Making A Chewbacca Cupcake Cake

August 7, 2020

An Ode to Chewbacca

Today’s Mandatory Activity is a Chewbacca cupcake cake, but before I start this post, I want to just talk about Chewbacca for a minute.  He’s the friend we all hope we have in life…fearless, protective, fiercely-loyal, and speaks a language that only the two of you can understand. 🙂   

Why not take some time to make a Chewbacca cupcake cake for the deserving friend in your life? I did, and I’ll show you how.

Cupcake Cakes

Whether you call them cupcake cakes or cupcake pull-apart cakes, what we are talking about is a cluster of cupcakes that get iced and decorated as if they are one cake.

The challenge with cupcake cakes is that you are limited to the sort of shape you can get because you’re just bunching together a cluster of circles.  Unless you are someone who can figure out how to cut a cupcake in half and make it continue to stand up (I am not that person), you’re gonna have to adjust the shape you are icing.  

Frankly, if you’re that person who is slicing up cupcakes to make a perfect shape, you’re probably better off cutting and shaping a sheet cake so you can get it JUST SO.  I’m okay with making some design adjustments in order to be able to use the cupcake cake construct.

Why make a cupcake cake instead of a regular cake?  Well, it’s easy to serve and eat!  Your guests can just grab a cupcake from the outside row and be on their merry way.  There’s no cutting of cake, and limited fuss.  

You should, however, be prepared to have people argue over who gets part of belt or the most icing on the muzzle, especially if you have any children in attendance. 🙂

With all of that in mind, I started here.  A rough head and shoulders shape of cupcakes smushed together…

Arrange the cupcakes into desired shape

Icing Cupcake Cakes, Generally

Let me start with the single best tip I can give you for icing cupcake cakes.  I have emphasized that sentence in every way I know how. 🙂  You need to make WAY more frosting than you think you need.  I mean, like, 100% more frosting than you would use for a regular cake.  Since the surface is so uneven, you will have a few layers of icing on this cake before you can really even start decorating in any meaningful way.  

MAKE A LOT OF ICING.  I’m not kidding.

The best way I have found to ice cupcake cakes, is to use an icing bag with a caker icer tip.  You can see it in the picture above in the bottom left. 

My favorite is the Wilton carded tip cake icer.  This gigantic tip is flat on one side, and jagged on the other.  The jagged side helps get the icing to cling to the bumpy surface of your cake.  I would argue there is no bumpier cake surface than dozens of cupcakes you want to look uniform!  The smooth side leaves you with a decent canvas on which to decorate!

Apply gentle, even pressure, on the bag to get a smooth ribbon of frosting on the cake.  Cover the whole surface.

This is the start for any cupcake cake. 

 

Cover the cake in thin layer of icing
Cake completely covered in icing

Now, Let's Talk Decorating A Chewbacca CUpcake Cake, Specifically!

Start with Medium Brown Icing

I started by making a massive quantity of icing, and I split it off into 3 shades of brown (a light, a medium, and a dark).  Save a portion of the icing to stay white for his eyes.  I just put the colors into large ziploc bags to make them easy to store and access, but that’s just my preference.  When you stash your icing in baggies, you can cut the corners of the bags off to dispense my icing into piping bags, or directly onto the cake.

I made equal parts of medium and dark brown, and a little less light brown.  The idea is that we would cover Chewy initially with a medium tone, and then add in the parts of dark fur, and top it off with the lighter furry bits on top.

Using the medium brown, I emptied the remainder of the piping bag into the middle of his face.  I wanted to start building up the muzzle where his mouth and nose would be.

Build up icing in center of face where nose and mouth will be

After which, I spread it out with my spreader spatula and smoothed it out.

Smooth out first layer of frosting

Move on to Dark Brown Icing

I cut open the corner of my bag of dark brown icing and spread a piece of Glad Press N Seal on the counter.

When I’m working with one piping tip (like, I don’t have extras, but I need multiple colors of that shape), I like to put my icing into a “log” of Press and Seal.  This makes it easy to take it in and out of your piping bag as you need it. 

In this case, the frosting is dark brown, and looks really unfortunate! 

TAKE A MINUTE TO ACT LIKE A KID AND SEND SOMEONE A PICTURE OF IT. 🙂

We definitely had a chuckle in our kitchen.

 

Extrude icing out of cut corner of bag
Log of brown icing

Next, roll up your log, and drop it into a prepared pastry bag with a Wilton tip #233, which is the grass tip (technically, the “multi opening tip”).

Roll up log of icing in press and seal
Wilton tip #233
Insert prepared log into piping bag

Next, set this log aside for a moment. Work on getting a layer of dark brown icing on top of your medium brown. I just used the opening in the storage bag to drop some big blobs onto the cake so I could spread it around.

This will help create a little dimension in the fur.

Add darker brown frosting in blobs
Spread out darker brown frosting

Keep a Visual Aid Handy!

Whenever you are working on any kind of character dessert, I think it’s best to keep a visual aid handy.

For this Chewbacca cupcake cake, I chose a picture of a Chewbacca toy since I felt like it had already been stylized enough that it would be easier to follow.

Getting the eyes right is always most important, I think.  If the character isn’t looking back at you (or the eyes are looking in 2 different directions), the illusion is easily lost!

Using my visual aid, I sketched out where I thought the eyes would go, how long I thought the nose might be, and roughly where to place his mouth.

Use reference image for facial features

Those Eyes Though...

Chewbacca’s eyes are piercing.  That’s a knowing stare! We need to get these right, or close enough…

Noticing that his eyes were very darkly rimmed, I went in with some Wilton black sparkle gel.  There is no real reason for using this instead of making black icing.  I hate mixing black frosting, so I cheat when I can).

I began by outlining the shape of the eye, but quickly decided to fill them in with black and spread some of it to the edges of the sockets to blend it.  I used some cookie icing brushes, but you can use a standard craft brush as long as it’s new!

Using Wilton sparkle black gel to create dimension in eyes
Rim eye sockets with black icing
Filled in eye sockets with black icing

With the white icing I had set aside, I filled a piping bag and didn’t use a tip.  I just cut off the tip of the bag and added some blobs of white to the sockets, and smoothed them out with my brush into kind of an almond eye shape.

Reserve white frosting for the eyes
Add blobs of white icing to eyes
Smoosh icing around into almond shapes

I decided that Chewbacca’s eyes looked a little blue, so I grabbed some blue food coloring and mixed it with some white icing so I could paint in the eyes.

Once I got the color where I liked it, I added some black on top for pupils, and then finished with a tiny dot of white in each pupil.  I always think that helps with eyes…

Add a little color to center of eyes
Put black back in over top of color for pupils
Add a small dot of white to the side of each pupil to complete the eye

The Time Has Come to Talk About FUr...

While this seems like it could be the easiest part of the decorating job (ala, just drag a bunch of fur all over the place), I think there’s a really subtle distinction between Cousin It, Chewbacca, and a Berenstein Bear. 🙂

The secret to Chewbacca’s fur placement is the direction in which his hair grows.

I grabbed the brown piping “log” we prepared earlier and started at the forehead, careful to pull the fur up from his forehead to the top of his head.  As I moved around the face, I spread the fur in the right direction, per my photo reference.

 

Start fur from center of face and radiate outwards
Continue adding fur in the appropriate direction

Afterward, I went back in with the brush and just smoothed out the connection points between the fur and the face.

Smooth out connections between fur and face with brush

Added some more black to the eyes and some to the nose…and stopped here to work on the belt and ammo.

I have a video tutorial linked below where I’ve sped all of this up for you A LOT, because I tinker with his features a ton before I decide to stop.

Stopped here to work on the belt

Constructing the Belt and Ammo. Out of WHAT now?

This is where things get weird.  I said it in the video, but it bears repeating. 

You can’t have a Chewbacca cupcake cake, or a Chewbacca cake of any kind (in my opinion) without the iconic leather belt (or belts) and ammo.

To make the belt, I’m using these Little Debbie brownies, which are barely food, to roll out into “leather”.  I can’t remember at what point during my baking adventures I figured out that I could mold things with squished up store-bought brownies, but if you need dough, this is usually my answer!

Before you ask me, no, it doesn’t work with homemade brownies.  Those are usually fluffy and don’t stick together like this.  These things really roll into a flat sticky sheet…

Little Debbie brownies
Lay out brownies for rolling
Roll out brownies between parchment

When you have a thin piece of brownie leather, clean up the edges with a knife so they are nice and clean…

Clean up brownie edges after rolling

Gently life the brownie leather strip from the parchment and lay it down on Chewbacca’s shoulder.

Next, grab a generic Hershey bar.  Break off the individual rectangles and place them on your leather belt.

I used an edible silver food paint to paint the sides of the rectangles, but this is totally optional.  Chewbacca’s belt looks totally recognizable without the color…

Grab a Hershey bar
Lay down the rectangles for ammo
Silver edible food paint
Paint the sides of each chocolate rectangle
Add a thin strip of flattened brownie to the center of the ammo

I finished the belt with the addition of a small strip of brownie leather down the center.

Prep your last bag of frosting with the lightest color brown, mixed with the darkest color of brown.

The Home Stretch, The Last Layer of Fur!

Now that we have the belt in place, we can comfortably add the final layer of fur onto Chewy.  Doing the belt first allows us to drape some of the last layer of fur over the belt.

Layer the last piping bag of predominantly lightest brown icing in the same direction as the previous layer of fur. 

Last layer of lighter colored fur

I think this is where Chewbacca really starts to materialize from the cupcake cake blob we started with!

When adding the lightest fur, make sure to throw in some wavy locks, like you see near his chin…that helps with the furry feeling. 🙂

And we end up here!

Final Chewbacca cupcake cake finished photo

Now, I know it’s not perfect.  There are limitations with the shapes of cupcake cakes as we discussed earlier.  I wish he had more forehead, etc…but I don’t think he looks like Cousin It, or a Berenstein Bear.  I think he’s decidedly Chewbacca-ish!

I encourage you to watch the video, which I’ve reduced to about 15 minutes if you want to try this for yourself.  There are definitely parts along the way where I fussed too much with eyes, nose, and lips and wish I had stopped earlier, but that’s typical of a cake or cupcake decorating project.  My husband and I always joke that I took it about 5 minutes too far…

I hope you enjoyed this project!  

Need some Yoda cupcakes to go with?  I got that…check out this post: Yoda Cupcakes

Materials used for this project are listed below.  Some links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  If you do, thank you in advance for your support of this blog.


 
My favorite tipless bags, detail brushes, and icing colors are available on my blog resources page here:  https://amandatoryactivity.com/cookie-and-cake-decorating-supplies/
 
Other supplies used in this video include
Wilton carded tip cake icer: https://amzn.to/2DASngY
Wilton multi opening tip #233: https://amzn.to/3khadXm
Wilton black sparkle gel: https://amzn.to/2XBjO1e
Edible silver food coloring: https://amzn.to/2x8BhUZ

Love, Amanda

Make Custom Cupcake Picks Using the Cricut Design Space Slice Feature

July 17, 2020

Learn to Slice, and Then Slice Confidently!

This tutorial is going to be a 2-for-1.  First, I will show you how to use the slice feature (or slice tool) in Cricut Design Space.  Then, we will apply your newfound knowledge to make our own custom cupcake picks!

Cute, right?  They took literally about 30 minutes, start to finish, so not bad at all!  Think about all of the custom ninja-turtle-lego-unicorn-minecraft-superhero picks you could make for birthday parties! 🙂

The truth is, once you know how to slice in Design Space, you have the ability to make custom whatevers!  Even these, for example, could have easily been printed on sticky paper and turned into stickers.  I’m telling you, slicing is where it’s at.

If you’re already an accomplished slicer, and just want to do custom cupcake picks, you can skip down a few sections, or straight to the video tutorial at the bottom.

Custom cupcake pick

Slice, Slice, Baby!

I couldn’t help myself.  If you’ve read my blog long enough, or seen any of my shop products, you’ll know how much I enjoy word play.  If this is your first time here, welcome, and this is normal. 🙂

The slice feature in Cricut Design Space is one of the little tools at the bottom right of your project page.  It’s the tool I use most often, and the one I think is the most versatile.  

Think of the slice feature as your virtual scissors…let me show you what to do.

THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPAL OF THE SLICE FEATURE IS THAT YOU CAN ONLY SLICE 2 THINGS.  I’m putting that in caps because it’s super-important.  It’s so important that when you forget, it doesn’t work at all.

So, I start my tutorial with 2 shapes, a circle and a square.  I grabbed them from the “shapes” section of the menu bar on the left.

Start with any 2 shapes
Choose the 2 shapes you'd like to slice...whatever they may be.
Put together 2 items to slice
Move the two shapes on top of one another, depending on where you want to slice them. For example, if I want to cut a circle out of the middle of that square, I'm going to put it on top wherever I want to "cut" or slice it.
select both shapes
Once you have them positioned where you want them, use your cursor to select both shapes at the same time.
Slice button is active
Once both shapes are selected, the slice button in the lower right suddenly becomes available (it's greyed out when not available). Go ahead and push that button. It's okay...you can do it.
Slice complete
Ta-da! Now you have slices the circle out of the center of your square. What you have left is the original circle, what's left of your square, plus the circle-shaped piece you cut out of the square! Since the slice feature is your virtual scissors, that grey circle is kind of your leftover scrap paper. 🙂
Remove some portions
One thing to highlight is that you don't have to slice a whole shape (circle) out of a whole shape (square). You can use the slice feature to cut just a piece of something. Here, I removed a little piece from the right side of the square.
cannot add a third thing to slice
See what happens when I invite another shape to the party? The slice feature is suddenly not available anymore. ONLY 2 THINGS. They're serious about it.

Those Are the Basics, But Here's the Thing That Always Trips Me Up

If I take that circle and put a score line in the middle, is it still one shape?

Shape with score line

Let’s try to slice these 2 shapes.  It’s the same 2 shapes we sliced before…and that worked fine.

Move it into position, highlight both shapes, and go down to your slice button.

Slice button is inactive again

THE SCORE LINE IS ANOTHER “THING”.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this mistake.

If you want to cut these shapes now, you need to remove the score line, slice them, and then put the score line back.

He was not invited to the party, just like the little grey circle.  So sad.

Now That You Know How to Slice, Let's Make Custom Cupcake Picks!

I’m always looking for ways to use my Cricut to do the hard work for me, and this is a great example of something I wouldn’t want to cut by hand.  I HATE cutting circles.  Even when you think you got it right, you don’t got it right. 🙂  But we are going to make some circular custom cupcake picks, since I think that’s the most standard cupcake pick shape.

Start By Selecting Your Custom Item/Image

What’s going on your custom cupcake pick? A picture? Sometone’s name? An important date? Whatever it is, grab them and put them somewhere you can easily find them on your computer.

I chose to use 12 pictures of my son.  Since I had a dozen cupcakes, I used a picture from each month of the year to decorate cupcakes for my husband’s birthday.

 

Get Your Items/Images into Design Space

Upload images into design space
From a new project page, select "upload" on the left and you will get this screen, where you can select the "upload image" button at the top left.
Browse for your photo
Browse for your photos. You need to select one at a time. I obviously needed to do this 12 times...but I sped it up during the video tutorial. 🙂
Selected picture
When you select a picture, it imports like this. Select the green continue button on the bottom right. To explain this photo, Spencer was asked to come to school for the 100th day as a 100 year old person...so this was his outfit for the day. 🙂
Next select your design style
Next, you select your image type. I almost always pick complex, unless the image is one color or something truly simple. Complex gives you the best option to capture all of the colors in your image. Hit continue again.
Insert photos into project
Once you hit continue, the image is loaded into Design Space. Once all of your images are there, you can select them all together (no need to do one at a time anymore, thank goodness). Then hit the green "insert images" button at the bottom.
All photos are inserted
All of the photos you selected will now be populated into your project!

Slice Your Cupcake Pick Shape With Your Image

Circle cupcake pick shape selected
Just as we did in the slice tutorial, go to the shapes menu on the left side and grab yourself a shape. I've got a circle.
Duplicate it
I think it's good practice to go to the upper right and duplicate your shape a few times. That way, you don't have to worry about making another one later. Unless you are only making 1 custom pick!
Size your picture appropriately, and then place your shape over your image. Just like in the tutorial, select them both and hit that slice button!
slice shape
Now you have a circle with your custom image inside!

Don't Forget About the Back of Your Custom Picks!

It’s easy to get excited about all of your custom shapes, but don’t neglect to consider the back before you move to the cutting portion.

This is a good time to duplicate some more of those circles to make sure you have enough circle backs to match your circle fronts. 🙂

Cut Out Your Pieces and Assemble!

When you hit “make it”, Cricut will load all of the images onto a printable page for you.  Print that out and let the machine do that hard cutting-of-circles!

And select some paper to cut out your plain circles…

Select paper for the back
Flat topped wooden picks
I like using these flat topped wooden picks from Amazon. I'll have them linked in the supply list below. They provide a nice large surface on which to stick your image. If you don't want to buy these, you can use a toothpick but you'll likely need to glue the front and back together and squeeze the toothpick in.
Apply glue to one side of wood pick
Apply craft glue to one side of the wooden pick. I love Art Glitter glue for just about everything. I'll link to my resources page for that as well. I use it on all of my paper projects and it adheres well to wood.
Apply image to pick
Apply the image to the glued area and apply some gentle pressure while the glue sets.
Front half done
The front of your pick is done.
Align back to match with front
Apply glue to the back half of the stick and line up the back circle with the front circle.
Custom cupcake pick completed
And you're done!

Just Add Cupcakes...

You did it! You made some adorable custome cupcake picks and now you get to decorate!

All custom picks fanned out
All dozen custom cupcake picks in cupcakes

Materials used for this project are listed below.  Some links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  If you do, thank you in advance for your support of this blog.


 

I use a cardstock paper for heavyweight projects like this.  My favorite inexpensive option is this Neenah paper from Amazon.

The flat-topped wooden picks are also from Amazon, you can find them here.  As of the time I’m writing this blog post, they’re about $5 for 100. 🙂

My favorite glue and other favorite papercraft resources can be found on my resources page!

Love, Amanda

Yoda Cupcakes!

January 31, 2020

Yoda Cupcakes! Love Them You Will.

Do you share my experience where Star Wars unites people through generations?  A Star Wars themed birthday party is almost always a safe bet, and Star Wars themed cupcake wrappers were one of the first projects I attempted when I got my Cricut about 5 years ago.  I’ll insert pics below with 2 caveats: #1 they are old, pre-blog, pre-new camera, pictures that I took with my old iPhone and never intended for the internet, and #2, in the second one I look like a gigantic spaz and am purposefully pulling a face for my Aunt JuJu, manning the camera 🙂 .  This is easier for me to do knowing that as I write this I currently have 15 subscribers, all of whom know me pretty well.  This will be an embarrassing choice if this is the blog choice that gets traction, but if you read my first blog post https://amandatoryactivity.com/the-blog-post-nobody-will-read/, you will understand that I’m not interested in hiding anymore anyway, so you get it all.  Not every photo is run through a filter, and not every project is perfect.  Part of my mission here is to share some ideas, even when they fail a little…so we can problem solve together.

These cupcakes I designed to hold those little tiny Halloween glow sticks (and in pic 2, i’m somewhat frantically pulling them out, cracking them, and putting them back into their holsters.  The effect was not bad, especially as the lights went down for Happy Birthday singing).  

My purpose for sharing these old pictures with you is to mention that baking and crafts often cross the dividing line for me.  I love taking a baking project and adding a Cricut element, or novel cupcake or cake topper made with the Cricut.  When I decided to take a chance and start the blog, everyone’s advice online is to “niche-down” and pick ONE TOPIC and stick with that, but I’m not following that advice.  I can’t do that because one project often leads to another, and sometimes my Cricut projects become edible. 🙂  So, I’ll try to stay organized at the very least and put the projects into the appropriate heading buckets, but this one is cake decorating AND papercraft.  There’s no way around it. 

For today’s Mandatory Activity, we are making a cupcake, sticking a small Master Yoda (or Master Yoder as it came out in the video –face palm) cookie on the cupcake as a topper, and then making a cupcake wrapper and a robe to stick onto it’s front.  The effect in a group is fun.  Who wouldn’t love a fleet of Yodas?

Materials used for this project are listed below.  Some links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  If you do, thank you in advance for your support of this blog.

I use the Cricut Explore Air, and I love it.  If you don’t already have a Cricut, I would get the bundle so you have all of the mats and tools you need to get started.

All of my baked goods boxes and cake boards, etc. come from BRP Boxshop. I have used them for years. Shipping is fast and free to 48 of the US States. www.brpboxshop.com
 
Thanks for joining me, please subscribe with the box below so you received notification of future posts, and if you are enjoying the video portion of these posts, please subsrcibe to my YouTube channel as well.
 
In the meantime, do what makes you happy, and come back soon!
 
 Love,

Amanda

I'm Amanda, and I put the AMANDA in A MANDAtory Activity (and I like a good bad pun). This blog is a focused on baking and crafting for gatherings and gifts! I LOVE making things a little extra special and I love sharing those ideas with you. Have a look around, or read more here.

Amanda

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