Thursday, September 26, 2019

Red Velvet Brain Cake

Halloween is getting closer! I know it's only the end of September but really.... I mean.... it's basically Halloween. Sue and I start planning our Halloween shenanigans in the summer as we are both a little holiday crazy so by the time we get to September we're anxious to get things started. 
Anyway, I made this gruesome cake last year and decided it needs to be a staple at all our Halloween parties. It's just sooooo gross yet delicious. And really, how often do we get to say that about things?

Brain Cake 

Red Velvet Cake
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp baking cocoa
pinch salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 - 3 Tbsp red food dye
1 cup buttermilk

Marshmallow Fondant
1 lb bag mini marshmallows (16 oz)
3 Tbsp water
1 tsp red food dye
2 lb icing sugar
(Butter, to grease your hands)

Also needed
1 jar Raspberry Jam
1/2 cup-ish Vanilla Frosting

Prepare the red velvet cake - preheat oven to 350. Using a "soccer ball sized", oven safe bowl, first spray with cooking spray and then place a couple of strip of parchment paper criss cross in the bowl (See photo below for clarification.) Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until creamy, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the oil and then the eggs and vanilla, beating well in between each addition. Add in the vinegar and red food coloring. 
Alternately beat in the dry ingredients with the buttermilk into the wet ingredients. 
Pour into the prepared bowl. 
Place a small, shallow, "cereal bowl sized", oven safe bowl, into the middle of the cake batter and press down gently. This helps the cake to cook faster.  
Cook at 350 until toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean - about 20 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 20 minutes in the bowl on a wire rack. 

Gently remove the small bowl from the middle. Let cool completely. (Don't worry if you have a hole right through the cake. You will be covering the cake in fondant so you won't see it. 

Gently invert cake onto a serving tray and remove from the bowl. 

Using a serrated knife, trim the cake so it is more brain shaped. (NOTE - I used the trimmings to cover the hole on top and create a little more domed appearance.) 
Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of vanilla frosting. Use a knife to carve a shallow line down the middle of the cake separating the two brain halves. 

Place cake in fridge while you make the marshmallow fondant. 
Prepare fondant - Place marshmallows and water in a microwave safe bowl. Heat approx 40 seconds and then stir. If marshmallows are not completely melted, heat another 20 seconds, stir, repeat if needed. Stir until smooth. Stir in the red food dye. 
Add in the icing sugar about 1/3 at a time. You may need a little bit more icing sugar if it is very sticky. 
Place some icing sugar on a flat work surface and scrape the fondant onto it. Cover your hands in a bit of butter to prevent sticking and then knead the fondant until it is not sticky and is fairly firm. You may need to add more icing sugar as you knead. 
Pull off tablespoon sized pieces of the fondant and roll them between your hands to form "worms" about 2 - 3 inches long. Start placing these on the cake in a wiggly, zig zag pattern so as to look like a brain. See the photo below to get a better idea of what we mean. Make sure to NOT cover up the line down the middle so the brain looks like it has 2 halves. 

Warm a bit of raspberry jam in the microwave for about 20 seconds. I use about 1/2 cup at a time. 
Use a pastry or basting brush, brush the melted jam over the fondant liberally. Be sure to cover all the fondant and the white bits of frosting peeking through. The gooier the better! 

Chill until ready to serve!
We also made poison pudding shots and they looked extra creepy sticking out of the cake!

You can fill the cake center, if you want to.... we actually placed the small bowl we baked in it back in there for more stability. You can see it peeking out in the photo below. 

So gruesome!

The most time consuming part of this cake is rolling all the little "worm" shapes to make the brain squiggles. 

Totally worth it though. You'll have people talking if you bring this to your next Halloween get together. 
A couple of notes: 
1.) The brain squiggles do not have to be uniform. In fact, it looks better if they are not. 
2.) If you are not filling the center of the cake then definitely put the bowl back in there for stability. It can start to collapse under the weight of the fondant. 
3.) The cake can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed. The fondant can be made a few days ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. Just remember to take it out and let it come back to room temperature before trying to work with it. 
4.) I use canned vanilla frosting to crumb coat the cake as you only need a little bit - but feel free to make your own if you prefer. 
5.) You can use any red jam you like to cover the cake but just be sure it doesn't contain seeds!


  1. It looks amazing and yummy. I will make definitely. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  2. OMG! The cake is looking very delicious. I love this