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Making Finn’s Flaming Volcano Cake

2017 November 5
by Becky

Finns Volcano Party - Volcano Cake

All my kid wanted for his birthday party was a volcano cake and I was more than happy to oblige. It gave me a fun challenge AND gave me an excuse to make cake!

I’ve never been a huge cake maker, I’m more of a cupcake and cake-pop gal. I’ve made my fair share of cakes for various reasons, but always with meh feelings about the flavor and final result. Plus, I thought it was fun to order cakes from my most favorite bakeries! That is, until I ordered one not too long ago that was a HUGE disappointment. It looked incredible, cost a small fortune, and tasted terrible. The kids wouldn’t even eat it! I thought it tasted like a stick of butter, dry and flavorless, and we ended up throwing 75% of it in the trash. It was devastating.

Never again. I’ve been sharpening my cake-making skills and narrowing down my favorite cake recipes ever since and couldn’t wait to construct something amazing for Finn’s party!

FinnsVolcanoParty-VolcanoCakeGazing

Many people have asked, so thought I’d share how it came together.

There were a few ideas going through my head, like should it erupt with dry ice smoke? I crossed off this plan pretty quick because we wanted to eat this thing, not just look at it, and I didn’t want any dry ice/water mishaps ruining our dessert. (If you want to go the dry ice route, try a rice krispie cake like the one we did for Ethan’s dinosaur party a couple years ago!) But I really wanted a show-stopping topper and edible lava effects, so I turned to the web for inspiration.

Finns Turns 3 Volcano Cake Gazing

I passed by Ashlee Marie’s amazing tutorial for the flame suckers, originally designed for an over-the-top Inside-Out themed party, and they looked so fun to make I just had to give it a try. I’ve melted my fair share of sugar to prepare yearly batches of holiday toffee, but this recipe called for melting isomalt crystals, which I immediately ordered from Amazon. The very clear instructions told me exactly how to make the suckers and they turned out great. I used vanilla extract instead of the cinnamon called for in the recipe to keep them really toddler friendly.

Once it hardened, I felt very Walter White-like. Stu even did a double-take when he walked by.

Finns Volcano Party -Flame Suckers

I made the suckers about a week before the party and popped them in a airtight container.

I also made my cake layers about a week before, four to be exact. Using Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake recipe that is oh so moist and delicious. The recipe makes two layers, so I doubled it for four. I had trouble finding the exact recipe online, I used my well-loved 1999 Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, but this site seems to have it right.

FinnsVolcanoParty-VolcanoCakeMixing

I double wrapped each layer in plastic wrap and stuck ’em in the freezer, something that always seems to make the flavor even better.

Three days before the party (and one day before our out of town guests arrived) we made the buttercream. This rich and velvety chocolate buttercream was perfect for the outside layer, while my tried and true cream cheese butter cream was best for the inside and decorations. I can’t find the original link for this frosting, but here’s what I use:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces cream cheese

I love how the cream cheese adds the perfect not-too-sweet creaminess to cakes and cupcakes. I probably made 3x this recipe just to be sure there would be enough to generously fill each layer and do some simple decorations. Most of this batch was dyed red—it was supposed to be lava—and the rest green for some grass around the base.

The day before, we assembled the cake, then back in the freezer it went, till everything was firm.

FinnsVolcanoParty-VolcanoCakeChillin

Once nice and chilly, the cake was super easy to shape. Cake shaping is so fun! It was kind of hard to stop carving (and tasting). 

FinnsVolcanoParty-VolcanoCakeShaping

I crumb-coated with the chocolate frosting, chilled, then did a final layer, leaving things “rough” because volcanoes aren’t perfect people.

Next up was the lava. We’ve all seen the “drip cakes”, they are cute and fun and look easy, right? I found what looked like THE tutorial and it all checked out. Make a ganache with white melting chocolate, dye, and drizzle.

FinnsVolcanoParty-VolcanoCakeLava

The result was really disappointing. That nice, thick color didn’t come through after I drizzled, it was thin and too runny, even though I used less cream than the recipe called for. I even tried to chill it to make it thicker without much better luck. Next time I’ll make the extra trip to Michael’s to get the pre-dyed melting candies, I think they would have worked better!  But the overall effect worked and it was cute the way the “lava” puddled at on the white tier.

FinnsVolcanoParty-VolcanoCakeGrass2

It may seem silly to add “grass”, but I think it looked so cute! And it was fun. I used my little v-shaped leaf tip and went to town.

FinnsVolcanoParty-VolcanoCakeGrass

The cake chilled in the fridge overnight and I took it out a couple hours before the party, popping those flame suckers in the top. Finn was so excited!

Once the candles were out, the kids immediately asked for those suckers. NOTE: Be sure you make enough suckers for all the kids!

Finns Volcano Party - Flame Sucker Kids

Every little hand had a sucker. They were a huge hit.

So how was the cake? Incredible. I’ve never made (or possibly had) one better. It was rich and chocolatey without being too sweet, with just the right amount of buttercream–light cocoa outside and tangy cream cheese inside. It was dessert for the rest of the weekend.

That’s it! Now I just need more excuses to make cakes! I really enjoyed planning and putting this one together. Ethan has made some pretty lofty requests involving Pokemon-related cake designs for his party in December…sounds way harder. Can’t wait!

What’s your favorite cake recipe? 

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Sandy schon permalink
    November 6, 2017

    When I walked into the kitchen and saw that beautiful cake with the fabulous suckers, I couldn’t believe it. What a hit!!!! Can’t wait to make them for Ethan’s birthday.

  2. November 22, 2017

    That looks so cool and delicious. Can’t wait to give this a try for my daughter. I bet she will love it.

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