This Nerds Candy Cake will bring fun and lots of fruit flavor to your next happy celebration. A crunchy candy exterior holds a rainbow of tropical-tasting cake layers inside.
I’ve had the idea for this candy cake for such a long time, I can’t believe it’s finally a reality. Nerds candy is a favorite of mine. And I’ve even been known to add more than a sprinkle to my frozen yogurt. The last couple of days we’ve had snowy weather here. So I used those icy cold days to stay warm near the oven, baking up a rainbow of fruity cake layers.
The best batter for the job.
First, whip up a big batch of my trusty white wedding cake batter (originally posted to this blog 9 years ago!). I just adore this white cake recipe, because you don’t have to whip egg whites to stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Which – if you’re an avid baker you know – is the usual affair for most white cakes (like this one). This pale batter takes on color beautifully, and it has a sturdy crumb without being dry. I’ve scaled the recipe to perfectly fit in five 6-inch round cake pans.
Taste the (neon) rainbow!
I flavored the layers with a dram bottle of LorAnn Tropical Punch flavoring oil. The cake will have fruity flavor to match its candy exterior. And for the eye-popping food colors, I used the brightest I had on hand. Which turned out to be neon pink, neon orange, and neon yellow. Leaf green and regal purple were the only non-neon colors I used.
Next, whip up a big batch of American buttercream flavored with orange extract. Orange works well with the tropical fruit flavor in the layers. And the entire cake will make your kitchen smell like fruit punch! Stack the layers with the frosting in rainbow fashion, starting with purple and working upwards to pink.
A sticky situation.
After the cake is entirely frosted and thoroughly chilled, spray it with a mixture of corn syrup and water. Or you can use cake decorator’s glucose syrup. It’s just a light mist that really holds on to the candy and gives an extra ounce of adherence. Chill the cake for about 10 minutes more to allow the spray to become sticky.
Pour out a boatload of Nerds candy on a large baking sheet. (You can find them in bulk here.) Then roll the cake in the candy. Shake the pan between rolling to fill in the bare spots on the pan, and re-roll repeatedly. Use one hand on the bottom cake board and the other on top of the cake to pick it up and roll. The frosting will melt quickly at body temperature, so expect some smudges on top. But don’t worry – this will be totally covered up with frosting swirls.
Add big swirls of buttercream on top of the cake, then immediately sprinkle with more candy. American buttercream sets quickly, so be swift with your sprinkling.
Make a fun edible cake topper!
I’d always imagined my Nerds Candy Cake wearing a funny, nerdy, propeller beanie. So, the question remained for a long time – what should it be made of? Turns out, chocolate was the answer. Partly. I used my large half sphere mold to form the base of the chocolate beanie. If you have a hot cocoa bomb mold, that will work perfectly.
Heat the pointed end of a metal cocktail pick with a chef’s torch or hold it to the eye of the stove for a few seconds. Then, melt a hole in the top center of the dome with it. Spray the dome with the same solution used to adhere the candy to the cake, then cover the dome in fondant. Make a little hole in the top of the fondant with a toothpick.
A few brushstrokes.
Apply some edible paint (vodka + gel food color) to the dome and dab with a textured paper towel to create a fabric appearance. I applied pink, orange, and yellow in thirds, which made a really cute beanie! The beads on top that hold the propeller are from a beaded toothpick (found here) inserted through the center.
Prop the beanie to the side of the cake on a large skewer, then thread the toothpick through the top hole. There will be just enough room on top of the toothpick to place a propeller. I had made one out of green gum paste, but it did not spin easily. Instead of over-thinking it, I made one with green card stock – and it spins!
What a fun cake this is to make! It’s so colorful and bursting with bright fruity flavor. I think it would make an excellent birthday cake for kids, or you know. For big kids like me (wink).
These are some seriously (bright!) tasty layers, and one slice is a generous serving. We divvied slices up by cutting a single tall piece through the center at the yellow layer. Which, let’s be honest, is a more reasonable portion size. The cake flavors reflect the fruity taste of the candy perfectly.
I’m so happy to see this cake come to life. It’s a bit of an effort, but so fun and special-occasion worthy. I think it would look just about perfect with birthday candles on top.
Nerds Candy Cake
- 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 8 cups confectioners’ sugar 2 lb. bag
- Milk or cream to thin
- 2 tablespoons orange extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the cake pans with flour based baking spray.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Whisk together egg whites and milk in a separate bowl; set aside.
Beat the butter using the paddle attachment until soft and creamy. Add sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Beat in tropical punch flavoring oil.
Add flour mixture alternately with the egg white/milk mixture. Begin and end with flour mixture and beat until smooth on medium-low speed after each addition.
Divide batter between five bowls, about 1 2/3 level cups per bowl. Tint each bowl with the food color so that you have a bowl of bright pink, orange, yellow, green, and purple. Add food color a little at a time until a brilliant color is achieved. Pour the batters into the prepared pans.
Bake the cakes at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack. Level the tops of the cakes using a serrated knife or cake leveler.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat on low speed until just combined. Add a little milk or cream and increase mixer speed. Add milk or cream a tablespoon at a time until it comes to spreading consistency. Beat in orange extract. Whip on high speed until the buttercream is white and fluffy.
Remove 1 1/4 cups of the buttercream to a piping bat fitted with a large closed star tip. Set aside for later use.
Place the purple cake layer on a cake board and top it with 1/3 cup of the buttercream. Continue to stack the cake layers and frosting in this order, purple, green, yellow, orange, pink. Frost the entire cake evenly with the buttercream. Use a bench scraper or cake smoother to achieve an even coat. Refrigerate the cake until the buttercream is firm, about 1 hour.
Place the corn syrup and water in a small kitchen-dedicated spray bottle; shake the bottle well to incorporate. Lightly mist the cake’s sides with the mixture and refrigerate 10 minutes.
Pour the Nerds candy onto a large baking sheet. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and roll the cake’s sides in the candy. Place one hand on the bottom cake board and the other on the top of the frosted cake and quickly roll, picking up the cake this way to re-roll. Shake the pan to redistribute the candy across the pan and roll again. Allow the weight of the cake to naturally pick up the candy. The cake should be mostly covered with the candy when you turn it upright. If you see bare spots, pat Nerds candy onto the areas with your hands.
Use the reserved bag of frosting to pipe tall swirls of buttercream on top of the entire cake; immediately sprinkle with more candy (about 2 tablespoons).
Edible propeller beanie
Using an art brush, coat one of the half sphere cavities with the melted chocolate; freeze for 5 minutes. Re-coat the cavity with more chocolate to make it sturdy; freeze again until solid. Turn the half sphere out onto a work surface. Heat a metal cocktail pick on with a chef’s torch (or on the stove eye) for a few seconds, then use it to melt a hole in the top center of the chocolate dome. Lightly mist the dome with the corn syrup spray; let set 1 minute.
Roll out the kneaded fondant to 1/4-inch thickness and drape over the dome. Smooth evenly to fit around the semicircle, then use a small knife to cut round the bottom edge. Use a toothpick to poke a hole in the top center of the dome where the chocolate was pierced.
Place a little of each pink, orange, and yellow gel food colors in small condiment cups. Add drops of vodka to thin. Using a paint brush, paint 1/3 of the beanie with the pink gel food color (see images for design). Pat with the textured paper towel. Repeat the process using the orange and yellow food colors. Let stand until dry, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut a small 3-inch propeller using scissors from a piece of green craft paper. Punch a hole in the center using a metal cocktail pick or an X-Acto knife.
Press the bamboo skewer slightly off center in the top of the cake with the blunt side exposed. Gently balance the beanie on top of the skewer. Place a beaded toothpick in the top center hole of the beanie, so that the bead sits on top of the hat. Thread the propeller on top and give it a test spin. If the hole isn’t big enough for it to spin, widen it slightly.
Store cake in the refrigerator for longevity. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
One slice of cake is a generous portion. Consider cutting one slice at the center yellow layer to create two pieces of cake from just one slice.