This post on cake dummies 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.
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 varying heights (again, the most common height that I have seen are 3 inches and 4 inches high).
What is Cake Dummies Used For?
The main intention of 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 big guest list
- This is often the case for weddings. 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 what 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 for display
- 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 having a dummy cake is a better option for these 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?
- 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 Dummies to Create Double Barrel Dummy 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.
Can You Cover Cake Dummies with Buttercream?
- Yes, most certainly can.
- 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.
Can You Cover Cake Dummies with Fondant?
- Yes, most certainly can too.
- 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 Cake Dummies
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 Styrofoam Dummy 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.
How to Stack Dummy Cakes to Make Tiered Cakes?
- 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 Cake Dummies and Dummy Cakes?
- 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!).
Can Cake Dummies be Reused?
- 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.
Happy Decorating 🙂