Cinematic Cake

I wish I could say that I could take credit for this cake. But it's actually an excerpt guest post from the great new book Buttercream Basics

If you have been wanting to refine your piping, spreading, and decorating skills with buttercream, you need to buy this book. It's a really good one.

I chose this cake to feature from the book because it's striking, wow-worthy...but actually pretty easy to make. So without further ado, here's the tutorial for this "Cinematic Cake"! 

From Carey Madden, the author:

This cake is ready for its close-up. It’s every kid’s dream: a double feature spotlighting both movie candy and cake, for twice the sweetness and twice the fun.

  • Cake:    8-inch (20 cm) cake, roughly iced in red
  • Pastry Bags:    1 bag, fitted with a coupler
  • Tips:    #30 (or similar) star tip
  • Buttercream:    3⁄4 cup (175 mL) red
  • Other Stuff:    Corn syrup, Straight spatula, 16-oz (500 g) bag of black licorice ropes, 16-oz (500 g) bag of red licorice ropes, 15 black nonpareil-covered gummy berries (approx.), 15 red nonpareil-covered gummy berries (approx.)

Bag Prep: Fit the pastry bag with the star tip and fill it with red icing.

Cake Prep: Center the cake on the presentation surface, securing it with a dribble of corn syrup, and place it in the center of the turntable.

Bits & Nibbles

•    If you’re unable to get your hands on nonpareil-covered gummy berries, shoot for vintage movie candy such as Dots or jujubes. But anything that’s edible and that matches the cake will do.

•    When you go to place your last rope in step 6, you may find that your last rope is the same color as your first. In this case, I like to split the difference. Cut one of each color rope in half and place the half-ropes tip to tip as the last rope in the ring.

Decorating Steps

1. Using a straight spatula, make a spiral on the top of the cake in buttercream.


2. Snip off the squashed flat end on one side of each licorice rope.

3. Hold one licorice rope at a slanting angle against the side of the cake to determine how long the ropes should be cut. Pinch the rope with your fingers to mark where to make the cut.

4. Cut the rope, then hold it against the cake to double-check that it is the correct length. Use this rope as a measuring stick and cut the remaining ropes to the same length. You can cut several ropes at once.

5. Keeping your measuring stick rope back in case you need to cut more ropes, begin to place the ropes at a slanting angle against the side of the cake, alternating between red and black.


6. Continue to place ropes until the cake is fully ringed with licorice ropes.

7. Using red icing, pipe small rosettes snug up against each other around the perimeter on top of the cake. The rosettes should be larger than the base of a gummy berry.

8. Place a gummy berry in the center of each rosette, alternating between red and black.

And voila, your cake is ready for its close-up! 

This recipe/tutorial is an excerpt from the amazing and informative new book Buttercream Basics. It's truly accessible to even newbie decorators. If you're curious about how to do things like spread buttercream on in an even layer, creating the pretty spiral on top of this cake, or more sweet touches, this is the book for you!

Do you like decorating with buttercream?

Balsamic Candy

Candy...made with oil and vinegar? Believe it. 

I know it sounds weird, but it's actually pretty darned wonderful. Starting with a brown sugar syrup, this candy is augmented with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of sea salt for a fascinating, sweet-savory flavor.

I originally made this as a candy coating for an interesting candied cherry tomato recipe, but personally, I think the candy is better on its own. Balsamic candy is sophisticated and -- trust me on this -- doesn't taste as strange as you think. 


Makes many candies 

Prep time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes


  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch salt

You’ll need:

  • a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • a candy thermometer
  • a rubber spatula
  • Parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set to the side.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water, sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan, or have it nearby if if is an instant-read variety. Heat the mixture on medium heat, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula (to discourage any undissolved bits of sugar from scorching the pan).

Bring the mixture to a boil, continuing to stir frequently and scrape the sides of the bowl with your rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil, monitoring the temperature as it gradually rises. Once the temperature reaches 270 degrees F (this is the “soft-crack” stage in candy-making), carefully monitor the temperature as it will rise quickly. Once the temperature has reached 300 (just entering the “hard-crack” stage of candy-making), remove from heat. The mixture will continue to bubble for a few moments. Let the bubbling calm down briefly before proceeding.

Spoon the candy mixture in dollops onto the prepared baking sheet. Alternately, you can have individual portions of parchment and fold the paper around it to make Jolly rancher-shaped candies, or you can pour the candy into cupcake liners so you can control how much it spreads. 

If your candy mixture seems like it is beginning to get too hard, keep it over low heat to keep it pourable.


This candy will become hard as it cools. Enjoy! 

Note: Do not touch the candy mixture while it is liquid, as it is very hot!

You've Got To Make Fantan Rolls!

You've just got to! They're so much easier to make than they look!

These buttery fantan rolls taste like parker house rolls, but have an even more fun shape. They pull apart, so buttering individual strips of your roll is fun and a highly delicious way to enjoy bread. 

I made these recently for the Craftsy blog and have to tell you, they made me feel the most enormous sense of accomplishment.

You too can feel this accomplishment - - 

Find the recipe here!

Baci Candy White Chocolate White Russian

Let's get white chocolate cruuuuuuunk! Yup, I just said that. 

Sometimes, you just need a sweet-as-sugar cocktail that packs a punch. This Baci white chocolate white Russian is just the drink for those times.

Lightly malted and totally sweet, melted white chocolate Baci candies are joined by a little coffee liqueur and vodka make this sweet cocktail totally intoxicating. In more ways than one! 

So go ahead, make yourself a l'il treat. You won't regret it. 

White Chocolate White Russian 

  • 1 tablespoon malt powder
  • 2 Baci White chocolate candies, finely chopped, plus 1 Baci White chocolate candy, for serving
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ½ ounces coffee liqueur
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • ice

Optional garnishes:

cinnamon, or melted chocolate

Make the malted milk. Place the malt powder and 2 finely chopped Baci White chocolate candies in a medium heatproof bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and milk until the mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat, and pour over the candy-and-malt powder mixture. Whisk until completely combined. Continue to whisk, every few minutes, until the mixture cools to room temperature. At this point, you can cover the mixture and put it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When you’re ready to make the cocktails, combine the malted milk, coffee liqueur, vodka, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake to combine, and strain the mixture equally into two glasses. Drizzle with melted chocolate or shake a small amount of cinnamon on top. Serve with Baci White chocolate candy halves for an extra treat.

This recipe can be made with half and half instead of milk and cream, but the flavor will not be quite the same. Non-dairy milk and creamer can be substituted for the dairy called for in this recipe.

To create chocolate “stripes” in the glasses as shown, drizzle a little melted chocolate in your glasses before straining the liquid inside. 

It's Here! + Giveaway: Another Unicorn Coloring Book

At long last, my friends, it's here. The Unicorn Coloring Book has a younger sibling: Another Unicorn Coloring Book. They're both available on Amazon (click the respective titles for the link) or in my Etsy shop. But here's the thing: I want you (and a friend!) to have a copy. Scan to the bottom of the post for the giveaway details! 

But first, let's take a sneak peek.

So, I need to tell you that I am super-mega proud of this book. It includes 24 brand new unicorn illustrations, including some of these: 


Each page spread has an illustration, and on the back side of each page, a quote. This is because you don't want any media to bleed through and ruin a second page; a quote keeps things interesting. Now, I have edited the designs so the quotes are in a lighter grey color; this way, they don't shine through on the flip side of the page. This is my favorite quote, btw: 

I really hope you'll enjoy coloring them as much as I loved drawing them.


OK, I know it's annoying to click over to a different platform for the giveaway, but I want to keep it easy to track, and these days Instagram seems to be the easiest way to do it. To enter, click over to Instagram (my user name is @cakespyblog) and tag a friend. I'll choose one winner at random, and send a copy to you AND the friend you tagged! 

Here's the giveaway post for easy clicking

The fine print: unfortunately, since international shipping is freaking expensive, I can only offer this giveaway to US/Canada residents at this time. I'll choose a winner at the end of this week (Friday afternoon). 

Experiencing Artist's (or a Creative) Block? Try these Tips.

It's an unfortunate fact: every creative type goes through artistic dry spells. 

Happily, they don't need to last forever. I recently wrote what I think is an A+ article for, regarding some tried and true ways to overcome artist's block.

While it's written from the point of view of a visual artist, the tips are fairly universal and can be applied to any creative process.

Check it out and save these ideas for the next time you're feeling stuck! And if you have a tip for you you combat creative blocks, please leave it here or on the Craftsy post! 

Full article here.