Why is it that the food in cartoons looks so tasty? Something about their bright colors and dimensions that defy the laws of reality just makes them irresistible. While we can’t snatch food right out of cartoons (yet), making a cartoon cake is the next best step.
Cartoon cakes have vibrant colors outlined in thick black “cables” that create the optical illusion that the dessert is actually flat, like they’re straight out of a 2D comic strip or children’s cartoon. Cartoon cakes have been gaining popularity on social media not only for the way they trick the eye, but because they also positively affect our moods.
A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that regular creative activities like the act of baking (and in this case, also designing and adding artistic decorations) can help us feel more relaxed and happier in our everyday lives. Plus, simply gazing at bright colors or “cute” things — like a cartoon cake — has been shown to trigger the release of the feel good hormone dopamine. So whether you’re the baker or the observer, you get a sweet lift.
That’s why we gathered a collection of adorable cartoon cake photos and asked a professional cake-maker for her best tips on how you decorate your own. The best part (besides eating it of course) is that it’s easier than you might think…dare we say, it’s a piece of cake!
What is a cartoon cake or comic cake?
A cartoon cake, also known as a comic cake is baked cake, typically with two or more layers, that has been decorated to look two-dimensional like a hand-drawn cartoon. It’s supposed to look like a flat image until you cut into it. Some bakers create this 2D effect by using fondant, a thick, malleable sugar paste rolled into sheets, but you can also use buttercream icing in a pinch.
12 whimsical cartoon cake ideas
1. Slice cartoon cake
2. Mini cartoon cake
3. Gender reveal cartoon cake
4. Black and white cartoon cake
5. Cartoon cupcake
6. Decorating one slice
7. Heart-shaped cakes
8. Themed cartoon cake
9. Square comic cake
10. Holiday decorations
How to make your own cartoon cake
“The art of creating cartoon cakes, comic cakes or ‘2D effects’ cakes, is gaining popularity in the baking community,” says Norah Clark, professional pastry chef and creator of Yummy Tasty Food. “The key is to utilize color, shape and depth perception to create an illusion of flatness.”
Here, Clark’s guide on how to make a cartoon cake at home:
- Choose a design: Start with a simple design with clean lines and bright, distinct colors. It can be a round cake, a square cake, one giant cake slice, or something even more whimsical like a heart (see above for ideas or check out these 60+ cartoon cake designs).
- Bake and level the cake: Any recipe will do, but the surface should be as flat as possible to maintain the 2D appearance. (In a pinch? Click through for our favorite three-ingredient cake recipe!)
- Apply base icing: Spread a thin layer of base icing (often white or light color) over the cake, being careful not to disturb your carved outline. Use buttercream icing, which is ideal for its spreadability. This is known as the “crumb coat,” which seals in the crumbs before the final coating of fondant or buttercream.
At this point, it’s time to decorate your cartoon cake — fondant is simpler to shape into smooth designs, but you can also use colored buttercream if that is what you have on hand. Here’s how to decorate both ways:
How to decorate with fondant
- Gather fondant in the colors you need, plus black for the outlines: You can either buy it (Buy from Walmart, $6.20) or make it at home.
- Roll it flat: Roll out a large sheet of your base-colored fondant to ¼-⅛” thickness to ensure it’s thin enough to drape evenly over your cake but thick enough not to tear. (If you’re having trouble with fondant sticking to your hands, sprinkle some cornstarch on your hands and on the fondant’s surface.)
- Cover the cake and smooth: Carefully drape the base fondant over your cake, smoothing out any pleats and air bubbles as you go, so it’s pressed up smoothly against the cake. Use a sharp knife to cut off any excess at the base.
- Make outlines and shapes: Draw out parchment paper stencils for your remaining shapes (like a top section that looks like drips, or stripes that look cake layers). Use those stencils to cut out your shapes, brushing the back of the shapes with water to adhere them to your fondant-covered cake.
- Outline: Roll out long, thin cylinders of black fondant to use as outlines. Use the thin black lines of fondant to along outer edges and any other shapes on your cake and attach them with a little water to give it a 2D appearance.
Check out the video below from Rachel’s Enchanting Cakes for a visual step-by-step on decorating a cartoon cake with fondant:
How to decorate with buttercream
- Prepare and color the icing: Divide the icing into batches and color each batch separately with food coloring to match the colors in your design.
- Sketch and carve: Draw your design elements (like the drips on top layer or the striped layers that will go around the sides) onto a piece of parchment paper cut to the size of your cake. Use a knife to outline the design onto the crumb layer.
- Pipe colored icing: Using a piping bag and a small round tip, fill in your design with colored icing following your sketch.
- Flatten the icing: This step is crucial to achieving the 2D effect. Use a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon to flatten the icing. The aim is to blend the borders between colors just enough so they look seamless but maintain their individuality — like a cartoon.
- Outline and detail: Use black icing to outline your design. This part is crucial, since the thick black lines give the cake that classic 2D cartoon look. To ensure precise lines and the most realistic appearance, put black buttercream in a piping bag equipped with a small, round tip. Line all the edges of your design. It’s okay if the line breaks, this helps to make it look hand-drawn.
Pro cartoon cake tips
Before you start on your cartoon cake journey, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- After you bake your cake, make sure you let it cool completely before applying icing or fondant. A warm cake will be too soft and prone to tearing during decorating. Also, if your cake is too hot, the icing will melt and run, ruining the clean, cartoonish effect. Friend recommends freezing your cake for about 15 minutes in between steps to ensure that your cake and icing are firm enough.
- Make sure you have a lot of time to achieve the look, since you need a steady hand and patience to create a cartoon cake. “Precision is essential to maintain the clean lines of a 2D image,” says Clark. “And be patient. Rushing the process can lead to mistakes and can mess up the flat look you’re going for.”
Cartoon cakes are stunning and whimsical — will you try your hand at this unique treat? If you do, post your photos on Instagram and tag us @womansworldmag so we can see!
For more super-cute dessert ideas, read on!
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