How To: Hannibal Finale Brain Cake

All good things must come to an end, even shows about dapper cannibalistic serial killers that never got the audience they deserved.  When NBC announced earlier this year that they would not be renewing Hannibal for a 4th season, I held out hope that the cult-favorite might find another home on a streaming service or cable network, but as time has gone on, that's looked less and less likely, and I've had to come to terms with the idea that this season's finale may be the last. 

My friends and I have had Hannibal themed dinner parties before.  For the first one, I made frozen sanguinaccio, a chocolate blood pudding that felt befitting for Hannibal.  Earlier this year, I was delighted when when I went to LACMA for an early screening of the Hannibal episode "The Great Red Dragon" and a Q&A with its creator, Bryan Fuller, and in the episode Hannibal does, in fact, make sanguinaccio.

For this party, though, I decided to make something less likely to actually be found on Hannibal's dinner table (he's usually much more refined than this), but perhaps more likely to be a part of one of the show's famous "Death Tableaus", those wonderfully gory yet somehow artistic stagings for the many murders we see each week.

I admit, I had a lot of fun making this look as gross as I could, but I promise it's all just sugar and food coloring.  Also, there's a lot involved, so I did take a shortcut with the cake part - hey, cake mixes can be plenty tasty, right? (don't tell Hannibal) For a full how-to, and photos of the cake-making stages, see below.

And watch this space for the premiere episode of my friend's new cooking show, "Cosplay Cuisine"!  The first episode is Hannibal themed, featuring Bedelia, Will Graham and Hannibal/Wendigo cosplays!  We're not letting Hannibal go gentle into that good night without a thorough farewell here on Sugared Nerd.

Brain Cake

Red Velvet Cake Mix + whatever is needed according to the package directions.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 - 4.5 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

1 drop red gel food coloring

Marshmallow Fondant

1 10.5 oz. package mini marshmallows

2 tablespoons water

1.5 lbs confectioner's sugar, sifted

1 drop red gel food coloring

Blood Syrup

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

2-4 drops red food coloring


First, bake the cake into two 8 or 9 inch pans according to the package directions.  Allow to cool completely.

To make the frosting:

Beat together the butter and cream cheese until thoroughly mixed.  Mix in the vanilla and salt.  On a low speed, slowly add the powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl until the frosting comes together to your desired consistency.  Add food coloring and mix until frosting is a pale pink.

To make the fondant:

Melt the marshmallows and water in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring in between.  Once thoroughly melted, sift about half the powdered sugar into a bowl, and create a well in the middle of the mound of sugar.  Dump the melted marshmallow in and stir the two together.  Add more sugar and start kneading the marshmallow like bread with your hands (keep shortening or butter on hand to keep your hands well greased).  Continue to add sugar and knead until the fondant reaches a soft taffy-like consistency.

Add a drop of red food coloring and knead until all of the fondant is a pale pink color.

To make the syrup:

Mix together corn syrup, chocolate syrup and red food coloring.

To make the cake:

Stack the cake layers on top of each other with cream cheese frosting, as though you were making a traditional 2 layer cake.  Using a serrated knife, trim away the edges of the layers to make a more spherical cake - you can add a few of the trimmings to the top to make it more round. 

Once you have a shape you're happy with, spread a thin layer of cream cheese frosting all around to create a crumb coat - this is going to be a very ugly looking layer of frosting, full of crumbs, so don't worry about making it pretty.  Put the cake in the fridge for at least half an hour to set.

With the crumb coat set, frost the cake in earnest with pink frosting.  Some of this may be visible through your fondant swirls, so try to make a nice, even layer.  Set in the fridge while you prepare the fondant.

Measure the fondant into .5 ounce (about 1 inch wide) balls.  Roll into approximately 6 inch long "ropes".  Using a line down the center of the cake brain to create a right and left hemisphere, squiggle and swirl (these are technical terms) on the marshmallow ropes until the cake is entirely covered.  Pop into the fridge one more time, just to make sure the fondant swirls are set into the frosting.

Spread on the blood syrup using a pastry brush, and get ready to gross out all your friends.