From the Vault: Hamburger Cake


This is the first true trompe l’oeil cake that I attempted and it was in honour of my sister Claire’s 21st birthday a few years back. Even though I know I’ve come a long way in terms of technique since then, I’m still really proud of this cake – it looked awesome at her party and she loved it – which is the most important thing. I also made some sugar cookie ‘fries’ and raspberry coulis ‘ketchup’ to go with it – because who wants to eat hamburgers without fries?


The burger bun was a plain white cake, iced with a beige tinted buttercream frosting and with white fondant ‘sesame seeds’ scattered over. The burger patty was a giant chocolate crackle, to which I added just the tiniest little bit of red food colouring to make it look a bit more realistic. The lettuce, cheese and tomato were fondant, coloured and rolled out, and cut into shapes.

In all honesty, it was two years ago, so I can’t remember precisely what recipes I used – but below are the recipes I would use if I had to do another one tomorrow. Detailed instructions below.

Hamburger Cake

For the ‘bun’

  • 215g butter at room temperature
  • 450g sugar
  • 375g self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 250ml buttermilk

Preheat oven to 175 degrees celcius. Grease & line two 22cm cake tins.

Cream butter and sugar together for 5 minutes until very fluffy.

Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition.

Add in the flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Pour batter into prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cool cakes on racks. Once cool, use a long serrated knife to ‘level’ one of the cakes (cut the domed top off so it’s flat). Set aside until you are ready to assemble your cake.

Buttercream icing

  • 150g butter at room temperature
  • 300g icing sugar
  • A little milk
  • Brown food colouring

Beat butter until fluffy, then gradually add the icing sugar until smooth.

Add food colouring a little at a time until you are happy with the colour, and beat until thoroughly mixed through.

Add the milk a teaspoon at a time until the icing is at a smooth consistency. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Burger patty

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 cups rice bubbles
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 250g copha, chopped
  • Few drops red food colouring

Line a 22cm cake tin with nonstick baking paper – use a large piece of baking paper and just press down into the tin – it doesn’t need to be flush with the edges as the ‘patty’ will take on a more realistic shape if it has rounder corners.

In a large bowl, sift together the icing sugar and cocoa. Mix in the rice bubbles and dessicated coconut, stirring well to ensure it is thoroughly combined.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the copha.

Add the copha and the red food colouring to the rice bubble mixture and stir very well to ensure it is thoroughly combined.

Press this mixture into the prepared cake tin and leave to set in the fridge until firm and you are ready to assemble the cake.

Fondant lettuce, tomato & cheese

  • 115g marshmallows
  • 230g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Red, green and yellow food colouring

Place the marshmallows and water in a large bowl and microwave for 1 minute.

Stir until smooth, microwaving again if big unmelted lumps remain.

Add in the sugar and stir until the mixture is too stiff to stir.

Turn everything out onto a counter lightly dusted with powdered sugar and knead until smooth. The mixture will be very sticky – dust your hands with powdered sugar if necessary.

Once the mixture is totally smooth, pinch off a small amount of fondant (about the size of a golf ball or a bit smaller). Roll small amounts of the white fondant between your fingers until they look like tic-tacs. These will be your sesame seeds to decorate the top of the bun. Set them aside.

Divide the remainder of the fondant into three parts. Flatten each part into a disc.

Take one disc, drop a few drops of food colouring in the middle of the disc, fold the edges into the middle and knead until the colour is evenly distributed.

Repeat for the other two parts until you have three lots of coloured fondant. If the fondant becomes too stiff to knead, zap it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to make it pliable again.

Roll out the fondant on a surface dusted with icing sugar and use a small sharp knife to cut out lettuce, cheese & tomato shapes. For a frilled edge on the lettuce, pinch the border between your thumb and finger.

Set your fondant shapes aside until you are ready to assemble your cake.


Place levelled cake layer bottom side up on a plate. Cover the top and sides with a half the buttercream icing.

Place the lettuce shapes on top of the cake, around the perimeter (e.g. don’t put them in the middle as you won’t see them when the cake is assembled).

Put the burger patty on top of the lettuce, then add cheese and tomato shapes on top of the patty.

Place the un-levelled cake layer, domed side up, on top of the cheese and tomato shapes, cover the exposed cake with remaining buttercream icing and decorate with fondant sesame seeds.

Serve with sugar cookie fries and raspberry ketchup (recipe below)

Sugar Cookie Fries

  • 320g butter at room temperature
  • 450g white sugar ,plus a tablespoon extra for scattering over finished fries
  • 4 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 625g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating & scraping down bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla together with the final egg.

Add in the flour, baking powder and salt, a little at a time until totally combined.

Wrap dough in gladwrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Roll out dough to about 1cm thick and cut into chip shapes. I found the easiest way to do this was to roll the dough into a rectangle roughly the size of an A4 sheet of paper, cut a line down the length of it, and then cut across that line at an angle, so you end up with a few different lengths – like this:


It’s ok if the slices are a little irregular as it will make them look more realistic. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with white sugar (so they look salted).

Place cookies a few centimetres apart on a baking tray and bake for 6-8 minutes until slightly browned.

Cool on a rack and set aside until ready to serve.

Raspberry ‘Ketchup’

300g frozen raspberries, thawed in sieve over bowl (so liquid is retained)

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

Dissolve the sugar in the liquid from the thawed raspberries and add lemon juice. Puree liquid and raspberries in blender or food processor until totally smooth, then strain through mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Serve with sugar cookie ‘fries’.


One thought on “From the Vault: Hamburger Cake

  1. It was an awesome cake! Everybody did a double take when they saw it and the “fries” were also a HUGE hit. Added a lot of fun to the party!

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