October 26, 2003

Thorax Cake

The Thorax Cake - grossing out the internets since 2003.

I generally make a bleeding heart cake for our annual pumpkin carving party (Pumpkinfest). Sometimes the heart beats, sometimes it's anatomically correct, and so on and so forth. This year I decided to go the whole hog and make an entire thoracic cavity cake. The plan was for each organ to be made out of a different kind of cake and to secrete a different color of fluid when it was cut into. Previous heart cakes have bled fresh, homemade raspberry sauce. This year I made raspberry, strawberry, kiwi, mango, and blueberry sauces. Sadly, the organs didn't bleed as well as I had hoped when I cut the cake, as each organ was relatively small and couldn't hold much sauce. Also all the moving around after filling the organs made it hard to keep the sauce contained in the little cavities I hollowed out. The heart bled pretty well, but the other organ fluids weren't very dramatic. On the bright side, there were lots of leftover sauces, which were all quite delicious. But I'm getting ahead of myself. My intended organ-cake-sauce combinations were as follows.

Heart - orange cake with raspberry sauce
Lungs - apple spice cake with strawberry sauce
Kidneys - orange cake with blueberry sauce
Stomach - ginger cake with mango sauce
Liver - chocolate cake with kiwi sauce
Small Intestine - jelly roll with red currant jelly

Unfortunately the liver suffered a complete structural failure when I tried to transfer into place within the rib cage, so it had to be eliminated from the presentation. I like to think that the liver was the tastiest bit and so whoever ripped this unfortunate man apart (Barbara May thinks it was Klingon because it was slightly larger than life size, but I'm not sure Klingons have the same internal organ structure.) ate the liver first before it ever got to our pumpkin party.

After baking all the different types of cakes, I carved them into the shapes of the appropriate organs, using my handy Gray's Anatomy as a reference.

I then flipped each organ over, hollowed out a cavity in the center and frosted the inside of the cavity and the underside of the cake with buttercream frosting. After spooning in the fruit sauces, I sealed the cavities with a layer of fondant icing and flipped the organs back over. The heart and the lungs I covered with white modelling chocolate and the kidneys and stomach I covered with fondant icing. Both had their advantages and their disadvantages. White modelling chocolate tastes better than fondant and it sticks to itself better than fondant, but it's more difficult to work with on cakes like these which were relatively unstable due to the hollows in the middle. Also, modelling chocolate is difficult to paint with paste food coloring, which is what I usually use. It can be painted easily with powdered food coloring, but I didn't have any cocoa butter to dissolve the powder in. The fondant is easy to roll out and wrap around the cake and very easy to paint but it doesn't hold sculptural detail as well as modelling chocolate.

At this point, I took a break from the cakes in order to assemble the white chocolate rib cage in which all the organs were to be placed.

I tempered white chocolate chips in the microwave and piped ribs and vertebrae onto acetate with a plastic piping bag. I drew ribs onto paper which I placed underneath the acetate to insure that the ribs would be the same shape and the right size.

Dipping each piece into a bowl of melted white chocolate, it was relatively easy to assemble the rib cage on a silver tray. (The tray's last use was for passing out cookies at Barbara May's wedding.) Of course, with all the organs on top of it, virtually no one ever actually saw the fact that there was a complete spinal column underneath all the cake so some might say there was a bit of wasted effort there, but I say if you're going to make an edible, anatomically correct chest cavity dessert tray, you might as well do it right!

Once the rib cage was dry, I placed all the organs except the liver in the appropriate places inside it (again using Gray's Anatomy as a guide. This is, by the way, the only use that Gray's Anatomy ever sees in our household.)

It was at this point that I realized the liver was beyond salvaging. (I had problems with the liver from the moment I tried to take it out of the cake tin.)

I'm not really sure what colors kidneys and stomachs and such are supposed to be, but, drawing on my vast experience watching people in movies being disembowelled, I gave it my best shot.

I'm not sure how accurate the results were, but they were definitely gross.

At this point Barbara May came home from a party and helped me move the cake to its final location so I could attach the intestine, which was to be trailing out of the rib cage so as to suggest that the person to whom the thorax had belonged had been ripped apart, rather than carefully dissected.

I bent the jelly roll (which I was quite proud of; I'd never made that kind of cake before and I sometimes have problems with whipping eggs. Fortunately, I was visiting my mom recently and she told me that it's very important the mixer and bowl be very clean and perfectly dry or the egg whipping won't work, so I didn't have any problems at all this time. Thanks, Mom!) into appropriate curves and covered it with white chocolate. I was, by this point, out of both kinds of frosting, lacked the ingredients to make more, and it was four o'clock in the morning so I couldn't get any more. That's why I just used plain white chocolate to cover the intestine. It looked fine, but was pretty difficult to paint, again because I lacked cocoa butter and so couldn't use the powdered food colors.

All that was left was to add the buttercream frosting blood, so it wouldn't look so pristine.

I did little veins on the organs first with a piping bag, then put big globs of gore on the ribs with a knife. A little spritz of corn syrup to give it that all-important oozing, wet look and I was done!

Tragically, the next day was very hot and, as white chocolate melts at about 95 degrees Farenheit, this caused major structural failure of the rib cage. By the time our guests arrived for Pumpkinfest, the rib cage had collapsed almost completely. It was nice and stable in the middle of the night when it was cool, though, I swear! So we put a photo of it in its original state up on the computer monitor. Actually, even with the rib cage broken, it looked pretty gruesome and neat, but it was better before. As I mentioned before, the cutting of the cake was not as dramatic as I had hoped, but, considering that I make all this up as I go along, I think the whole project didn't go too badly at all. And everyone said the cakes and sauces were all delicious, despite the excessive amounts of frosting required for this sort of project.

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  • That's so hideous. I love it.

    By Blogger foobella, At May 8, 2009 at 6:19 AM  

  • I really love this cake, I am going to attempt it for a friends birthday next month

    By Blogger Native Grass and Stuff, At May 31, 2009 at 3:25 AM  

  • Is it weird that, after reading the different cake types and fillings, an edible, gory thorax sounds delicious?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 19, 2009 at 7:58 AM  

  • You crazy.

    By Blogger naomi, At August 20, 2009 at 9:14 PM  

    you are so truly amazing. I wish you were my best friend.....Of course, we'd never get any sleep; I share your love of authenticity, and the way you love the process as much as the finished result.

    By Blogger heartafire, At August 22, 2009 at 8:34 AM  

  • all i can say is.... woww, also, you should post some pictures of what it looked like after cutting it and it oozing :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 23, 2009 at 2:30 AM  

  • I am currently on the worlds biggest diet and I now feel really really sick - I am going to print a pic of your cake and put it on my fridge to prevent any sweet treat diet disasters. Thank you for the vileness!

    By Blogger Debbie, At September 3, 2009 at 6:55 AM  

  • I'm a bit of a halloween fanatic and a cake decorator at the same time, so I appreciate this cake for both reasons, it turned out great! Awesome job!

    By Anonymous Patricia, At September 8, 2009 at 5:11 PM  

  • This...is incredible. Totally diggin' that trailing intestine, and the whole concept of each "organ" being made of a different sort of cake and oozing various sauces is hilariously sick.

    A++ for creativity, skills and all-around awesomeness!

    By Blogger Mentalspewage, At September 8, 2009 at 10:32 PM  

  • I love it!!! Plan on doing this myself for this year's Halloween Beef and Beer we are doing!!! Will let you know how it turns out!!! Thanks for the great idea and step by step instructions.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 23, 2009 at 9:51 PM  

  • that is awesome!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 1, 2009 at 2:59 PM  

  • awesome cake but i wouldnt eat it =)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 3, 2009 at 5:48 PM  

  • ditto Patricia. Both the Halloween freak and cake decorator in me are in awe.

    A thousand dismembered thumbs up!

    By Anonymous taffi, At October 6, 2009 at 7:47 PM  

  • Being a fellow Halloween nut and detailed cake fiend myself, I am in awe. This is awesome! I may have to try it for my Gathering of Ghouls this year. Thank you for the detailed step by step guidance. You truly are talented!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 13, 2009 at 12:15 AM  

  • Not only are you artistic, you are very humorous! I laughed out loud reading of your experience building this cake. Don't have the energy to try it myself, but I am amazed by your creativity and dedication!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 15, 2009 at 6:51 AM  

  • Truly awesome cake! I'm a mortuary tech and I love cake decorating. -You were unsure about the colouring of your organs... if your were to do this again, make the kidneys more like the colour of the lungs, and the lungs should be light pink in colour, or if the torso is from a smoker or 'city dweller' make them pink with mottled grey. The stomach was good, -the blue was a good touch, although you could introduce some blue 'veins' leading to the bottom edge of the organ... -and how about some yellow 'creamed corn' fat around some of the organs, that'd be TOTALLY gross. :) -Thanks for sharing, this is inspired!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 17, 2009 at 3:36 AM  

  • I think this cake rocks! I'm gonna give my handy work a try at this, for our up coming Halloween cake making contest this year!! Hope I rock it out!!

    By Anonymous Robin, At October 18, 2009 at 7:55 PM  

  • Awesome job...practice makes perfect so I'm sure after a few more Halloweens, you'll have this cake perfected to a T!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 21, 2009 at 5:44 AM  

  • How much did this cake cost to make?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 22, 2009 at 6:11 PM  

  • This is so awesome. I homeschool our four kids, and this would be perfect for them to help me make (on a simpler scale!) while we're studying anatomy... Great detail!

    By Anonymous L a u r a, At November 3, 2009 at 9:49 AM  

  • WOW ! Big respect!

    By Blogger Dobowet, At November 10, 2009 at 1:37 AM  

  • Lol. It takes someone with a SICK sense of humor to be able to manage this. Kudos! I love it!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 4, 2009 at 8:00 PM  

  • Too bad bout the rib cage.Sounds like hella Pumpkinfest.Either way,it's soooo gruesome.I love it!Reminded me that I need to think of a cake for Sammy's B-day.Thanks!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 9, 2010 at 8:09 AM  

  • This is amazing. My daughter wants a zombie-themed sweet sixteen. I may attempt a version of this, although the white chocolate may not work in August, or dig up your bleeding heart cake. I like the severed arm too. Thanks for the instructions!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 14, 2010 at 9:35 AM  

  • That is pretty freaking awesome!

    By Blogger Jonnethon, At May 23, 2010 at 10:34 PM  

  • That is disgusting, and I am SO in love with you right now. Not to mention incredibly jealous of your mad skillz!


    By Anonymous Spacegeek Nat, At June 1, 2010 at 12:29 AM  

  • Wow. That is amazing. :o

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 12, 2010 at 9:43 AM  

  • All over the internet there are 13-year-old boys crying themselves to sleep because you can't cater their next birthday party. :)

    By Blogger Doug, At July 13, 2010 at 7:20 AM  

  • that is an amazing effort, definitely one to copy ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 15, 2010 at 4:31 AM  

  • Hahahah it's horrible! XD Excellent!
    I love it! I'm going to try and make my own this year. My birthday is Halloween so that'll work nicely.

    By Anonymous Ben, At July 30, 2010 at 3:55 AM  

  • You are talented my friend! I love Halloween and this cake rocks! Keep that imagination going....can't wait to see what else you post.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 14, 2010 at 12:33 PM  

  • I am a publisher and I am interested in publishing a book about you two girls. Please contact me - hcvang@vangcreative.dk - at your earliest convenience.

    By Blogger superman hollywood, At August 15, 2010 at 4:51 PM  

  • I love this!!!! I'm going to try to make this! my kids will get so grossed out!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 25, 2010 at 11:26 AM  

  • Looks totally gross, which is perfect!!
    Hopefully I can get it to come out as good as yours.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 27, 2010 at 8:20 AM  

  • excellent...really excellent...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 2, 2010 at 10:02 AM  

  • This is so amazing. I still need some practise...

    True art!

    By Anonymous Jossu, At October 25, 2010 at 5:11 AM  

  • I attempted to make this amazing structure tonight. It doesn't look nearly as amazing as yours but I'm pretty pleased. The ribs are kicking my rear, tho. My house is hot from the oven being on and the melted chocolate is spreading. I'm going to have another go at them tomorrow night. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration!

    By OpenID madcassandra, At October 27, 2010 at 7:20 PM  

  • This cake makes my diet so much easier! Awesome skills but I would NOT be tempted to eat it at all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 17, 2010 at 7:56 AM  

  • For the first anniversary of my kidney transplant, my mum had a cake decorator make a kidney cake. It looked very real and turned a few of the more squeamish stomachs in the room. But it was certainly not as gory as this! Love it!


    By Anonymous Louise, At January 17, 2011 at 8:17 PM  

  • What kind of cake, frosting, and sauce did you use? I want to make this cake for a zombie party but I'm stumped on what it should use for the best results.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 25, 2013 at 3:35 PM  

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