No need to stand at the counter slicing cake while your friends and family boogey the night away. Pull-apart cakes — made by frosting over the tops of cupcakes — make for a fun self-serve dessert situation.
I’ve put together a sweet little jellyfish for a sea-side soiree, but you can you the same techniques here to make any animal shape you’d like.
How to make an animal pull-apart cake
All images via Erin Bakes
- Large cake board or platter
- Regular and mini cupcake baking pan
- Regular and mini liners
- Your favorite cupcake batter (enough for about 2 dozen cupcakes)
- Your favorite buttercream (approximately 4 cups)
- Gel food coloring (I used blue, pink and black)
- Straight & offset icing spatulas
- Large icer piping tip
- Piping bags
- Paint brush
- Rose piping tip
- Small round piping tip
- Assorted white sprinkles and sanding sugar
Step 1: Plan your design
First, pick a cake board or platter large enough to contain your cupcake display. If you plan on taking your cupcake cake anywhere, it’s helpful to pick up a sheet cake board that comes with a plastic dome. Your supermarket bakery or big box store bakery will likely sell you one if you can’t find them in a cake decorating supply shop or online.
Arrange the empty baking cups on the board into your desired shape. The baked cupcakes will fit a little differently on the board, but this will give you an idea of how to make your desired shape and how many cupcakes you’ll need.
It’s better to hold back a few cupcakes than to force the entire batch into the shape. You’ll just leave your guests wondering what kind of mythical creature you’ve created.
Step 2: Bake and arrange the cupcakes
Bake the cupcakes according to your recipe’s instructions. Allow the cupcakes to completely cool before assembling your pull-apart cake.
To put the cupcakes in place, smear dabs of buttercream on the bottoms of the cupcakes to adhere them to the cake board. For my design, I secured all of the tentacle cupcakes and the cupcakes around the outer edge of the jellyfish’s body.
Step 3: Cover the cake with buttercream
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large icer piping tip. Hold the bag so the jagged edge of the tip is facing down.
Pipe thick strips of buttercream around the outline of your animal shape. Keep the edge smooth if your design calls for it, or create bumps in the design by following the contours of the cupcakes. Smooth the buttercream over with an offset spatula. I left my buttercream swishy in keeping with the design, but you can make yours as smooth as you like.
Step 4: Cover the tentacles with buttercream
Fill a piping bag with buttercream and cut the tip of the bag off to reveal a nickel-sized opening. (The large icer tip is too big for this job. )
Use the bag to pipe thick lines of buttercream over the mini cupcakes. Smooth the piped lines out with a small offset spatula.
Step 5: Add the tentacle details
Fit a piping bag with the rose tip. Open the bag and hold it so that the small opening of the tip is facing down. Paint a line of pink food coloring from the small end of the tip all the way up the side of the piping bag.
Fill the bag with buttercream. The added coloring will provide fun details to the jellyfish’s tentacles.
Hold the piping bag so that the small end of the tip is facing up, with the fat end of the tip sitting just above the surface of the mini cupcakes. Apply steady pressure to the bag and wiggle the tip back and forth to create a little ruffle as you move down the length of the tentacle.
Repeat as many times as you like to add more detail to each row of mini cupcakes.
Step 6: Add highlights
Add highlights to the body of the jellyfish by smearing on small amounts of white and pink buttercream around the sides and bottom edge.
Step 8: Add the jellyfish’s face
Fill a small piping bag fitted with a small round tip (or cut the tip of the bag) with black buttercream. Pipe two round eyes and a tiny kawaii smile on the body of the jellyfish.
Step 9: Add the finishing touches
Add more adorable details by sprinkling the highlights and tentacles with an assortment of white sanding sugar, nonpareils, pearls and sprinkles.
Store your finished pull-apart cake in the fridge covered with a lid or plastic wrap for up to two days. Allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving to allow for easier pulling.