The Boy has a knack for asking for highly complicated birthday cakes with very specific themes. Since I have my hand in too many types of hobbies, I don’t have a lot of time to devote to fondant. Fortunately, there are lots of creative (and easy!) ways to make cool cakes without using fondant.

The request for an aquarium cake really should not have surprised me. The Boy has been obsessed with fish since he first saw them. He still asks nearly every day for a fish tank – and he’s lucky, fish are the only kind of pet we’ll consider having in our house :D

Anyway, back to the cake! Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to worry about making complicated fish and underwater creatures for the aquarium as we have a great food store called Bulk Barn in Canada. They carry 150 millions kinds of candy, baking and cooking supplies, ingredients and accessories. Truly, a kid in a candy store feeling when you walk in there.

Besides the candy, all I needed was icing and a cake. Oh, and cherry pie filling. Because The Boy IS The Man’s son, after all :D

Aquarium Cake

Aquarium Cake

  • Two 9 x 13 inch cakes
  • fish and sea creature shaped candy
  • black licorice
  • chocolate candy rocks
  • frosting (I used swiss meringue because he had asked for a Black Forest Cake – regular buttercream would probably have worked better!)
  • graham cracker crumbs
  • piping gel (I made my own – it didn’t work very well, but it got the job done)
  • blue, green and any other food colouring you want to use

I started out by making a double batch of our favourite chocolate cake in two 9 x 13 casserole dishes. It was a LOT of cake. But I wanted a cake with high sides so I could make the sides of the aquarium work. We ate cake for a week. Every day. Iy.

Black Forest Cake layers

Next, I piped a dam of swiss meringue buttercream around the outside edge to keep the cherry pie filling from running out. Filled the center, then stacked the cakes. So far so good!

chocolate layers

Crumb coat the cake, then outline the aquarium with black licorice (cut to fit). Let the crumb coat set in the fridge or a cold place for 15-30 minutes.

Aquarium Cake crumb coated and outlined

While I waited, I made some piping gel to make the icing look like water. Only, I think I rushed the process. It stayed very goopy and watery instead of firming up as it was supposed to. So it absolutely did not work as water on the sides (enter blue food colouring in my buttercream!), but it worked fine for the top. You can also buy piping gel from Michael’s if you don’t want to make your own.

Aquarium Cake piping gel "water"

Spread the piping gel over the top of the crumb coat. It’s supposed to be messy and look mottled with the white, that’s what gives it more of the “water” look. Spread icing, frosting, piping gel, whatever you’re using, on the sides of the aquarium.

Now for the fun part! Start adding your sea creatures and accent details. I started with the rocks on the bottom and sides, and went wild from there!

Aquarium Cake side view

The graham cracker crumbs are the sand, and my boys informed me that I must use apricots for some kind of underwater sea creature.

Aquarium Cake

You could use green fruit roll-ups for seaweed if you don’t want to pipe icing, but I chose to just wing it with what icing I had left, dyed green.

Aquarium Cake

The Boy was downright thrilled and amazed at the end result. Unfortunately, he caught a bit of a bug and wasn’t able to enjoy any of his cake that night. It was still a great celebration of our boy!

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