When I saw Martha Stewart’s Fish Cake on Pinterest, I just had to do it for myself. This is a fun, whimsical cake any beginner baker can pull off…swimmingly.
To start the new year off right, I decided to try my hand at this adorable little fish cake. I don’t typically make resolutions but if I did, my resolution would be to spend more time doing the things I enjoy most – like baking ridiculously shaped animal cakes.
Martha Stewart has a full tutorial and templates for making the Fish Cake on her website. I made a few basic changes, including subbing a chocolate cake with chocolate chips. Because you can never pack too much chocolate into a cake.
For Christmas, I received a Made in USA 13 x 9 pan from my Mom. It worked beautifully for baking the two (2) sheet cakes necessary to put this cutie pie together.
Martha Stewart’s Fish Cake
Part 1: Chocolate Cake Recipe
Prep Time: 20-25 minutes | Bake Time: 20-25 minutes | Oven Temp: 350 F
Makes 1, 9 x 13 cake | Modified from Love from the Oven’s Recipe
2 cups Sugar
1 3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder (I used Ghirardelli)
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup Boiling Water
1/4 cup Espresso or Strong Coffee (or add instant espresso to 1 cup boiling water)
1 cup Chocolate Chips (Optional)
NOTE: The recipe above makes ONE sheet cake. You will need to make TWO sheet cakes to create the fish. You can try doubling this recipe for two pans but I have not tested it.
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease your pan and line bottom with parchment paper to prevent sticking. If you don’t have parchment, flour the pans too [and pray to the non-sticking gods].
Mix together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and mix on medium speed for two (2) minutes. Scrape mixing bowl to ensure ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Stir in boiling water and coffee to the batter. The batter will be thin and watery but don’t worry! Pour the batter into your pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Test with a toothpick. When toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready. Remove cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pans onto a wire rack. Let cool completely. If not ready to frost yet, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.
Part 2: Prepare the Frosting
I recommend Swiss Meringue Buttercream (here’s a good recipe from SmittenKitchen) frosting but just about any frosting will do for this cake. Prepare PLENTY, around 8 cups. If using Smitten’s recipe, I would do a double batch of the 9-inch cake. You don’t want to ration your frosting…it’s no fun.
Reserve 1 cup of un-dyed, white frosting to color the fish eyes.
Tint the rest of your frosting a light teal color. I tinted my frosting with Wilton’s Cornflower Blue and Yellow. You can also use teal or other blue and yellow colors to achieve the teal effect. Or try different colors if you’d like to be adventurous!
Part 3: Prepare the Template
While your cakes are cooling, prepare your fishy templates. Print out the template from Martha Stewart’s website. With scissors or a sharp razor, cut the templates out.
One thing I’ve found alleviates frustration in the kitchen is having the right tools for the job. My husband’s razor blade and my cutting mat (found in a sewing supply store) made this job so easy. I also used the razor to cut parchment paper for my pan.
Next, lay the fish templates over your sheet cakes and use a knife to trim to size.
Your trim job doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ll be icing this sucker up in a moment and that will cover up any minor defects. You’ll also have a bunch of little fish parts ready to be tacked on to the cake with your icing.
Part 4: Ice the Cakes
Start with a crumb coat to trap pesky moist chocolate crumbs. If your cake has been in the fridge/freezer, let it come back up to room temperature before you start icing.
Do your crumb coat with a small amount of frosting (perhaps 1 cup). If your frosting is thick, you can thin some of it a little with milk or cream. Attach the fish parts to the body with frosting. The purpose of this coat is to just catch and hold on to all those crumbs. Use the white icing to coat the fish eyes.
After you finish your crumb coat, stick your cake back in the fridge to harden the frosting. Wait 30 minutes and then feel the frosting to see if it has dried out / crusted. If it hasn’t, wait a bit longer.
Pull your cake out and let it warm up a little before applying the next coat. Apply a full coat of frosting to completely cover the cake. Coat the eyes in white frosting. You can also even out the shape of the fish body while you’re doing this.
Add the texturing to the fish fins with a spatula. (Martha Stewart shows how to do this with a spatula.)
Take the rest of your teal icing and add a bunch of blue/a little yellow to darken it to a deeper teal blue.
Grab a pastry bag and a Wilton or Ateco petal tip (#61 or similar). Fill the bag with the darkened icing. Pipe little overlapping scales starting at the tail end of your fish and piping vertically until the body of the fish is covered.
Add the pupils and lips to the fish using candy. I used Valhrona Chocolate Pearls and some red tic-tacs. Martha Stewart uses sunflower seeds and a gummy lifesaver.
And there you have it. A finished fishy!
Update: wanted to post a photo of the half-eaten cake. Too ridiculous?