Here's How to Make Those Exploding Cakes You See All Over Instagram
James Ransom/Artist Rep Inc.
Opposites attract. Take Aerin Lauder and Amirah Kassem. One is an uptown lifestyle guru—granddaughter of the legendary Estée Lauder—elegant and laid-back in her suede Manolo Blahnik mules and navy Tibi blouse. The other is a downtown baking rebel, sugared up and bouncy in her colorful Vans and heart-patched apron, heir apparent to Willy Wonka.
Lauder is a frequent customer at Flour Shop, the rainbow-bright bakery in New York’s SoHo and home to Kassem’s Instagram-famous explosion cakes. When you slice into one of her frosted six-layer confections, which come in mini, midi, and maxi “fashion sizes,” out tumble sprinkles, nonpareils, and candy-covered chocolates. Lauder, founder and creative director of her namesake luxury beauty and lifestyle brand, Aerin, is known for her gracious entertaining style and has been turning to the increasingly in-demand cake whiz for custom creations you can’t find anywhere else. “If you go to someone’s house and there’s no dessert, that’s not fun,” Lauder says. “Fruit for dessert? Not fun. Cake is better. And everything Amirah does is surprising, whimsical, and delicious.”
VIDEO: Watch Amirah Kassem Teach Aerin Lauder How To Make Her Famous Explosion Cake
This morning the two are together for an explosion cake-decorating lesson. Of course, Kassem is adding a custom twist to pay homage to Lauder’s world. The creation, inside and out, matches a blue, green, and white plate from Lauder’s latest Williams Sonoma collection and has coconut-cake layers and vanilla-flavored frosting that reference notes from Lauder’s newest fragrance, a lush tropical blend called Hibiscus Palm.
Once the layers of cake are stacked high and candies are poured into the hollowed-out center, Kassem and Lauder begin decorating. Kassem hands over a pastry bag filled with blue frosting, and Lauder looks amused. “I’m not going to lie—I’m not the best at this,” she admits while aiming the bag’s tip at the top of Kassem’s confection.
After Kassem assures Lauder that her hand piping makes the grade, the duo talk about their most memorable childhood cakes. For Kassem, it was a “literally life-size” Little Mermaid birthday cake. For Lauder, it was a Barbie cake, the kind in which an actual doll is suspended in a frosted-cake skirt. This gives Kassem an idea: “When is your birthday?” she asks Lauder with a smile. “I am definitely making you a Barbie cake!”
Photographer: James Ransom. Hair and makeup: Alexa Rodulfo.
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James Ransom/Artist Rep Inc.
How to Assemble Amirah Kassem's Explosion Cake
2 boxes white cake mix (anything but angel food cake)
food coloring in various shades of your choice
3 8-inch cake pans, greased
1 4-inch round cutter
2 1-lb. tubs cream-cheese frosting
1 piping bag
4 cups small candy-coated chocolates (Kassem likes Sixlets), sprinkles, and nonpareils, mixed (plus extra nonpareils for decorating the outside of the cake)
Decorative icing pens or pouches in colors of your choice
How to Make It
1. Prepare the cake mix as directed and divide the batter equally among six bowls.
2. Mix the food-coloring shades of your choice in each bowl.
3. Bake all six colors individually in greased cake pans (to save time, bake in batches and refrigerate extra batter while the first batch cooks).
4. Once all six layers have cooled, cut a circle from the center of five of the layers with the round cutter, leaving the top layer intact.
5. Pipe a circle of frosting on a cake stand, and set the first layer on top of it to hold the cake in place.
6. Pipe a thick circle of frosting over the first layer, smooth it with an offset spatula or knife, and place the second layer on top.
7. Repeat with the remaining center layers.
8. Fill the cake cavity with the sprinkle-candy mixture all the way to the top, flush with the fifth layer.
9. Pipe a circle of frosting on the fifth layer, smooth it with an offset spatula or knife, and place the sixth layer on top.
10. Frost the outside of the cake, and move it along with the cake stand onto the center of a baking pan.
11. Cover the sides and top of the cake from the bottom up with handfuls of nonpareils (the pan will catch the excess).
12. Using icing pens or pouches, draw on the designs of your choice.
13. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
14. Serve by cutting a large slice and slowly removing it with a cake server; allow the candy mixture to spill out, and invite guests to take pictures.
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