Thursday, 23 August 2012

How to Make a Handbag Cake

Here is my step by step tutorial for a Handbag cake. I made this cake for my sister's birthday, I don't think she'll appreciate if I disclose her age, but sufficed it to say that it is a memorable one! I really enjoyed making this cake and I have to thank Cake Decorating magazine for their step by step instructions.

Original idea (pictured right) from  Cake Decorating Issue 12 June 2012

Serves 8 -10

2 x 20cm (8 inch) Round sponge cakes*
50g Butter cream
2tbsp Raspberry jam
230g Black sugar paste
250g Deep pink sugar paste (I mixed pink with black until I was happy with the shade)
80g White flower paste
30g White sugar paste
Edible Glue

*I prefer my Victoria Sponge  and decided not to use a Madeira sponge, however, this sponge was tricky to carve (not impossible but tricky) and as a result I needed a second layer of pink sugar paste to hide the lumps and bumps, I suggest you use a Madeira sponge and use just 250g of sugar paste.

To carve the handbag cake, flip over both sponges cakes and, using a large, serrated knife, skim off the bottom crusts as thinly as you can (so they will be flush when sandwiched together). Leave the top crusts as they are for now. Stack the cakes together and check that they are both the same size - trim around them again, if necessary. Once trimmed, slice through both cakes to make the flat bottom of the bag.

Stand both cakes up on their flat edges. Now carve the outer edges of the cake, first removing the crusts and carving the handbag shape. You're aiming to create a gentle, sloping curve on each side of the cake, so that so that it tapers in towards the top on each side. Shave away a thin piece at a time, carving along the cake rather than down (important!!). Build your shape gradually and keep checking that both sides have the same degree of curve.

Open the two cakes. Spread a thin layer of butter cream over one half and a thin layer of raspberry jam over the other half. Don't spread on too much - you need enough for the cakes to stick to each other, not so much that they slide around. Stick the two cakes back together to form the handbag shape and use a pallet knife to cover it with a thin crumb coat of your remaining butter cream. Place the carved, coated cake in the fridge for an hour before covering with sugar paste.

Meanwhile, to cover the board with sugar paste, brush the board with water, set aside. Roll the sugar paste out until it is slightly larger than the board, carefully lay the sugar paste over the board, smooth out with an icing smoother and trim the excess with a sharp knife.

To make deep pink sugar paste, I kneaded black sugar paste into pink sugar paste until I was happy with the shade, to be absolutely sure the there is no variation in the colour, cut the paste in half.

Knead your deep pink sugar paste until soft and malleable and, on a non-stick board, roll it out to 3mm thick. Keep turning the paste as you roll, to prevent it from sticking and to get an even shape.
lift up your paste with the rolling pin and transfer it to the cake. Making sure that the cake is positioned under the centre of the paste, ease the paste over the cake and smooth it down with your hands. Run over it with an icing smoother to remove any lumps, them trim off the edges using a small, sharp knife (the only advice I can give you is to be patient at this stage).

To make the white bag clasp, knead together the 30g of white flower paste and 30g of the white sugar paste, the roll them out to 3mm thick. Smooth over the paste with a icing smoother and flip it over, so that the smoothest side is facing up. Using the edge of the cake smoother as a guide, cut out a strip of  a white paste that is 22cm long and 2cm wide. Trim of the ends to make them straight. Brush the edible glue in a line along the middle of the top of the cake and carefully lift the white paste strip and put in position. If it becomes misshapen as you transfer it, use the side of an icing smoother to gently nudge the edges of the strip back into a neat, straight line.
Using light pressure, score down the centre of the white strip using a veining tool. Hold the tool at a slight angle to the strip, rather than pointing it directly at the paste. You could also score down each side of the bag.
To make the clasp part of the bag, take your remaining white paste and roll it out between 2 and 3mm thick. Cut out a rectangle that's 5cm wide and 4cm deep. Place it top centre of the handbag, over the white strip. Smooth it down with your fingers, then straightened up the edges using the side of an icing smoother.
For the handles, roll out pink sugar paste into two think sausages, using an icing smoother. While the paste is still soft, use a scallop edge crimper to press scallop details along the centre of each handle.

Shape the handles into two identical curves (I used a tea cup to achieve this) and put them aside to firm up (but not so firm that they will not yield and end up breaking). Meanwhile, roll out the remaining pink paste and cut out four rectangular tabs - roughly 5cm by 3cm. These tabs will cover the ends of each handle. Use your crimper around the inside of each tab. Before you attach the handles to the cake, brush the handle with edible glue and stick the two handles together at the top. This enables the handles to support each others weight. You need an extra pair of hands to help with this step (I had my beautiful six year old daughter to help me with this, she was brilliant) Ask a friend to support the handles with one hand, so they they rest lightly in their fingers (rather then being gripped). Ask them to hold the handles above the bag, while you brush edible glue on the bottom inside edge of each handle and move them, one at a time, into position on the bag. Hold the handles in place for a few seconds while the glue sets, then get a wad of kitchen towel, fold it up and place it under the handles to help them keep their shape and support them in a upright position. When the handles are stuck in position, brush the backs of your four crimped, rectangular tabs and stick one over the end of each handle. press firmly into place.

I added some personal touches, the rose is from Mich Turner's Valentine Cake and I personalised it with my sister's initials.


  1. LOVE this!!! I think I'll have to try it!

  2. Thank you Laura, I'm also thinking of trying your almond cookies, they look yum :)

  3. Thanks for this, it always looked so hard to make a handbag, but you make it look so easy!

  4. Easy it really as easy as it looks?
    I really want to attempt one :-)

  5. Well it does take time but well worth it in the end :)

  6. I have a few more questions!
    Can you use a springform tin to bake the cakes?
    When I look at my 8 inch tin it just doesn't look big enough, is it larger when decorated?
    Do you cover the cake with sugarpaste actually on the iced cake board or on a different surface then transfer it? x

    1. Morning,
      What you bake the cake in is your chioce. The finished cake isn't that large as it only serves 8-10 people. I prefer not to cover the cake with buttercream/sugarpaste on the finished cake board but to position it at the last moment (securing it into place with buttercream). However if you do decide to cover the cake with buttercream etc. on the finished board then may I suggest this, make sure the sugarpaste on the cakeboard is completely dry and then strips of baking paper under the cake will protect the cake board from becoming smudged.
      I hope this helps, BTW I used the strips of baking paper trick on the Cinderella doll cake tutorial if you want to have a look.

      Kind regards,

      Lisa Duffy