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.
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…
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.
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.
After which, I spread it out with my spreader spatula and smoothed it out.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
Afterward, I went back in with the brush and just smoothed out the connection points between the fur and the face.
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.
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…
When you have a thin piece of brownie leather, clean up the edges with a knife so they are nice and clean…
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…
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.
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!
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