Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Big Glitter Scorpion Birthday Cake Fail

For a scorpio, my scorpion experience has not been great so far. Once in Belize, I made the rookie mistake of leaving my hiking boots outside my room overnight and neglected to shake them out before I stepped into them the next morning. A scorpion had made a bed out of my left boot and was a wee bit pissed off when I tried to jam my size eight and a half tootsie on top of him.

Ouch is an understatement. My thoughtful and knowledgable doctor, then boyfriend, now husband offered to pee on my foot to give me some relief.


The good dr. trying to throw me off a boat in Belize

For my birthday, which was last Friday, a detailed plan was crafted by moi  to make a delicious glittery cake shaped like a scorpion. In anticipation, several days before, a large batch of delicious chocolate fondant was made and tinted brown with paste food coloring. The interwebs were scoured to study and curate chocolate spice cake recipes. One was selected and executed with some changes. The perfect shades of disco dusts were procured. Leftover espresso buttercream was defrosted. Craft wire was purchased to make sure the cake's stinger would wave proudly in the air.

The evening before the big event I finally settled down to sculpt the cake. I built the body by cutting pieces of cake, crumb coating them with the buttercream then covering the pieces with rolled out chocolate fondant.  The stinger was formed by stringing pieces of chocolate fondant in ascending sizes on the craft wire.

The main goal was not to have it look like a lobster so the rear end of the scorpion was propped up with extra pieces of cake and fondant. The smaller legs on the sides were also  fashioned out of fondant covered wire. I placed the tail on the cake, secured it and went to bed planning to disco dust the hell out of it the next morning.

The next day I awoke early and stumbled into the kitchen only to find staring back at me from a large platter, a creature that resembled a huge cockroach whose butt had exploded.  I guess, like the one in my boot all those years ago, the stinger had ideas of it's own and decided to make a suicide leap, taking the back half of the cake with it.

Oh well. I started laughing and said a silent thank you to the zodiac Gods that I had not wasted all that expensive disco dust by finishing up the cake the night before.

Because I work in an off beat creative agency that publishes a renegade arts and culture magazine for fun, I knew this punk rock version of a birthday cake would be appreciated by our crew. So I packed it up along with some champagne and my pride and hauled it over to the office. 

It still tasted delicious. Despite it's ugly exterior and the unfortunate butt situation,  this cake had wonderful deep flavor. I added some cayenne pepper to the batter to provide that extra "sting" and it works well. This vanilla person also loved this chocolate fondant. It's positively delicious. The expresso buttercream plays perfectly off this cake because the cake recipe contains a cup of coffee. 

Scorpion karma e damned, I am contemplating adding the cake and the buttercream to my Thanksgiving feast this year. The next time around I would add some nuts, currants and raisins to the batter.

So like they say in A Chorus line, this cake was Dance 10, Looks 3.

Scorpion Cake

For the chocolate spice cake:
(Loosely adapted from a Chocolate Spice Cake recipe from Country Living)

  • 1+1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1+1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Grease and flower a 10 inch baking pan.
  • Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Stir together the coffee, olive oil, vanilla and vinegar together and stir it into the flour mixture until totally combined.
  • Add the spices and chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool for 15 minute then de-pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. 

For the Espresso Buttercream:

  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoon espresso powder
  • Place the butter, 2 cups of the powdered sugar and the cream in a mixer and cream together.
  • Mix in the vanilla extract.
  • Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until combined. If the mixture is too liquid, add more powdered sugar.
  • Beat in the espresso powder.

For the homemade chocolate marshmallow fondant:

  • 1/2  bag (1/2 pound) chocolate marshmallows.
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar
  • Crisco or shortening
  • plastic wrap or cling film
  • Gel or paste food coloring
  • Cover the inside of a heat safe bowl and a wooden spoon with Crisco or shortening.
  • Place marshmallows and water in the bowl.
  • Microwave the marshmallows for 30 seconds at a time stirring the mixture in between with the wooden spoon.
  • When the mixture is the consistency of Marshmallow Fluff, stir in 3/4 of the powdered sugar one cup at a time.
  • Cover your work surface with powdered sugar and cover your hands with Crisco or shortening.
  • Dump the fondant on the sugared surface and knead the rest of the sugar in.
  • Separate the fondant into different parts and color as desired by adding a few drops of gel colors at a time and kneading it in until the color is evenly distributed and you get the color you want. 
  • Wrap each piece in plastic wrap until you use it.
  • Wrap leftover fondant tightly in plastic cling film and store in a zip lock bag.


  1. LOL! As long as it tasted good, all is fine. Happy Birthday!

  2. What a riot. I still imagine in tasting all chocolatey and delicious. Happy happy birthday!

  3. It may not have been finished the way you have envisioned it but I think it's a wonderful cake. Only you would decided to create a scorpion cake for your birthday! I'm sorry I missed wishing you a wonderful day on your day and I hope it was spectacular for you Lora. All the best for a fabulous year. (Love the photo of you and the Dr.!)


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