Thorax Cake

The Thorax Cake – grossing out the internets since 2003.

I generally make a bleeding heart cake for our annual pumpkin carving party (Pumpkinfest). Sometimes the heart beats, sometimes it’s anatomically correct, and so on and so forth. This year I decided to go the whole hog and make an entire thoracic cavity cake. The plan was for each organ to be made out of a different kind of cake and to secrete a different color of fluid when it was cut into. Previous heart cakes have bled fresh, homemade raspberry sauce. This year I made raspberry, strawberry, kiwi, mango, and blueberry sauces. Sadly, the organs didn’t bleed as well as I had hoped when I cut the cake, as each organ was relatively small and couldn’t hold much sauce. Also all the moving around after filling the organs made it hard to keep the sauce contained in the little cavities I hollowed out. The heart bled pretty well, but the other organ fluids weren’t very dramatic. On the bright side, there were lots of leftover sauces, which were all quite delicious. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My intended organ-cake-sauce combinations were as follows.

Heart – orange cake with raspberry sauce
Lungs – apple spice cake with strawberry sauce
Kidneys – orange cake with blueberry sauce
Stomach – ginger cake with mango sauce
Liver – chocolate cake with kiwi sauce
Small Intestine – jelly roll with red currant jelly

Unfortunately the liver suffered a complete structural failure when I tried to transfer into place within the rib cage, so it had to be eliminated from the presentation. I like to think that the liver was the tastiest bit and so whoever ripped this unfortunate man apart (Barbara May thinks it was Klingon because it was slightly larger than life size, but I’m not sure Klingons have the same internal organ structure.) ate the liver first before it ever got to our pumpkin party.

After baking all the different types of cakes, I carved them into the shapes of the appropriate organs, using my handy Gray’s Anatomy as a reference.

I then flipped each organ over, hollowed out a cavity in the center and frosted the inside of the cavity and the underside of the cake with buttercream frosting. After spooning in the fruit sauces, I sealed the cavities with a layer of fondant icing and flipped the organs back over. The heart and the lungs I covered with white modelling chocolate and the kidneys and stomach I covered with fondant icing. Both had their advantages and their disadvantages. White modelling chocolate tastes better than fondant and it sticks to itself better than fondant, but it’s more difficult to work with on cakes like these which were relatively unstable due to the hollows in the middle. Also, modelling chocolate is difficult to paint with paste food coloring, which is what I usually use. It can be painted easily with powdered food coloring, but I didn’t have any cocoa butter to dissolve the powder in. The fondant is easy to roll out and wrap around the cake and very easy to paint but it doesn’t hold sculptural detail as well as modelling chocolate.

At this point, I took a break from the cakes in order to assemble the white chocolate rib cage in which all the organs were to be placed.

I tempered white chocolate chips in the microwave and piped ribs and vertebrae onto acetate with a plastic piping bag. I drew ribs onto paper which I placed underneath the acetate to insure that the ribs would be the same shape and the right size.

Dipping each piece into a bowl of melted white chocolate, it was relatively easy to assemble the rib cage on a silver tray. (The tray’s last use was for passing out cookies at Barbara May’s wedding.) Of course, with all the organs on top of it, virtually no one ever actually saw the fact that there was a complete spinal column underneath all the cake so some might say there was a bit of wasted effort there, but I say if you’re going to make an edible, anatomically correct chest cavity dessert tray, you might as well do it right!

Once the rib cage was dry, I placed all the organs except the liver in the appropriate places inside it (again using Gray’s Anatomy as a guide. This is, by the way, the only use that Gray’s Anatomy ever sees in our household.)

It was at this point that I realized the liver was beyond salvaging. (I had problems with the liver from the moment I tried to take it out of the cake tin.)

I’m not really sure what colors kidneys and stomachs and such are supposed to be, but, drawing on my vast experience watching people in movies being disembowelled, I gave it my best shot.

I’m not sure how accurate the results were, but they were definitely gross.

At this point Barbara May came home from a party and helped me move the cake to its final location so I could attach the intestine, which was to be trailing out of the rib cage so as to suggest that the person to whom the thorax had belonged had been ripped apart, rather than carefully dissected.

I bent the jelly roll (which I was quite proud of; I’d never made that kind of cake before and I sometimes have problems with whipping eggs. Fortunately, I was visiting my mom recently and she told me that it’s very important the mixer and bowl be very clean and perfectly dry or the egg whipping won’t work, so I didn’t have any problems at all this time. Thanks, Mom!) into appropriate curves and covered it with white chocolate. I was, by this point, out of both kinds of frosting, lacked the ingredients to make more, and it was four o’clock in the morning so I couldn’t get any more. That’s why I just used plain white chocolate to cover the intestine. It looked fine, but was pretty difficult to paint, again because I lacked cocoa butter and so couldn’t use the powdered food colors.

All that was left was to add the buttercream frosting blood, so it wouldn’t look so pristine.

I did little veins on the organs first with a piping bag, then put big globs of gore on the ribs with a knife. A little spritz of corn syrup to give it that all-important oozing, wet look and I was done!

Tragically, the next day was very hot and, as white chocolate melts at about 95 degrees Farenheit, this caused major structural failure of the rib cage. By the time our guests arrived for Pumpkinfest, the rib cage had collapsed almost completely. It was nice and stable in the middle of the night when it was cool, though, I swear! So we put a photo of it in its original state up on the computer monitor. Actually, even with the rib cage broken, it looked pretty gruesome and neat, but it was better before. As I mentioned before, the cutting of the cake was not as dramatic as I had hoped, but, considering that I make all this up as I go along, I think the whole project didn’t go too badly at all. And everyone said the cakes and sauces were all delicious, despite the excessive amounts of frosting required for this sort of project.

90 thoughts on “Thorax Cake

  1. INCREDIBLE!!!
    you are so truly amazing. I wish you were my best friend…..Of course, we'd never get any sleep; I share your love of authenticity, and the way you love the process as much as the finished result.
    BRAVA!

  2. I am currently on the worlds biggest diet and I now feel really really sick – I am going to print a pic of your cake and put it on my fridge to prevent any sweet treat diet disasters. Thank you for the vileness!

    • You know, it helps you lose weight when you pick a specific day each week, for example, every Saturday, and gorge yourself with whatever you want on that day to get your body out of starvation mode. Drink water within 30 minutes of getting up, and have no sugar at all, not even fruit, until binge day. Eat lot’s of protein to keep you full!

  3. I'm a bit of a halloween fanatic and a cake decorator at the same time, so I appreciate this cake for both reasons, it turned out great! Awesome job!

  4. This…is incredible. Totally diggin' that trailing intestine, and the whole concept of each "organ" being made of a different sort of cake and oozing various sauces is hilariously sick.

    A++ for creativity, skills and all-around awesomeness!

  5. I love it!!! Plan on doing this myself for this year's Halloween Beef and Beer we are doing!!! Will let you know how it turns out!!! Thanks for the great idea and step by step instructions.

  6. Being a fellow Halloween nut and detailed cake fiend myself, I am in awe. This is awesome! I may have to try it for my Gathering of Ghouls this year. Thank you for the detailed step by step guidance. You truly are talented!

  7. Not only are you artistic, you are very humorous! I laughed out loud reading of your experience building this cake. Don't have the energy to try it myself, but I am amazed by your creativity and dedication!

  8. Truly awesome cake! I'm a mortuary tech and I love cake decorating. -You were unsure about the colouring of your organs… if your were to do this again, make the kidneys more like the colour of the lungs, and the lungs should be light pink in colour, or if the torso is from a smoker or 'city dweller' make them pink with mottled grey. The stomach was good, -the blue was a good touch, although you could introduce some blue 'veins' leading to the bottom edge of the organ… -and how about some yellow 'creamed corn' fat around some of the organs, that'd be TOTALLY gross. :) -Thanks for sharing, this is inspired!

  9. I think this cake rocks! I'm gonna give my handy work a try at this, for our up coming Halloween cake making contest this year!! Hope I rock it out!!
    Robin

  10. This is so awesome. I homeschool our four kids, and this would be perfect for them to help me make (on a simpler scale!) while we're studying anatomy… Great detail!

  11. Too bad bout the rib cage.Sounds like hella Pumpkinfest.Either way,it's soooo gruesome.I love it!Reminded me that I need to think of a cake for Sammy's B-day.Thanks!

  12. This is amazing. My daughter wants a zombie-themed sweet sixteen. I may attempt a version of this, although the white chocolate may not work in August, or dig up your bleeding heart cake. I like the severed arm too. Thanks for the instructions!

  13. That is disgusting, and I am SO in love with you right now. Not to mention incredibly jealous of your mad skillz!

    }:)

  14. All over the internet there are 13-year-old boys crying themselves to sleep because you can't cater their next birthday party. :)

  15. Hahahah it's horrible! XD Excellent!
    I love it! I'm going to try and make my own this year. My birthday is Halloween so that'll work nicely.

  16. You are talented my friend! I love Halloween and this cake rocks! Keep that imagination going….can't wait to see what else you post.

  17. I attempted to make this amazing structure tonight. It doesn't look nearly as amazing as yours but I'm pretty pleased. The ribs are kicking my rear, tho. My house is hot from the oven being on and the melted chocolate is spreading. I'm going to have another go at them tomorrow night. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration!

  18. For the first anniversary of my kidney transplant, my mum had a cake decorator make a kidney cake. It looked very real and turned a few of the more squeamish stomachs in the room. But it was certainly not as gory as this! Love it!

    Louise

  19. I absolutely love it!!!! do you think shaping pretzels 1st to make the ribcage then dipping them in the white choc would work; also how did you get the intestine to look so rubbery?

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  22. I attempted this cake today. It was an amazing adventure. Thanks for posting this! And how on earth did you d tat by yourself? I had a friend help me through most of it.

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    • Vegans are overrated. What about plants? Don’t they feel pain too? They live and die, just like animals. I don’t get it. And PETA is very dangerous to animals. If they succeeded in world veganism, all the chickens and cows would die because they have no use for us anymore. Simple as that. Think about it ;)

  26. I think you’re concept is good, but I feel that useing a air brush would have made the over all apperance more realistic. When using fondant it is much easier to shade and color with tools such as an airbrush and simple paint brushes. But over all you cake was very well done, good job. (:

    Mrs. Susan Montero

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  29. Is there any way to get more detail on making the rib cage with the white chocolate? I’m new to using chocolates (haven’t ventured too much into it yet).

    • The hard part is getting the chocolate in temper. Now that I know more about chocolate than I did when I made this cake, I know that I probably didn’t really have it in good temper, which was doubtless part of my problem. Here are some pretty good instructions for tempering in a microwave: http://chocomap.com/chocolate-making-tempering.php. Once the chocolate is in temper, just put it in a disposable plastic piping bag: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=pg_disposablebags. They come with the tips closed, so it’s pretty easy to fill. Then you snip the tip off the bag to make a hole about 1/4″ in diameter (while attempting not to make a mess). Then just pipe the shape of the ribs. I piped them onto clear acetate, from an art supply store, but you could also do it onto parchment paper. It helps to have the shape of the ribs drawn out underneath whatever you’re piping onto, so you know how big to make them. I hope that helps. Let me know if you have other questions. Good luck!

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  33. What about almond bark? I know it doesn’t melt the same (temper) since there’s no cocoa butter in it, would it melt okay and hold enough shape? I’ve only ever used it on pretzels.

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  37. Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your rss feed and I hope you write once more soon!

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  39. I made a replica of this cake for work in 2011. My desk/cubicle was decorated as a used operating room and the cake was the topper. It really did gross people out, some ate it others stayed away. I won the prizes for best halloween themed decorations and best halloween themed food !!!! Not bad for a first try,,,,, what to do this year???????

  40. do u still have the design for the white chocolate chest cavity? im planning a halloween party for october and wanted to make this cake

    • Sorry, all I did was draw some curves on paper. I didn’t keep them. You should even be able to just freehand them. I’d love to see pictures if you make a version of this cake.

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  42. We’re going to a Halloween Party and this guy goes all out! And even tho it’s being catered, I still feel obligated to bring something. I’ve been looking for something really gross to bring…I think I’ve found it! Thanks for the great idea and posting/sharing it!

  43. We have a Halloween party every year as it is 2 out of 5 of my kids birthdays (not twins!) and I would so love to do this. My soon to be 14 year old might be okay with it, but it might scare the bejesus out of my soon to be 6 year old and his younger brothers! Excellent cake!!! :)

  44. This is exactly what I was describing to my daughter today that I wanted to do for her 18th birthday party, which is a Zombie murder mystery dinner. You can imagine my pleasure at finding the image of the cake and then to top it off, your instructions. It is perfect. The one thing that we are going to try is using crispy treats for the ribs/bones and covering them in either fondant or probably dipping in white chocolate. We were also thinking of laying a large sheet of flesh colored fondant over the top, tucking in underneath and then making it look like the sunken in chest of a decaying body. Then she can make the Y incision, peel back the skin and guests can break off a rib to get to the cakes inside. Your instructions here will be invaluable. We are doing this in 2 weeks. I’ll save your site and would love to send you a pic of our result, as well as the other yummy goodies we have planned. Thanks so much.

  45. I hate it. Just kidding, this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen! I’m sorry I don’t have anything original to say about it, but this is utterly fantastic. Kudos to you for the authenticity.

  46. Great cake! I would use royal icing for the ribcage and vertebral column. It won’t melt in the heat like the white chocolate did.

  47. mmmmmmmmmmmmmnyummy this is just the coolest cake in the world. i would eat it. if sombody else swallowed a bite first that is hhahahahahahahha XD

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