Ideal for a tasty treat at Hallowe’en or for a beautiful centrepiece for a harvest festival celebration, this carved pumpkin cake looks impressive and tastes devilishly good!
The unique airbrushing technique gives the bake a truly realistic feel, while the carved pattern allows you to create your own unique touch to a classic cake.
Stack three 23cm (9in) sponge cakes on top of one another, applying layers of buttercream with a palette knife between them to secure the layers together.
Use a large bread knife to carve the cakes into a smooth curve from the top to the bottom all the way round.
Carve a cross into the top of the cake using the bread knife.
Carve a second cross at forty-five degrees from the first to make an eight-pointed star, then use this to guide you in carving eight recesses all round the cake, resulting in a pumpkin shape.
Soften any hard edges with the knife, then scoop out a little hole at the top for the stalk to sit in.
Cover the cake with jam, then knead the fondant icing and drape it over the shaped cake. Start to ease it gently into the shaping.
Tuck the excess underneath, being careful to avoid any creases, then trim away any that still remains.
Using the smoother, smooth the surface of the cake, working into the curves and recesses.
This smoothing may cause the shaping of the cake to look a bit angular, so gently reinstate the curves in the creases and hollows using your fingers.
Set up your airbrush and add seven drops of yellow and one of red to the colour well for an orange mix. Test the colour on a piece of scrap paper, Working in a smooth up-and-down motion, begin to colour the pumpkin. This movement helps to get into the dips and recesses, but also suggests the natural lines of growth on a real pumpkin.
Using the turntable to rotate the cake, continue to colour the pumpkin until it is completely orange. Never stop in the middle of a stroke, even if the paint runs out, as this causes blotches. Instead, wait until you are at the top or the bottom of the movement to release the lever, then add more of the same mix (seven drops of yellow and one red drop) to the colour well.
Using the same orange mix, begin to strengthen the colour in the recesses and the hollow at the top with an overlaid layer.
Using flicking motions, and working from the top downwards, work down the sides to overlay and strengthen the colour.
Add some shading at the bottom of the pumpkin, again by overlaying the same mix.
Add some variation in the recesses with very light strokes of pure brown to give a dusting. This will also knock back some of the vibrancy of the redder parts and make the pumpkin appear more natural.
Still using light dusting strokes of brown, deepen the shading at the bottom, particularly in the dips.
Take a 5cm (2in) diameter ball of modelling paste. Squeeze the middle and one end gently into a roughly four-sided shape.
Put the other end on your surface and tip the narrowed end over, then elongate it to form a pumpkin stem.
Add two drops of green and two of brown to the colour well to make an earthy green. Use this to colour the stem.
Avoiding the corner edges of the stem, lightly spray it with pure brown; including the very end.
Add one or two drops of green to the colour well and overlay the stem with a light spray, again avoiding the corner edges.
Use royal icing (see inset) to secure the stalk in place in the central recess of the pumpkin.
Using the fine-pointed end of a modelling tool, start to lightly etch the outline of the central flower in the middle of one of the bulging areas of the pumpkin. Refer to the diagram on page 94. Keep your marks very faint, barely removing the paint.
Using the angled sharp end of a modelling tool, begin scraping 1mm (1⁄32in) or so into the surface so the white icing becomes visible following the initial lines. As a guideline, work from the outermost points towards the centre; but ignore this if it is uncomfortable – work however best suits you and the design. Lightly brush away any excess colour.
For fine details like the veins of the leaves and the texture on the flower centre, use the fine pointed end of a modelling tool. Flare the line of the veins out towards the centre, and use tiny circling marks for the flower centre itself.
For larger areas, lightly mark the outline with the end of a spoon-ended modelling tool.
Lift away the shape with the flat end of a modelling tool. Be very careful not to work too deeply – you are aiming simply to reveal the icing beneath the colour. If you dig too deeply, you will reveal the cake!
With the pointed, spoon and flat ends of the tools, you can work the design outwards from the centre. Work gradually and step back every so often to check the design is fitting correctly.
With the design complete, transfer the cake to a drum board covered with fondant icing. Use double-sided sticky tape to secure cream ribbon round the edge of the board to finish.
For more airbrushing ideas, grab your copy of Cassie Brown's book 'Airbrushing On Cakes' book. Published by Search Press.