Damien Hirst-inspired skull cake

Serves 12-16

For the Love of Cake Photograph by Maja Smend, food styling by Kim Morphew, prop styling by Lydia Brun, recipe by Georgia Levy

For the Love of Cake

A skull cake inspired by Hirst's For the Love of God. There are lots of different ways that you can decorate your cake, from edible lustre paint and glitter to edible diamonds and balls. Use whatever you can get hold of!

You will need

3 x 18cm sandwich cake tins
350g unsalted butter
350g caster sugar
6 eggs
270g self-raising flour, sieved
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
80g cocoa, sieved
2 tbsp milk

Buttercream filling
100g dark 50% chocolate, chopped
125g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar

300g smooth apricot jam
1kg ready-to-roll white fondant icing
Black fondant icing
Approx 20 white sugar coated almonds
Silver lustre spray (optional)
Edible clear spray and edible silver glitter (optional)
Silver edible balls (optional)
Edible diamonds (available online or at a good cake shop)


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease and line your tins with baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa and milk, and beat together until smooth.

3. Divide the mixture equally between the tins, smooth the surface with the back of a spoon and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly, turn out onto a rack and leave to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool until the chocolate no longer feels hot to the touch. Whisk the butter in a bowl until soft, then gradually whisk in melted chocolate and icing sugar until combined.

5. Take one cake and, using a bread knife, carefully slice off the curved edges, so that you are left with a 13cm square and four semi-circles of cake. Repeat with the remaining cakes. You should now have three square cakes and 12 semi-circles. Spread a bit of the chocolate buttercream on the top of one square cake, then sit another cake square on top. Repeat with a bit more icing and the remaining square cake. You should now have a square, layered cake. Transfer to a board.

6. Using the buttercream as glue, sandwich together the semi-circles of cake on their flat sides. Spread more buttercream on the top of the square cake and arrange the semicircle stack on top (this will make the top of the skull). Use any leftover pieces of cake to create the shape further if you wish, using the buttercream to stick it together. Place in the fridge for about one hour to firm up.

7. This is the bit where some artistic skill is needed! Using a small sharp knife, cut off any overhanging edges and sculpt the sponge into a skull shape, creating eye sockets, nose and forehead. Use any leftover cake to create the cheekbones, and any other detail you want, sticking them onto the skull with more buttercream. Carefully carve a small gap for the mouth. Once you’re happy with your skull, return it to the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the cheekbones to firm up.

8. Place the apricot jam in a small pan and gently heat until melted. Brush all over the skull cake. Roll out the white icing into a piece big enough to cover your cake. Lay it over the cake, press firmly into the eye sockets and nose cavity. Carefully smooth the icing over the skull, following the contours of the cake to create the shape.

9. To decorate, you can go as crazy as you like. Use the black fondant to make the inside of the mouth. Cut the almonds in half and stick them into the top and bottom jaws to resemble teeth. Spray the cake in silver lustre and then, once dry, spray with edible glaze and sprinkle with glitter. You will need to work in sections as the glaze dries quite quickly. Decorate the eyes with silver balls and edible diamonds by pressing them into the icing.

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