Sunday, February 26, 2012

How to build a stand-up electric guitar cake

I'm breaking this post up into two parts...How to build the electric guitar cake structure and then I'll post pictures of the finished cake itself.  For the finished results, click HERE.  I didn't want this post to be too long! :)

I had the privilege to put up a cake for auction again this year for my husband's school!  This was my third year participating in their amazing auction that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for his school.  The theme was "Rock the Red Carpet & Celebrate our Stars".  The stars being the kids and teachers.  

When I got the invitation I knew I wanted to do an electric guitar...what could be more "ROCK" worthy than that!! :) - plus, I've been wanting to do a guitar cake for a, this was my chance!  The colors were all red, white and black with lots of glitter stars everywhere.  I knew that the guitar would have to be visible to an entire room of 250-300 that meant I needed it to stand up! - another crazy idea...but worthy of consideration since I had seen it done on the show Amazing Wedding Cakes.  I think the Cake Girls made one for a grooms cake.  After my internet research though, I only found three guitars that stood up...all with hardly any information on how to do it.  About a week before the event, I found a stand up guitar cake by Caran's Creations & Confections and decided to call her and see if I could get some information from her on how she did it.  She was so kind and called me right back and explained how she built hers.  One thing I took away from that conversation was that she had screwed some internal boards onto the backing to keep the cake from sliding down.  She used one layer of cake on her guitar, but I knew I wanted to have filling in mine which meant I needed to stack it differently...not just lay it flat against the board like she did.  I also wanted to figure out another way to get it to stand up...I actually didn't quite understand the way she built was some kind of hinge system but I couldn't visualize it (I'm so sorry Caran)!  She also had an extra board coming off the back of the neck that I really didn't want to have on my cake....I wanted mine to look free standing...almost, back to the drawing board I went.  I borrowed an electric guitar from a friend (thanks Shields family) and sat for a day or two just measuring it, staring at it, and trying to visualize how I was going to do it.  I then headed down to Home Depot and started walking the aisles.  I knew I needed a wood backing for the board and also for the neck of the guitar.  So, I picked up some 1/2" plywood.  I then needed some kind of hinge system to get it to stand up.  I kept thinking I would need to build an A-frame to do that when I stumbled down the hinge aisle and the clouds parted, the sun shone brightly and the angels began to sing!! :) - I found the coolest "toy" Home Depot had to offer for a stand up guitar...a GIANT hinge!!! - check it out!

 I opened the hinge up backwards (the opposite direction than you'd usually use it for) and it stopped and stayed open just past 90 degrees...the perfect angle for the board to stand up.  It was SUCH a heavy duty hinge that I knew it would hold the weight of the cake no problem.  I met a great guy named Duane there who helped me sketch it out and feel more confident that this would work! - he even asked me to email him pictures when I got done! - he was so excited! :)  Thanks Duane! - I love our Home Depot!! I knew this was going to be perfect!!!
 So, I picked up my 1/2" sheet of plywood, some wood screws, my beautiful hinge and headed over to a friend's house who has some wood working skillzzz!!  Ian was a giant blessing and cut out my boards in the shape of a guitar (thanks Ian!).  I had previously used a template I found online to draw out the design on the wood, so he routed it all out and almost guitar!!  
Here's a template you can use that I found online.

I took the pieces home, went out into the garage, got my drill, my wood glue and went to town.  I love to build, so it was SUPER fun for me!  I cut a 2" x 2" piece of 1" thick wood to mount my neck to the can see it in the pictures above.  The neck sits off the back board by a good 1", so that worked beautifully.  It was a piece of decking material! - I love what you can find in a garage! :)  I attached my hinge and was ready to stood up perfectly and was VERY stable.  
Now, there is a little downfall to this hinge - the cake could fall forward.  There was nothing keeping it from doing that except the weight of the cake kept it slanted back.  If however, the cake moved forward suddenly, (past 90 degrees) it would fall forward.  This hinge was really stiff and hard to move so I knew the only way it could do that was if it got really tilted during transportation.  So, at those times, I was careful to just hang on to it.  I never had an issue with that the entire time!!  That's just more of an FYI for ya if you try this out! :)

Now, to make it cake ready!  I bought some double sided carpet tape and put tape ALL over the wood.  I then wrapped everything with aluminum foil making sure the foil was really stuck to the wood.  The carpet tape was a beautiful idea!!!  Worked great!

Once the cake was all wrapped up, I started stacking my cakes in there.  I used my chocolate mudcake recipe because it's very stable and I knew I wouldn't be able to put this cake in the fridge.  Fortunately though it's been really cold here! - so I kept the cake in our sunroom without the heat on so it stayed nice and cool.  I also used a thin layer of chocolate ganache between all the layers and to adhere the cake to the foil.  Chocolate ganache is like's amazing and honestly I would NEVER build this cake with buttercream.  The ganache made it SO stable and incredible to work with. USE ganache!! :)
 I stacked the layers like a traditional cake so they laid on themselves.  Once the ganache set, it was one big piece of cake.  You'll also notice the very bottom inch is foam.  I of course didn't want to put anything heavy down there or it would have just fallen off.  OH, and I did add a foam core board just under the neck in the above picture that wasn't on the wood form pictures.  I decided I needed another level of support there.
I flipped the hinge open and laid the cake flat and began covering it in a thin layer of ganche.  It took me over an hour to get it like this picture above...but it was perfect! :)  Nice and smooth and straight!!  I was more and more excited as it took shape!  The other wonderful thing about the hinge and the ganache was I could move the guitar all around.  I could even flip it upside down to cover the back with fondant.  I would totally use this technique again!!  

Another challenge presented itself after I got the structure built.  I realized this cake was NOT going to serve 25 people!  When I filled out the auction paper work months ago, I told them it would serve 25 people because that's what I had seen online.  However, none of those cakes were stand up cakes...and because of the internal structure, I knew it wouldn't serve that many!!  I called one of the auction chairpeople and she said everything was out to print and asked if I could make another cake to go with it.  OH sure! :) - I'll just whip something up! :)  haha!!  But, I knew I needed to because that wouldn't be fair.  So, I decided to make a small amp to go with the electric guitar.  The amp ended up being two half-sheet layers of cake that I cut into 8 layers.  It ended up being about 8.5"w x 5.5"d x 10"h.  I used four layer of vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and four layers of mudcake with vanilla buttercream.  I also used almost 3 lbs of ganache on it!!!!  Here's the result...sorry, I didn't get any pictures after I stacked it.

 Again, use ganache!! :)  It sets up so beautifully to where you can keep scraping and building it up.  Notice the board on top! - I used the Aussie Smoothing Technique to get the corners nice and sharp!  Again, I probably spent 45 min to an hour doing this because I made the boards too big (compared to the actual cake) and it took a while to get all the ganache on there!  Once I was happy with how smooth it was, I put it into the fridge and let it harden, then used a hot palette knife to get under that top board and it popped it right off.

Now, to cover it all in fondant and add my decorations...

Stay tuned! :)  
I'll post the final results in the next day or two.  Still going through the pictures and deciding which ones to use.  Be back in a flash! :)

Thanks for looking!!


  1. WOW!!! I can't wait to see the finished cake...cakes :)

    That is so epic!

  2. Amazing! you are a genius! eagerly waiting for your next post :)

  3. you are crazy amazing!!! i don't think i would ever have the guts to even try this. can't wait 'til the next post!

  4. Very excited to see the final outcome!
    Thanks for sharing your process, I always learn so much!

  5. How fabulous! And by the way, I've been using the Aussie method since I read about it on here. If I have the option, I won't use anything else from now on!!! AWESOME technique!!!

  6. Wow, this cake is amazingly detailed, you shoul be SO proud! It definitely looks real!!!

  7. You are so amazing & so is this cake! Thank you so much for sharing all of the details! When you put together the amp, did you put any supports inside of it because it is such a tall cake? I have never done a tall cake before and was wondering if that many layers can just be stacked on top of each other?

  8. Tricia: I did use support. I stacked four layers of cake with three layers of frosting, then added 6 large/bubble straws, a board, then stacked 4 more layers with three layers of frosting. I put it in the fridge so it firmed up, then crumb coated it with ganache. That's the most I would stack before adding a center dowel. Hope that helps!

  9. You are so awesome! Thank you so much for answering my question. I have some tall cakes coming up & I was going to do exactly as you have stated, but wanted to know your thoughts and how you accomplished it. Your cakes are always so clean & perfect! Thank you for being willing to share :D

  10. Hi Jessica,
    My dear friend Deb Stauch introduced me to your blog this morning.
    Your work is just meticulous,and I LOVE that.
    Sadly,I don't have the same level of talent,and so I look to my stars (such as Deb and now you)...for inspiration and helpful tips.
    I made an electric guitar for my grandson's 10th birthday.I cut the base out of masonite,and all was well until I had to do the guitar strings.
    UGH!!! Nothing I tried worked.It wasn't pretty.The whole cake only took a couple of days to prep,bake ,fill and ice,but those darned strings took at least an entire 12 hours.
    How did you solve the string problem on your cake?
    Mine was a disaster.
    Thanks so much.
    Joan K

  11. Hi Joan! :)
    The key to the strings is making them stay put! I used push-pins at the top/head of the guitar that I spray painted silver to match the rest of the silver-luster-dust-painted keys. I pounded the push pins into the head of the cake so I had something to tie them onto. But first, I took some sewing pins, thread the string through them, tied them off so the strings would be attached for good, then inserted the pins into the cake through the bridge. I would recommend using tiny stir straws to do this for a cake that is going out to a client though! :) Cut the stir straws to 3/4" long, thread the string through and tie a few knots in it so it won't come back through the straw. Then push the straw (knot side down) into the cake. After the strings are secure on the bridge, wrap them around your push pins at the top/head of the cake so they're nice and tight and tie them off. Voila'! :) Strings! :) I hope that helps for you in the future! Blessings!

  12. Jessica...I enjoyed our conversation so much! It was a pleasure to share with you! I understand how difficult it is to visualize something through just a phone! Our support was a thin and short center post with a hinge that attached to the back of the guitar. It looked as if the guitar was on a stand from the back and kept it in place...could not fall forward. I have seen many cake shows where the cakes are flat on boards or subject to skidding down boards. I think you and I must be Guitar Cake! ;0)

    1. You are the Pioneer! :) I had the idea but wasn't 100% sure how to do it until lots of thinking and a phone call with you!! Thank you again!! I've had several other people make these guitars too, thanks to you too! :)

      Blessings Caran!

  13. Hi Jessica...I enjoyed our phone conversation very much! It's difficult at times to visualize things from a phone! Our back support for our guitar Cake was a short center post with hidden hinge that attached to the back of ghe guitar. In essence it resembled a guitar stand from the back. This allowed for stability and would not allow the cake to tip forward.
    I've seen many cake shows that display the cakes flat on boards, are disproportionate, or slide off their bases. You and I must be "Guitar Cake Pioneers"!

    God bless and happy "caking"!

  14. I think this is the best blog I have been through all this day.
    Fuzz Factory

  15. Thank you so very much for this! I want to make my son a cake like this for his birthday, and this is an answer to prayer. Thank you for your generosity. God bless you!

  16. Superb! I'm gonna try this for my daughters12th birthday.... What an inspiration

  17. Hi Jessica!

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this tutorial and am going to be borrowing the idea for a Dr. Seuss guitar that I'll be making next weekend. :)

    Can you tell me how many batches of your mud cake recipe you used to make your cake? I'm lacking a good dense cake recipe and would like to use yours. I just want to make sure I use enough :)

  18. Thank you!!!

    The guitar takes hardly any cake, so I made one batch of mudcake and put it in a half sheet pan. Then, I cut 1" strips and laid it into the wooden structure. I think it was the perfect amount...if I remember I didn't have any extra!

    Best wishes on your guitar!! Send pics when you're done! :)


      I pinned a pic of my completed Seuss guitar. I just started doing cakes about 6 months ago so I'm still learning. Don't mind the messiness. :)

    2. Congrats for taking on such a huge and complex cake after only 6 months!! :) Nice work! I LOVE the idea of this and the colors!! So fun!

  19. Your works are extraordinary! God bless you!

  20. Thank you so much for posting all your pictures of your beautiful cake and instructions! You are so generous. You helped me so much when I made my guitar cake. Here's a picture of mine. Thanks again!

  21. God bless you Jessica for sharing your talent and for loving Christ. You are such an inspiration. I love your blog

  22. Jess! I love your blog! You are so extremely talented! I want to try your cake next week for my husband who is currently deployed and will be returning next weekend on his birthday. He loves electric guitars! Just a few questions:

    1) Do you have any pictures of the back of the cake covered in fondant? Just trying to visualize what it's supposed to look like.

    2) Did you cover the amp in fondant or just panels of modeling chocolate?

    3) Did you cover the wood in normal tin foil on top of the carpenter's tape?

    4) When in the process did you cover the bottom cake board with fondant? Do you decorate that last or is that one of the first things you would do - would you cover it in fondant before you covered the guitar in fondant?

    5) Was the guitar already screwed in place when you did all the decorating/covering in fondant and modeling chocolate?


    P.S. I noticed the Oregon State hat you did for your hubby. I graduated from OSU!!! Go Beavs!!

    1. Hi Sarah!! Go Beavers!! Here's the answers to your questions:

      1) Do you have any pictures of the back of the cake covered in fondant? Just trying to visualize what it's supposed to look like.

      I don't have any pictures of the back. It was REAL plain.

      2) Did you cover the amp in fondant or just panels of modeling chocolate?

      It was covered in black fondant. I paneled it because it was so big!! :)

      3) Did cover the board in fondant prior to screwing down the guitar or did you put fondant on the board around it after you secured it? I can't visualize what to do here!

      I had the guitar wooden form attached to the board the whole time. The hinge allowed me to flip the guitar onto the counter top to cover the back in fondant (I put a piece of wax paper and board against the crumb coated cake and held it while I flipped it down onto the counter top to hold the cake steady. Then when I was done covering the back, I held the cake/board as I flipped it back up and took the board off). After I did the back, I flipped it back up to cover the front and sides, then added the white "piping" to cover the seem. So, the guitar was attached to the board as I was making it/building it the whole time. I layed the fondant over the hinge on the base cake board, then painted it to look like wood so it helped to hide the hinge.

      4) Was the guitar already screwed in place when you did all the decorating/covering in fondant and modeling chocolate?

      Yes! :) - see above.

      Have fun!! :)