When my friend Diana, a trumpet player at NEC, sent me an email with several cake concepts for her birthday cake, there was only one that we both knew was the trump card. Granted, I almost never take requests when it comes to recipes, but this challenge was just too good to be true. So when I decided to make a Dinosaur Cake (no novelty cake pans used here!) Frosting + Cut cake pieces = crumbly disaster!!! Okay, so it wasn't necessarily the end of the world, but having been my first attempt at frosting a uniquely shaped cake, it proved rather frustrating.
My first piece of advice: do NOT frost this cake all at once. That delicious buttercream frosting was not made to last for generations, and it will start to melt considering this is no ordinary frosting job. I occasionally took breaks and would place the tub of frosting into the freezer for a few minutes. This allowed the buttercream to stiffen enough that I wouldn't have to worry about it running down the sides of the cake (or in this case, down the tail of the dinosaur, haha!) My second piece of advice: make the cakes the night before. Letting them chill in the refrigerator overnight will make your life sooo much easier when approaching this recipe. I made the buttercream frosting the day of and let it sit in the fridge for 3o minutes prior to decorating. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say, and this is more than true when applied to decorating this cake.
That being said, a lot of people, when I create cakes like this, ask what I place more importance upon: the overall appearance or the taste of the actual cake? Now I affiliate the latter part of that question with the show Ace of Cakes. What has become the culinary equivalent of the Real World or American Chopper, this show follows a crew of pastry decorators who bake and create show-stopping cakes. Yet recent criticism has been drawn based on the fact that, while their cakes look stunning, they don't necessarily follow through on taste.
My opinion: NEVER sacrifice the taste of a cake for a recipe. I am all for making a cake with that "wow" factor but only if it follows through on taste. As such, I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe for this dinosaur: Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. Those who had the chance to enjoy this cake LOVED it!!!
The spikes were little cocoa cookies I bought from whole foods, and I also added some sugar sprinkles as well (since, as aforementioned, this was a crumbly mess to start and a lot of the cake crumbs ended up in the frosting). Next time I make this, I might try a butter cake to lessen the crumb factor. But honestly I can't imagine recreating this design for anything other than a nephew's or friend's son's birthday party. Yet Diana, who LOVES dinosaurs, couldn't have been happier.