Sculpted Cake: How to Make a 3D Owl Cake

The inspiration for this cake was a cake I saw on the cover of Debbie Brown’s Magical Cakes. I altered the idea to create an academic themed cake for my grad advisor’s birthday, dressed in academic regalia from her alma matter. The owl has a to-do list for her students.

1. To construct the
owl cake, use a 13″x19″ sheet cake, one sports ball cake, and
one pair of mini bundt cakes. It is best to use a stiff consistency cake.
For this particular cake, I used sour cream pound cake. I cut the 13″x19″
cake into six sections: 4 roughly 6.5″x8″, and two extra (unused)
sections that were roughly 6.5″x3″. From one of these I cut
a small piece to fill in the hole at the top of the bundt cake used for
the owl’s head.

Next, frost the books with a thin layer of buttercream frosting. I found
that the fondant covering used next held better on buttercream that had
not yet crusted, so I alternately frosted 1-2 books, then covered them with
For each book, color a small piece of marshmallow fondant (MMF) for the
cover, and roll it very thin (1/8″). From this, cut 2 book covers,
then a book spine and accent pieces. Also cut strips (about 4″ wide
and long enough to cover the sides and top of the books) of white fondant
for the book pages.

3. First attach the
white book page strips, using clear vanilla between the MMF and buttercream.
Then use a long metal spatula to run along the MMF to create the look
of individual pages. Next, attach the two larger cover pieces, then the
spine, and finally the binding accents. For this cake I wanted an aged
look for the books, so I did not perfectly smooth the bindings.

sections that will later be covered by side books, one may use shorter pieces
of MMF to cover the book sides.
Arranged the four books into a chair for the owl.
Next, frost and cover the sports ball cake with white MMF, torting the middle
with filling of your choice. For this cake, I used vanilla filling.
6. Using a leaf veining
fondant tool, carve a feather pattern into the owl’s body.

Next, I repeated the steps above to torte, frost, and cover the pair of
mini bundt cakes with white MMF. I divided a golf-ball sized piece of MMF
into two half-spheres for the cheeks, then pinched up excess fondant to
mold the owl’s ears. I used a fondant sculpting tool to work with the face
until it resembled an owl. I left two, thumbprint-sized impressions for
the eyes.
To sculpt the wings, roll a piece of white fondant very thin (1/8″),
cut out a wing-shaped piece, then use the smallest end of the fondant veining
tool to make feather marks along the top of the wing. Attached the wing
to the body and books using clear vanilla.
To create the beak, color a small piece of fondant yellow (the size should
be roughly two tablespoons of fondant). Shape the fondant first into a pyramid
with three sides and a triangular base, then work with the piece until it
resembles a beak. Attach the beak with clear vanilla.
For the eyes, use the more yellow fondant to create two dime sized spheres,
attach these with vanilla as well.
11. I dressed the
owl in academic regalia. For this, I cut two triangular pieces in green
for the cape, a long strip of yellow fondant for the sash, four more narrow
pieces of green for trim on the sash, one square in green for the cap
top and a thin strip of green that I formed a ring out of for the bottom
of the cap.
Attach all pieces
with clear vanilla.

Next, use a tip 104 and orange buttercream to add feet on the owl.
13. If some fondant
pieces will not hold shape, use toothpicks to hold the pieces into place
until they have dried. I rolled another thin piece of white fondant into
a strip roughly 2″x14″ for the to-do list. The list items were
written in with a thin consistency blue buttercream icing mixed using
a tip 1.
Paint the eyes with small circles of black gel food coloring mixed with
vanilla to thin it.
As a finishing touch, after the fondant has hardened somewhat, remove the
toothpicks and add a tassel to the cap using a tip 1 with thin consistency
yellow buttercream.

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