You know you’re getting your Halloween baking right when you’re constantly asked if you watch Dexter.
I wanted to make a bleeding brain skull cake for the Halloween party thrown my by husband’s employer last year, especially since I spent the money on the big Wilton 3D skull pan the year before and really should cost-justify it more often. That’s right: buy the skull stuff at Halloween, find reasons to use them forever. That’s sound craftnerd investment, that is.
I wondered if I could do the brain as a long blood-filled tube all curled up on itself so it would bleed at any point when cut. I know just enough about fluid dynamics to realize that if you’ve got a tube filled with liquid and bend it, that increases the pressure, so that I’d need a way for excess to escape during bending. But my more immediate concern was to wonder if the caning nature of modelling chocolate would lend itself to making a long, stretched tube filled with goo in the first place.
So I experimented.
Short answer: no.
I then started gently rolling it to stretch it, and at first it was working.
But in short order, it all went badly. The modelling chocolate started to crack under the changing pressure of the internal fluid (so fondant wouldn’t have done much better) and let the blood seep out.
So clearly the pressure was a problem. I made a new tube and this time let cracks appear as I rolled, but kept them under control. I let the pressure readjust, then capped the leaks with more modelling chocolate. This got the roll a lot longer, so there was faint – if sticky – hope.
I then cut the tube to see if it’d bleed…
Well that was disappointing, especially since the actual application would have to be even longer with probably even less reaction.
I mashed it all up together and tried one more time, going even more carefully.
That time I managed to keep the blood mostly inside, so I figured I should try bending it and see if – as expected – the internal fluid pressure would wreck the whole thing.
For good measure I cut the folded tube, hoping it’d at least bleed…
I gave up and instead went for one of my brain molds, picking the size that was closest to the skull pan, or at least where the texture would allow me to fake it best. Yes, of course I have multiple brain molds in multiple sizes. Haven’t you been reading this blog long enough to guess that?
Anyway, I dusted the mold with corn starch and put in a sheet of modelling chocolate at about a quarter inch thick.
I made the skull cake, cut a bit off the top for where I wanted the exposed brain to be, and covered it with white modelling chocolate. I made a flattened area for the molded brain to sit upon, including a bony ridge around the edge, and mounted the brain so it made a hollow cave against the flattened area. I sealed it down thoroughly on all sides but the very front.
Then I filled a medicine syringe (the kind for giving babies medicine, but this one was fresh and never used with actual medicine) with more of my fake blood mix.
Next I simply squirted the blood into the brain area until it was almost full, then sealed it up.
Then I went about airbrushing black into the recessed areas of the skull until I noticed the blood started to leak out the back.
I tried to ignore the leak and started working on the teeth, which I first sculpted with a rounded tool pressed into the modelling chocolate. I then airbrushed with the black, followed by a light wipe over with a paper towel to make the fronts whiter against the recessed areas:
I airbrushed the brain a mix of black and red to make it nice and gory, and had the whole cake on a cool red glass platter the kind folks at the Forth Worth ICES gave me for doing a gummy demo at their Day of Sharing a couple of years ago. I think it’s supposed to be a nice, fancy platter and not be used as decorative gore, but hey, that’s how I roll.
Unfortunately, the leak didn’t stop. In fact, it got worse. Bad enough that I decided it was now a “feature”. Yes. I meant to have it leaky all along. Yes.
Thankfully even though it slowly seeped on the dessert table at the party all evening, there was still enough blood in the brain that when I cut it, it flowed all over in a nice disgusting manner, as you can tell from the squeals of delight all around as I cut into the thing. Muahahahaha.
So even with the errors and failed experiments, this was definitely a success. I’d say if anyone else is going to give it a go, just be sure to super-duper seal that brain at the back end before filling it with blood.