An ice chest cake, meaning a cake shaped like an ice cooler, is perfect for a man’s birthday party, a bachelor party or even for a his-and-hers wedding cake. While difficult to assemble and complicated to organize, an ice chest cake is highly memorable, making it an item for a special occasion. In addition to making the chest out of cake, decide on how you want to decorate the inside of the chest. You can make your own “ice” using sugar, and fill the chest with various created items, ranging from beers to fish.
Making the Base
Before you make your cake, create a written plan, with full measurements, about your cake’s size and overall shape. While you can use 1 or 2 rectangular sheet cakes for the bottom of your chest, to make the sides, you will need to cut sheet cakes into 2- to 3-inch-wide strips, stacking them to create the sides of the chest. Use a strong, rectangular cake tray that is slightly larger than the intended size of your chest cake. This will provide a solid foundation for your cake, and should be sturdy enough to hold the full cake, including all decorative items.
Assembling the Base
Once your plan has been made, bake your cakes according to your recipe. It is important to allow the cakes to cool fully before assembling the cake, to minimize mistakes. To create the sides of the cake, cut the required number of strips, keeping the lines straight by using a ruler. Cover the top of the bottom cakes, the ones that make the bottom of the chest, with a 1/2-inch-thick layer of buttercream icing. Carefully attach your strips of cake for the sides of the chest, holding the strips together with buttercream.
Decorating the Chest
The most basic ice chest cake can be frosted with only white icing, but dress the exterior up a bit with colored buttercream; red and blue are commonly used. If using colored icing, ice the top 2 inches of all sides in white, for a classic ice chest look. For a fancier appearance, make rolled colored fondant using powdered sugar, water and gelatin to create a smoother texture. Ice the exterior before putting on the fondant, as the icing helps hold it all together. Roll fondant into strips to make handles on the sides of the chest.
Filling the Chest
You can sell the idea of your ice chest cake by filling it with likely items, such as ice, beer cans or a plastic fish. Make edible ice by melting sugar or isomalt, a sugar alcohol, with water until it reaches the hard crack stage, 300 degrees Fahrenheit for sugar and 338 F for isomalt. If using sugar, be sure it does not caramelize, as you will end up with brown ice. Pour the syrup into candy molds — do not use an ice cube tray — and let them cool fully before removing. You can make your own beer cans using beer can molds, purchased at craft supply stores, and edible spray-on sugar. An easier option though is to use washed empty beer cans.
References and ResourcesUniversity of Illinois: 4H Cake Decorating
The Joy of Baking; Barbara Grunes
Food Network: Rolled Fondant
Exploratorium: The Cold Water Candy Test
Artisan Cake Company: How to Make Shiny Edible Gems