This post on cake dummies (also know as fake cakes or dummy cakes) is a beginner article for those who are new to the world of cake decorating.
If you have heard the word ‘cake dummy’ but not sure what it is or how it is used in cake decorating, you will get your answers here.
Table of contents
- What Are Cake Dummies?
- The Uses
- Where to Buy?
- How to Stack to Create Double Barrel Fake Cakes?
- Covering with Buttercream
- Covering with Fondant
- How to Smooth the Edges for a Rounded Finish?
- Stacking to Make Tiered Cakes - How to?
- How to Store?
- Tips for Reusing
- Like this article? Here are my other posts you might want to check out
What Are Cake Dummies?
Let me start by showing you what cake dummies look like. There you go:
These are basically Styrofoam blocks that are cut into cake shapes (the most common ones are round and square, but other shapes are also available) in a variety of sizes and heights (again, the most common height that I have seen are 3 inches and 4 inches high).
The main intention of styrofoam cake dummies is to replace real cake. And there are a couple of reasons why anyone would want to use a dummy cake instead of real cakes.
These are the most common reasons why I use cake dummies:
Some customers want big cakes but do not have a long guest list
- This is often the case for small wedding or other special occasions. Some brides want large tiered cakes but do not necessarily have the crowd to feed all the cake. In such cases, using a cake dummy is the best option. The bride gets the wedding cake she wants and there is no cake wastage.
Cake entries for competitions
- Cakes for a competition can be elaborate and may require days of decorating work. Having a real cake in this instance will lead to a spoilt cake by the end of the competition.
- Besides, there is a possibility for wastage when using real cake and the cake might not get eaten by all after the competition. Sometimes, contestants would like to keep their work of art as a collection, and using a dummy instead of real cake makes it a better option.
Cakes decorated as display pieces
- This is particularly true for bakeries and businesses who want to display cakes in their shops. These cakes are meant to be there for a long time for people to see and admire. So, it goes without saying that using dummy foam is a great way for a cake decorator to make realistic looking cakes, both in terms of cost and its expiry.
- Using cake dummies to reduce the overall cost of the cake is another reason why people use dummies instead of real cakes. The cost of the cake can be reduced and replaced with the cost of the dummy (though the decorating charges remain the same since it requires the same amount of frosting and decorating time).
- This is particularly true for people who want large cakes but not so much cake and have a limited budget.
Where to Buy?
- Cake dummies are generally inexpensive. You can purchase them from your local cake decorating supply shops. You can even purchase them online however, given that these are bulky, you may incur additional shipping charges.
How to Stack to Create Double Barrel Fake Cakes?
- If you are unable to find a single block of styrofoam tall enough on its own to create a double barrel cake, you can use stack 2 blocks of foam in the same size to achieve the height of the cake you want. For example, if you want to make a 6-inch tall cake and do not have a single block that measures 6 inches in height, you would need to stack 2 blocks of 3 inches, high dummies, to get the 6 inches height for your cake.
- To stick the dummies, I would strongly suggest using hot glue as it works the best in holding the blocks firmly together. I have tried with royal icing, but it not to be as stable as the hot glue.
- In applying the hot glue, try to apply it consistently all around the top surface of the block. Concentrating only on one side will leave you with an uneven double-barrel block of cake dummy.
Covering with Buttercream
- To cover the dummies with buttercream or other frostings of similar consistency (like royal icing and ganache), the process is pretty straightforward.
- Just cover it in the exact same way as you would a normal cake. The plus point here is that you need not crumb coat the dummies to lock any cake crumbs or level the sides. You can go ahead and apply the final coat of buttercream directly on it.
Covering with Fondant
- As for fondant, depending on the size of the foam blocks you are using, there might a bit of prep work to do before you can cover the dummies. This is because, most of the time, there are tiny holes or lines or dents on the styrofoam which if not smoothened, can show on the fondant once it's covered over the dummies.
- Also, if you wish to make double barrel (tall dummy cakes) cakes and need to use 2 or more stacked blocks of styrofoam, you will have to prepare the dummies or rather patch up the joints with royal icing before covering it with fondant. Let me show you how I normally prepare my cake dummies before covering them with fondant.
Stacking the Dummy Cakes
Using a 2 inches and 4 inches high foam blocks to create double-barrel dummy cake
Any slight dents or lines on the foam will be clearly visible if not patched up properly before covering with fondant.
- Assuming I want to make a double barrel dummy cake, I would need to stack 2 blocks of foam together. I do this with hot glue so that the blocks stay attached firmly. I let the hot glue set before working on the blocks further.
Covering Holes and Dents
- After that, I start by piping some royal icing where the lines or dents are.
- And then I smooth the icing with my spatula.
- The lines and spaces do not quite get covered with the first coat of icing. I let the foams rest for a while after the first coat (about 30 minutes) until the icing sets.
Applying a second coat of icing
- For the second coat of icing, I use an icing scraper. I apply more icing to the sections on the Styrofoam that need to be covered. And then smooth the icing with the scraper. With this second coat, the lines are normally no longer visible. This leaves me with a seamless block of Styrofoam ready to be covered in fondant.
In doing this, if there are rough icing patches on the block that has dried, I smooth them with a spatula dipped in water.
- You need not cover the entire dummy with royal icing, cover only where there are dents or lines are.
- I prefer to use royal icing instead of buttercream or ganache as royal icing dries hard and firm. This makes it easier to handle compared to buttercream or ganache that can melt in warmer temperatures.
- In covering the dummies with fondant, to make sure the fondant sticks to the dummy, I would normally just brush the styrofoam block with water. I do this with a large brush or sometimes hold the block under a running tap to wet it all around and shake off excess water lightly before putting it on a cake board for fondant covering.
- This, however, can only be used if when there is no patch work on the dummy. Where I have done royal icing patching on the dummies, I use a wide brush to dampen the dummies. After that, I just roll my fondant and cover the dummy as I would a normal cake.
How to Smooth the Edges for a Rounded Finish?
- Some cake decorators like to smooth the edges of the dummies before covering with fondant. This will give the fake cakes a slightly rounded edge.
- To smooth the sides, you can use your rolling pin and rub it on the edges to make it rounded. I for one, do not like to smooth the edges of my cake dummies as I prefer my cake to have sharp edges after covering with fondant. But if you do wish to have rounded edges for your dummies, you know you can simply use your rolling pin to smooth them.
Stacking to Make Tiered Cakes - How to?
- Good news when using dummies for tiered cakes is that dummies do not require doweling/support since they are hard. If you are stacking a dummy on a real cake, the real cake underneath would require doweling/support (you can use wooden dowel rods or bubble tea straws, see my guide to make tiered cakes here). But if you are placing a real cake on a dummy, then doweling/support is not required for the dummy.
How to Store?
- Storing cake dummies is easy. You can keep them anywhere so long as it’s clean especially if they are to be used with real cake.
- Storing decorated dummy cakes, however, can be a little tricky, depending on your environment. I normally have to keep mine covered in large plastic bags (clean garbage bags). Or else I get tiny holes on the fondant on the cakes when I wake up the next morning (eaten by house lizards!).
Tips for Reusing
- Cake dummies can be reused, meaning you can use them for multiple projects. I have done this for my dummies, especially those that I make for my family since its easier to retrieve the dummies from them. To reuse, simply scrap off all the icing and wash the dummy thoroughly. Dab them and let them dry in the open air until they are completely dry before storing for future reuse. It is much easier to wash the dummies when covered in royal icing or fondant. But buttercream can be a lot harder to wash and clean completely due to the grease.
- I have also seen people wrapping their blocks with cling wrap before covering with fondant or buttercream. This is so that they can reuse their blocks again. I have personally not tried working with dummies this way, but this is definitely another option.
And that is pretty much all I have to share with you on working with Styrofoam dummies for cake decorating.
Hope this is useful.
Like this article? Here are my other posts you might want to check out
- DIY Cupcake Stand Tutorial
- Tiered DIY Cupcake Holder
- How to Make a Tiered Cake
- DIY Cupcake Wrapper Template Tutorial
- How to Stick Fondant Deco on Cakes
- Baking Essentials List
- Dusting Tools and Techniques for Fondant and Gum Paste
Happy Decorating 🙂
What would you use for drips on the sides on a faux cake that you want to keep
The cake? I’ve tried pAinting them on but they look fake, not real. Thanks for any suggestions.
You can try using royal icing. You would need to dilute it to the right consistency.
What type of buttercream icing to use on dummy cakes? Will it dry out and crack over time? Is there a better option than buttercream besides fondant?
I normally use my buttercream icing here but never really kept the buttercream covered dummies for more than a day. So I cannot tell for sure if buttercream would be a good option if it is intended to be kept over time. Fondant is best, but if you do not want to use fondant, royal icing is another option to consider. I normally use royal icing to do piping work on fondant-covered dummies and it works really well if you wish to keep the cake for long. Hope this helps.
U can use spackling mixed with white paint, for cakes that U want to use for longer.
Normally when I make a tiered cake I put a final dowel all the way through all tiers to provide stability and sideways support. If the dummy cake is on the bottom, would I place that final dowel through it as well, or just through the top two tiers made of cake? The cake will need to be transported completely assembled so I want to be sure nothing will slide off! Thank you!
Putting the dowel all the way through the bottom tier dummy is highly recommended. This will help ensure the top tiers do not slide off the bottom tier.
How long can I keep a fondant decorated dummy intended for decoration?... Does fondant go bad overtime🤷?
I don't know exactly how long you can keep fondant-covered dummies, but I have tried keeping them for about a year before. I used store-bought fondant (Satin Ice) and nothing happened to the fondant covering. It looked as good as it was on the day I put it on the cake. I have also seen fondant-covered dummy cakes being put on display in some storefronts for many years with the fondant looking good as ever, so I think I can safely say that you can keep them for quite a long time. Hope this helps.
Hey! Can I freeze my dummy cake with Italian meringue frosting on it for a week?
I have never tried this so I cannot tell for sure.
Thanks so much,this is helpful
I was wanting some advice on using Royal Icing to Pipe Rosettes on a Dummy. It’s my first time decorating a Dummy Cake. Is it just a matter of the Thickness of the Royal Icing to pipe Good Rosettes?
Appreciate this article & Your Advice!
Yes, the consistency is important. It will not be able to hold shape if it is too soft. You can try piping a few, and if you find them not holding shape as you would like, add a little more icing sugar and beat well.
hi! this post was so helpful but i have a question please. can fresh flowers be inserted in buttercream frosted dummy cake? I am trying to save $ by making my own dummy cake and have the florist decorate it per usual but wondering if the buttercream will harden so much that the flowers won't poke thru? or crack the buttercream?
I think the problem will be more of inserting the flowers into the dummy than into the buttercream. You should be able to insert the flowers into buttercream without any problem, but you might have problem inserting them into the dummy underneath. Styrofoam dummies are hard to poke with flower stems.
Hi, how can I stick my dummy to my cake board because it keeps moving around when I am decorating with Buttercream
You can stick it to the board with some royal icing. You can also use hot glue.
I'm decorating a fondant covered dummy tier with a marbled effect using royal icing as I don’t want to use buttercream. As I’ve not worked with royal icing before I am unsure if royal icing will adhere to the fondant in the same way buttercream does or should I revert back to using a buttercream? Hope you can help as I can’t seem to find the answer to this anywhere.
Carole (from the UK)
Royal icing will definitely adhere to fondant.