Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swimming Pool Cake

Corban's 7th birthday party was held at an indoor pool, so I felt it fitting to make his cake a swimming pool.  I did the colors on the lane markers and flags just like the real pool. Nothing too fancy here....

Plain chocolate 11 x 15" chocolate sheet cake, frozen first, then frosted with white buttercream for a crumb coat, chilled again, then frosted again.  Tinted blue buttercream for the piping and a little bit tinted black (add cocoa powder and black food coloring to get it black easier) for the lines in the swim lanes.

The main challenge of this cake was the water effect.

I researched online on how to do it.....and the general conclusion is that piping gel is the best medium for such a task. The first recipe I tried called for 2 packages of unflavored gelatin, dissolved in 2 T. of water, heated, then mixed with 2 cups of corn syrup and heated again.

Sounded easy enough.

I had a whole box of Knox unflavored gelatin in my pantry.  It had actually been given to me by a friend who was moving and didn't need it....oh, say about 8 years ago.


I don't use unflavored gelatin much.  Okay, ever.

I searched the box thoroughly for an expiration date.....couldn't find one.  But seriously....does gelatin ever go bad?  I've never heard of such a thing.

I proceeded to make the recipe exactly as directed.  The gelatin never quite dissolved all the way, but I thought it would work itself out.  Ha.

Well, here's what I ended up with.

Ever seen the 80's John Cusack movie "Better Off Dead"?  I wouldn't recommend it really, very goofy, but there's a scene in there where the spacey mom serves up this goop for dessert that ends up crawling off his plate.....well, let's just say that my piping gel was pretty much like that.  Ugh.

So I had to try again.  I found another recipe on Cake Central that didn't include gelatin and gave it a shot.

1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. water

In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch.  Add lemon juice slowly, followed by water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Allow to boil for a minute or two, then remove from heat.  Add food coloring as desired.

It worked perfectly. 

As I was adding the coloring.....

All nice and watery looking. 

It set up pretty much like jello in the fridge overnight, so before putting it on the cake, I had to warm it and stir a lot to get it more spreadable.  I ended up making another batch because I was knew the first batch wasn't enough...turned out perfectly.  I just mixed the fresh, hot batch into the one from the night before and stirred them together well.  

Then I just spooned it carefully over the cake, spreading it gently.  It was surprisingly easy to do.  After that, I just piped the lane markers with white and blue buttercream.  

Just to be clear, the piping gel tastes fine, but it is definitely lemon tasting, so it was a bit weird with chocolate.  Most of the adults scraped it off.  The kids seemed to love it.  I think it would taste good with a yellow or lemon cake.  Texture is still kind of strange, can't get around that. 

Altogether, Corban was delighted with his cake and even the lifeguards at the pool seemed pretty impressed.  

Picture before adding the backstroke flags.

Corban with his cake and two buddies' elbows.  

This recipe is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap: Birthday Cakes


  1. oh man, i wish such a thing had occured to me! well, now i know :)
    I made a 'ducky cake' for aiden's birthday and just put blue frosting on top, and put some new rubber ducks atop that. Oh well, a 1 year old isn't gonna complain ;) but i'll keep your water trick in mind, b/c that looks simply awesome!

  2. that is down right awesome.

    my sister and i are both swimmers -- synchronized swimmers, but I would have killed for that cake growing up! Might just make an appearance at my sister's birthday next year :)


  3. Thanks, gals! and don't be afraid to try out the original piping gel recipe if you want...just make sure you have fresh gelatin! I'll give it another shot sometime, because it doesn't have the lemon flavor.

    SnoWhite, check out if you haven't before....there are so many swimming pool cakes on there, I couldn't even go through them all. Many are just amazing! The only downside is, most of them don't tell you how they made the cake at all. It's just photos. But still great for inspiration!

  4. gracias por tus recetas! un saludo desde España.


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