Halloween Brain Cake

(S) Every year my work hosts a Harvest Table around Halloween when people bring in spooky desserts.  This last year I decided to make a red velvet brain cake.  After reading that red velvet cakes are typically dry, I found a recipe on www.savoryspicerack.com that substituted vegetable oil for butter to keep the cake moist.  Then I mostly followed the Brain Cake instructions on www.howtocakeit.com.  I baked some of the cake in a stainless steel mixing bowl to get the dome shape.  Additionally, I baked two 9" round cakes, one of which was our test cake where we would sample daily to make sure it was still moist until the big reveal day at work.  The cake baked in the mixing bowl had to bake quite a bit longer because of the shape resulting in needing to trim quite a bit of burnt top off but the size and shape was perfect to sculpt into a brain.  I stacked the bowl cake on one of the flat round cakes and got to sculpting using a serrated edge knife.  I found taking pics throughout the sculpting process was helpful because I could see uneven areas that needed more work.  Once I was happy with the shape, I coated the cake with simple syrup and put it in the fridge to cool.  

The next step was to crumb coat using Yo's Famous Italian Meringue buttercream recipe also on www.howtocakeit.com.  We ordered vanilla fondant and Wilton icing colors from Amazon to make the brain tissue.  Mixing the right amount of red and yellow dye to make the flesh toned color took some trial and error.  Travis was better at this so I asked him to take over the placement of the brain swirls.  After he carefully and artistically placed the fondant on the brain, ensuring the left and right hemispheres were identifiable, it went back into the fridge to cool.  We made sure that it was fully wrapped in cellophane to keep the fondant moist.  

For the presentation part, I printed a picture of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter and taped it to cardboard to stand it up.  I bought a bottle of Chianti and lima beans as I couldn't find fava beans in our basic grocery store.  Lima beans are the closest relative.  I created a dinner invitation and signed Dr. Lecter's name.  The cake was placed on a silver platter.  Right before the presentation and serving, I brushed seedless raspberry jam all  over it to mimic fresh blood.  It was a huge hit and happy to say it retained its moisture beautifully.