Have you ever made a cut-up cake? This was something we used to do all the time when I was little. The idea is simple – you start with normally shaped cakes (usually squares or circles), and then cut them up, reassemble them, and create fun designs.
The be-all end-all book we used when I was a kid was Baker’s Coconut Animal Cut-Up Cakes, published in the 1950s. Yeah, that long ago. We had a bunch of photocopied pages (because it was out of print even then) and we’d pick something, and then make it. We used candy and frosting to decorate. I’m sure they looked pretty sad, but we had so much fun. That’s where I learned my basic cake decorating skills.
All of that to say that cut up cakes are a great activity to do with kids. This fish cut-up cake is made with one 9×9 square cake. I actually baked an entire 9×13 in order to use the entire cake mix, then cut off the part I didn’t need. I’m planning to use it for cake pops later!
I made my fish super fancy for the picture, but you can decorate any way you like. The original uses coconut, but I’m thinking candy or round wafers would make great fish scales, half an Oreo for the eye, store-bought icing on the rest would come out pretty cute and would be super easy! 🙂
This would make a really great Fathers Day cake, especially if dad is into fishing. I’m envisioning this little guy surrounded by the words “oFISHally the best!” He’s also perfect for ocean-themed parties.
The recipe here is my doctored cake mix method and a double recipe of my decorator’s buttercream (you will need all of it if you intend to decorate like the image above). You can use any cake recipe you like as long as it is dense enough to cut and you can get an 9×9 cake out of it. Same with the frosting. Depending on your decorating plans, you can use anything you’d like!
P.P.S. – If you’re interested in more cut-up cakes, Hoboken Historical Museum made Baker’s Coconut Animal Cut-Up Cakes available in PDF form. Click here to download the whole book!
Fish Cut-Up Cake
- 1 box cake mix
- 1 small box instant pudding
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- ⅓ cup melted butter
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup shortening
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- 2-4 Tbsp water
- Mix together all ingredients.
- Pour into greased 9x13 pan.
- Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until cake springs back to the touch.
- Once cooled, remove cake from pan and cut using template. Reassemble and frost.
- Beat together butter and shortening until well combined.
- Add vanilla and combine.
- Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until completely mixed in.
- Add water 1 Tbsp at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency.
Fish Cut-Up Cake, Step-by-Step
Start with a baked cake, the cutting template (There are two parts. You’ll need to cut it out and tape it together. You can download parts 1 and 2 by clicking on the links.), and a sharp knife. You’ll also need a board to lay the cake on (mine’s half a diaper box covered in foil).
To use the template, lay it over the cake, then use the knife to cut along the lines through both the paper and the cake. This ensures that you get a perfectly proportioned fish at the end!
Once your cake is cut, lay it out like this: the large triangle forms the tail, the long thin triangle forms the bottom fin, and the shortest, fattest triangle is the top fin.
See the fish? I always love the part when you can see all the parts come together. Now, if you’re going to decorate this guy your way, feel free to get decorating. If you want to do him like I did, keep reading.
I started with his eye. The template for that is included in the printables. I cut out the eye, then laid it on the cake. I piped around it in black using a Wilton tip #3. That gave me the perfect circle. I added a pupil with the tip, then changed over to a tip #18 to fill in the pupil with stars. I then filled in the rest of the eye with white stars.
This is where I switched over to the green frosting for the head and fins. I sectioned off a portion to create the head, then filled it with green stars. I also covered both fins with green stars. In order to do this, I set the tail aside on a plate so it wouldn’t get in my way.
Next was my favorite part – the scales. This uses the petal technique, but I thought it looked kind of scaley, so I used it for the fish’s body. I made my first row with yellow frosting and a #21 tip. Start by make a row of dollops across the body.
Now, use the tip of a butterknife to pull the frosting towards the tail. This is what it’ll look like:
One row down! To create the next, I switched up colors and repeated the process.
This is what it looks like when you have several rows:
Cool, huh? And it’s actually super easy – just a little time consuming 🙂 Anyway, once you finish up with the scales on the body, all that’s left is the tail, which I just covered in green stars. And that’s it! Here’s how he turned out:
If I had him to do over, I might actually make the scales face the other direction (start from the tail and work towards the face). I’m not exactly sure, but I think that might be more realistic. Anyway, I love the petal effect, and I think he came out pretty darn cute anyway!