Guest post: Handbags at Dawn (Yes, it’s a cake, I promise)!

Today’s guest post comes from my wonderful, and frustratingly talented friend, Maya. I saw this picture pop up on her Facebook feed a little while back, and I had to do a serious double-take: that’s a cake?! Seriously?! Aparently quite a few of her colleagues had much the same moment of sheer confusion as I did. So thanks, Maya, for taking the time to write up how you created this masterpiece! Now over to the lady herself:

Kelly asked me to write a guest blogspot about the cake I made for the OH’s sisters 21s birthday, so here goes.

I’ve only been making occasion cakes since last July and I am completely self taught. I use cake decorating books for tips and ideas and my own imagination to come up with a design. Having tried my hand at a number of cakes I decided that I really wanted to make a handbag cake for the OH’s sister, I’d seen several online and thought wow they look amazing.

 Handbag cake


 You will need:

The first thing I would say is find your nearest professional cake supply shop, they’re invaluable for the equipment and quality you can get plus their knowledge. Failing that there are a lot of good online suppliers and the other place to try is ebay, most cake tools and such you can get on there, often cheaper than the shops but do your homework.

  • 10 inch square cake tin & 12 inch square board
  • Dresden tool (or use the handle of a rounded teaspoon) quilting tool (or cocktail stick. More time consuming)
  • Paintbrush
  • Oval cutters and round cutters (a variety of sizes)
  • Large sharp knife, smaller sharp knife
  • Templates – I used the ones in a book or you can take a picture front back and sides of a bag and use them just make sure they’re straight)
  • Toothpicks
  • Tylose powder (equivalents are CMC or gum tragycinth – helps ‘set’ icing)
  • Leaf glaze
  • Rolling pin (silicone are best)
  • Baking paper
  • Baking tray/board to carve cake on
  • Silver lustre dust (be careful to buy an edible one)
  • Strong edible glue
  • Icing smoother
  • 1.5kg sugarpaste (icing) of your desired colour (in my case hot pink)
  • 500g sugarpaste of a complimentary colour if you choose for the flowers
  • 750g-1kg sugarpaste of desired colour
  • 1 batch buttercream – easy to make, plenty of recipes online or can be shop bought but much sweeter.
  • Madeira cake – can find recipes online


To make in advance (day before icing) – modelling paste and pastiche (sugar paste)

 The cake

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of photos of the making it stage as the blog idea came about after the fact. But the making of the cake and shaping it is pretty straightforward.

I used a 10 inch square cake tin, with vanilla flavoured Madeira cake as it makes a dense cake that’s easy to carve. It takes a while in the oven so make sure to tie a double layer of baking paper round the outside of the tin and cover the cake top once it’s browned to save it burning.

Once cooked and cooled turn it out, cut it in half and stack the halves on top of each other on a board/flat baking tray covered in baking paper).

Use cocktail sticks to pin the front and back template to the cake, taking the large sharp knife carve the cake to match the shape using long steady strokes. For any fine touching up once the shape is almost done use the small knife.

Next carve the side profile, attach the template as above. To form the top of the bag where the zip runs use the template to find the centre line and cut down into the cake 1.5cm either side of the centre to about 2cm depth, then cut in horizontally to remove either side, leaving you with a central ridge.

Now you should have a shape that resembles a bag. Before covering in buttercream and icing cut out a teardrop/triangle shape from the sides (from near the top down to the halfway point). This is so the icing drapes into the gap left to give a more realistic shape.

 Buttercream the front of the cake.

For the pleats I rolled out some of the sugarpaste into sausages and cut into 5 1 inch long sections which I then pressed onto the front of the cake leaving enough room in between (about 0.5cm) to press in the icing later.

Roll out enough sugarpaste to cover the front to approx 4-5mm thick and press gently on. Using the Dresden tool, the finer end, gently press the icing into the gaps between the sausages until it looks like pleating

Buttercream the back and ice (no pleats needed). Now buttercream and ice the sides making sure all the edges meet and that the icing drapes into the cut out sections. Smooth up the joins in the icing slightly and try and create a slight groove with the Dresden tool along the joins for the edging to sit in.

See picture 1

I used an extra curved section of icing above the pleats and used the quilting tool along the edges to make it look like stitching (see picture 1). The same section can be found on the back too. It works well as it supports where the handles will sit.


Picture 1 – cake has been carved and covered in buttercream and fondant icing. The icing has been pressed around the ‘sausages’ to resemble pleats.

Edging –I just rolled the modelling paste into long thin sausages, thick enough to cover the joins in the icing and cut them to size. Apply the edible glue to the area and gently press on edging, press together at the top where the edging from the other side meets.

See picture 2

Now you’re ready to make the handle rings using the pastiche made the day before.

I rolled it into sausages as with the edging and wrapped it round a small circular cutter, gluing the edges together to make a ring. Leave it to set completely before tapping out some silver lustre dust onto a plate and mixing in some leaf glaze and painting this on. Leave to dry.

See picture 4

Roll out some modelling paste to 4mm thickness and cut out 4 thin strips (thin enough to loop through the rings you just made). Wrap through the ring and glue the edges together and then glue onto the top edge of the curved section added earlier. Repeat for the remaining rings and strips. Leave to dry.

See picture 4

I moved the cake onto the cake board (covered and stencilled in advance, stencilling is also done using the lustre dust) at this point to avoid catching the flowers and handles.


Now for the flowers, they can be as fancy or simple as you like/are able to do.

Round flower – Using a round cutter cut out 8 circles, fold each in half and stack on top of each other using the edible glue, then open each one up fairly evenly until it forms a circle and glue the edges together. You can run the quilting tool down the middle of each petal to make it look like fabric. I only used one size but you could do a mix by using a larger cutter.

See picture 2


 Picture 2 – Close up of the round flower. You can also see the edging that covers the joins in the icing.

Oval flower – cut out 6 small ovals using a cutter, these are the petals. Taking each petal between thumb and first finger gently squeeze up the edges and at the same time use the first finger on your other hand to push the middle up and in slightly so that when you pinch it closed it looks like 2 petals (might be easier to understand once you look at the photo). Once each petal is made glue them all together, if they’re not holding well don’t worry too much as once you glue on the ball of icing to the middle it should hold it all together.

See picture 3


Picture 3 – close up of oval flower

 When you first make the flowers they will be soft and pliable so it’s best to leave them for 10 minutes to firm up before you start placing them on the cake. I also added some waves between the gaps in the flowers, these are just thin strips of icing folded up and stuck on.


To make the handles roll out the remaining modelling paste into thick sausages, you need to make them slightly longer than you actually want as you will flatten the ends using a rolling pin in order to wrap them round the rings. It may need a touch of glue here and there for support (especially on the back as there are no flowers to support it, in my case I glued the entire handle on).

See picture 4


Picture 4 – close up of pastiche rings, modelling paste loops and handle

The zip detail is actually very easy and makes it look. Buy a zip (try a habadashery store/John Lewis etc), make sure it’s clean and then press a thin strip of modelling paste long enough for the top of the bag (about 0.5-1cm wide) onto it and gently rub your fingers up and down. When you peel it off you should have a zip imprint and now all you need to do is glue it onto the top of the cake and paint it as you did the rings (you can add a little charm if you wish).

See picture 5, 6 and 7




Pictures 5, 6 & 7 – Close up of the zip and charm and also the side of the cake so you can see how it drapes in to the section of cake that was cut out earlier.


And voila you have yourself a pretty bag cake.

And incredibly impressive cake, I’m sure you’ll all agree! Thanks again to Maya, and hopefully she’ll agree to write up another of her spectacular creations as a guest post again in the future 🙂


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by afracooking on 24/04/2013 at 19:27

    What an amazing looking cake – a work of art! Fabulous post to host!


    • Yeah, the friend who made it is irritatingly talented at cake decorating :-p It is perhaps unsurprising that it is the most visited page on my blog!


  2. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so
    much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message
    home a bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A fantastic read.
    I’ll definitely be back.


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