugar), roll the fondant disc as evenly as possible, making sure to retain its circular shape. The result should be a flat circle of fondant between 0.5cm and 1cm in thickness that’s large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake plus enough to tuck under the bottom circumference of the sponge.
Next, place the rolling pin at one ‘end’ of the fondant sheet.
Carefully – OH SO CAREFULLY(!) – place the fondant onto and around the rolling pin, lifting it and centring it on the cake.
Smooth any air bubbles out either using your hands or a cake leveller and gently press it around the sides of the cake.
Using a fondant ‘scalpel’ or a blunt-edge knife, cut off the excess fondant all the way around the cake, leaving about a 1cm rim (I started off by leaving an inch as pictured before then removing more, as I feel this is safer in case I cut too much off at first).
The result will look something like this.
Stage 5: Decorating a Music Themed Cake…the Fun Part!
The following is how I did my daughter’s cake. Obviously, you can use different colours and improvise as you wish.
Note, although it is easier if you have some of the tools mentioned above, it is not a dealbreaker. Don’t fret if you don’t have an arsenal of decorating items! You can make do with table knives, a standard ruler, toothpicks, butter spreaders (and just your fingers!) instead. The main thing to remember is that cake decorating is easier and less stressful if you keep your workstation as organised and tidy as possible.
(Having said that, I have been making cakes for years and I still manage to cover the whole house and myself in icing sugar and sprinkles!)
Some useful organisational tips:
- have kitchen roll handy.
- keep a mug (or two) of hot water ready/topped up to dip brushes/tools in when necessary.
- categorise and sort your tools into practical/accessible cups/baskets etc.
- clean down your counter regularly to avoid accidental transfer of materials/ingredients onto the cake.
- wear an apron you don’t mind wiping your hands on as they will need washing/cleaning regularly.
- use sugar glue sparingly as too much makes it ooze out from the sides of the fondant.
To make the headphones: Roll out a ball each of whichever colour fondants you’re using.
Like you did earlier with the large ball of ivory fondant, gently pat each ball into a disc and then use the rolling plan to flatten it.
Roll out as many fondant discs as needed depending on how large you want the headphones to be. Mine were 3mm thick and 5cm wide but I probably could have just rolled two discs in each colour that were simply bigger. Stick an equal number of discs together to create two ear pieces. With a modelling tool or toothpick, score lines around the inner rim of each earpiece to create the appearance of the ear pads. Set aside side.
Using approx 60g each of your two fondant colours, form two rectangles/oblongs/ovals (doesn’t matter) just roughly with your hands. Now roll each one flat lengthwise til it is a few millimetres thick. Then with a blunt knife/modelling scalpel, cut out one strip in each colour approx 1 inch wide and 20 to 30cm long out of each rectangle. (If you want, you can cut each of these strips again in half across their width to later create the look of foldable headphones.). Seal the fondant strips together with sugar glue and then position this dual-coloured strip in a semi circle on top of the cake like a headphone band.
Place edible musical decorations (eg. musical notes, perfect for a music themed cake) on the cake as preferred (or make them yourself out of fondant!). Position the earpieces at the ends of the headband and then secure them with the glue. Tadaaa…you now have headphones! Personalise the headphones however you like. eg. I used cutters to make my daughter’s first initial for the outside of each earpiece…
…and I used the cutters ‘I’ and ‘L’ to create her age, 17, for the inner ear pads as I didn’t have the number cutters!
You are now ready to remove the protective layer of greaseproof paper.
Carefully trim off the excess fondant from the bottom of the cake.
Slowly pull the paper out.
Use alphabet cutters to create whatever message you want to place on the inside and exterior of the headphone band. (I made ‘Musical M’ and ‘Birthday Girl’.). Use sugar glue to stick on your fondant lettering.
(Of course you can do this stage before removing the baking paper if you wish.)
Model a microphone shape from the dark grey fondant. Place it next to the cake on the board and then use a thin brush and silver food paint to apply detailing and make it resemble the real thing. Make the cable out of your preferred fondant colour, sticking one end onto the end of the microphone and draping the rest on the board. Use grey fondant and silver food paint to create the headphone jack (not picture).
For the finishing touches: Use the food pen to write the cake recipient’s favourite singers, musicals etc in random fashion around the board. Wrap ribbon around the cake. Place candles on.
Voilà…the perfect music-themed cake for a music-lover.