Reef Shark Cake

shark1My son loves sharks. For his big milestone 10th birthday, we held an awesome shark-themed party and I just had to make a fin-tastic cake to go with it! I thought-up a concept I thought would be different from ideas I have already seen and challenge me a bit. My son selected the Grey Reef Shark and I wanted it to be elevated, swimming through a reef.

The shark is the actual cake, a golden butter sponge cake, filled and crumbcoated in vanilla buttercream. The reef was constructed from tons of edibles, including RKTs, chocolate, and fondant. Every critter and plant was lovingly molded and airbrushed. I also made tons of edible sand for the sea floor.

This page shows a photo progression and my creative process. : )

1 With my husband’s help, we constructed the structure for the shark cake. I drew outlines onto boards and he cut them out. The top board, the shark, will be the cake. Underneath I’m going to create a reef from fondant and chocolate. I hope my design in the end shows a grey reef shark swimming through a reef. I covered all the wood surfaces with a clear, food-safe contact paper before laying down any fondant or cake.
2 I covered the base board in fondant and molded the pectoral fins and head from RKTs. I also finished building up the reef rock from RKTs, including a couple little caves for creatures. I know it looks a bit messy, but trust me I can see a vision in my head! I will clean up any gaps in the head with modeling chocolate before it is covered in fondant. And I don’t plan for any of the base board to show once the reef comes together and it’s covered in my edible sand. For the reef, shark’s head, and pectoral fins, I used 120 store-bought RKTs in all!
3 Here are my project boxes with some things I made out of fondant… some sea grass, anemones, and little creatures. I think I need to make MORE of everything. And I need to do something in purple. Don’t judge them yet — I still need to paint ’em!
4 I originally planned to cover the RKTs with fondant and then airbrush. But I realized the texture was almost perfect already and decided to airbrush them directly in a trial. It looked amazing! See the before & after pic? Once I add the corals and sandy floor, it should look pretty cool.
5 I made edible sand for the shark cake. My trick for sand or dirt is to always use a variety of edibles. Nothing in nature is just one color! And sand is especially varied. This sand has 11 ingredients!!
6 I airbrushed all the creatures and plants I made and I’m happy with how most of the pieces turned out. I always try to use multiple colors when airbrushing to give the piece a lot of dimension.
7 I colored 6 lbs of fondant a beautiful shark grey and then made shark fins. I also made chocolate seashells, a nudibranch, and painted more details on my creatures. Everything has set and is looking good!
8 I used my 12×18″ Fat Daddios pan to bake the cakes. I just love my Fat Daddios pans! That coupled with my dense golden butter sponge cake (my go-to for cake carving) yields very flat cakes!
9 The cake rested overnight, covered in plastic wrap, so it could settle before carving.
11 I cut out a piece of cake the size and shape of my shark cake board and laid it over.
12 My favorite part!! I carved the cake away into a shark shape.
13 I filled in gaps in the RKTs with modeling chocolate so the fondant wouldn’t pucker into divots and look misshapen.
14 I applied a crumbcoat of vanilla buttercream. This serves to seal in the moisture of the cake, add flavor, and helps the fondant covering stay put once applied. : )
15 I rolled out an epic piece of fondant to cover the shark in one piece! I worked fast, cleaned up seams, applied gills, etc. to get it all together before the fondant began to set. I was just thrilled! Nothing makes or breaks your efforts like the fondant covering. Once it’s in place, I always breathe a huge sigh of relief!
16  I added the fins I made prior and placed some eyeballs.
17 I lightly airbrushed him with black and painted his eyes.
18 I added a ribbon border. I selected one taller than the board in order to hold in the sand.
shark1 I then assembled everything! Carefully placing all the creatures and plants I made, adding sand, etc. I couldn’t be happier! It is exactly like I pictured it from the very beginning.
shark2 Close-up
 shark3 Angled view
shark4 Top view
shark7 A close-up of part of the reef.
shark6 My son with his shark cake — he just loved it!