Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back to Basics: Wilton Character Cakes

Many of us cake decorators got our start using the Wilton Method. 
Wilton Method cakes are simple, they don't require a lot of expensive cake decorating tools and can be completed in just an hour or two. 
You can create just about any character or theme imaginable - Hello Kitty, SpongeBob, Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, soccer ball, cupcake, sunflower, ladybug, just to name a few....there are literally hundreds to choose from. 
To get started, pick up a Wilton cake pan, a few disposable pastry bags, some decorating tips and couplers and colored gel paste at your local craft store.  If you can't find what you are looking for at your local craft store, you'll definitely find it online. Then bake a cake and whip up a batch of your favorite buttercream icing and you are ready to go!  
Here is one that I created a few years back and I documented the process.  Hopefully this will help someone out there who wants to give it a try!

Lightning McQueen Cake

 Most of the Wilton pans only require approximately 4 1/2 cups of cake batter - which is perfect for the beginner!  A single boxed cake mix like Duncan Hines or Pillsbury works perfectly!

Mix up the icing colors, as directed in the directions that comes with the cake pan.  You will need approximately 5 1/4 cups of buttercream.  Divide into separate bowls and color as follows:
 1/2 cup cup Black
1/4 cup Gray
1/4 cup Yellow
 1 1/4 cup Red (or No-Taste Red)
1/4 cup Blue 
1/4 cup Light Blue
 1/4 cup Orange
Reserve 2 1/4 cups white

1) Ice the sides of the cake with white buttercream using a metal spatula...try to get it as smooth as possible.  Don't worry if you get icing on the top of your cake.  Clean up the board with a paper towel.

2)  With your light blue icing and a metal spatula, "schmear" some icing where the windows would be.  Yes, "schmear" is a highly technical cake decorating term. ;o) Do the same in white for the mouth and headlights and in red for the wheel wells.  You don't have to be too neat or too accurate, but just place them in the general area they are supposed to be in.  Hopefully the detail from the pan shows up on the cake and you can use it as a guide. 
Hint:  Make these "schmears" a little bigger than the actual feature should be.

3)  With a #3 tip outline the black details of Lighting's body, mouth, eyes, headlights and "flame".  You want to place these features in the proper place so the character looks authentic. This can be tricky, so remember you can always scrape off the icing and try again.

 Believe it or not, the hard part is done!

Now on to the fun part....

 4)  With a #16 star tip, make large circles for the wheels. 
5) With a #3 tip, pipe #95 in the flame.
6)  With a #5 tip, pipe the eyes in blue and add a small black dot for the pupils.

7)  Next with your #16 star tip and red icing, begin filling in by piping red stars. 
It's like coloring in a coloring book - stay in the lines!

 You may need to stop and rest at this point... all those stars can do a number on your wrist!

Helpful hints:
Keep the size of the stars consistant
Keep the stars tight together so you can't see the cake in between
If your buttercream is starting to get runny, it is because the heat from your hot little hand is warming it up.  Place the icing in the fridge for a few minutes!

 8)  Again, with your #16 star tip, pipe in the orange and yellow part of the flame.

9)  Add two gray exhaust pipes with #5 tip.

 The last step is to create a fancy border.  I used a #18 to make this shell border, but you can also do stars or use a #7 tip to create little pearls.

Hope this tutorial encourages you to try one of your own!  You can create all of the characters the same way...ice the sides, schmear the details, outline and fill with stars! 
 If you do try one, please send me photos (thebakingsheet@aol.com) and I will feature them on my Facebook page!

Here are more characters that I have done over the years....

Or.... you don't even need a pan!  Just bake a rectangle cake, and carve it yourself...
Here are some examples:

Ok, I know what you're thinking...back away from the knives...
Here are some examples of my cakes that I didn't carve:

Give it a try!

Happy Baking!


  1. I love that you posted these early cakes! It's fun to see the progression. I love that cheerleader cake. It is sooooo cute!

  2. wow these look great loren . . i wish we could get Wilton products in Pakistan too but unfortunately we dont so i have to make do with whatever we get here which is not even close to what you all get abroad . . i am a beginner baker by the way and i have just recently started blogging . . i would like it if you would check it out . . heres the link http://chocoholic-bakinghodgepodge.blogspot.com/
    hope to see more baking wonders from u =)

  3. I recently did my first attempt at a 'Wilton Method' cake. I didn't realize it was a Wilton method though. I'm currently self taught and teaching. Your blog is very informative. I would love for you to check out my blog and give me a follow. http://frostedsweet.blogspot.com/

    Let me know what you think!!

  4. nice post i like this kind of posts!
    i love cakes!
    thanks for sharing!

  5. Hello. I came to your site after seeing "Tom, The Turkey" on CakeCentral.com
    I LOVE your step-by-step tutorial on the Wilton character pans. I am a frequent member of the Wilton.com forums, and will be posting a link to this tutorial on the Wilton "General Information" forum. [http://www.wilton.com/forums/index.cfm?nocookies=yes]

    How gracious of you to take these step-by-step photos for the character pans. You have awesome talent!

    ~~whoknew?, from the Wilton forums