This skyscraper cake features your favorite city skyline on a classic chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The edible skyscrapers are made of candy shards and sprinkles for a stunning, yet simple decoration.
Do you have a favorite birthday memory from childhood? When I reminisce about my birthdays growing up, I always think of the sleepover parties I had in elementary school. My parents and I would spend weeks planning the party, and it was always so exciting when the day finally arrived!
I loved every moment of those overnights with my closest girlfriends – playing games, crafting, and dancing to our favorite music. My family didn’t have a basement or anything, so we would cover literally every inch of floorspace in my bedroom (including the walk-in closet) with sleeping bags. Then, us girls would cram in and talk late into the night about… well, whatever you talk about at the age of ten!
Some of my very best childhood memories were created at those birthday parties. So, when a friend asked if I would bake a cake for her son’s fifth birthday party, it felt like quite the privilege. I was excited to be part of what I know can be such a magical event in a child’s life!
I’ve known this little boy since he was just a few months old and I am amazed at what an incredibly intelligent and curious boy he is becoming. One of his greatest passions is architecture, especially when it comes to skyscrapers and city skylines, so he was determined to have a skyscraper cake for his party. And this kid knows his stuff when it comes to skyscrapers, so the pressure was on!
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Now, early on in my cake baking and decorating journey, I decided not to work with fondant. It’s mostly a stylistic preference, but I also just prefer to focus more on combining new flavors and developing recipes, rather than doing fondant work. Since fondant is typically used to create decorations in themed cakes, I’m always hesitant about making anything themed. However, I’ve decorated a couple cakes with chocolate shards before, which gave me the idea of creating skyscrapers out of chocolate or candy melts.
Being in Chicago, I loosely based the shape of my skyscraper shards on the buildings in Chicago’s Loop (I would love to see some skyscraper cakes inspired by cities all over the world!!!). Personally, some of my favorite experiences of Chicago are driving down Lake Shore Drive at night or flying into the city once it’s dark. I love seeing the city all lit up! So, I decided to use these Wilton black candy melts to evoke the feeling of a nighttime skyline. Whatever your inspiration is, feel free to use a different color of candy melts, or you can use chocolate if you prefer that for the taste!
And speaking of chocolate, don’t forget that there’s actually a cake in there! For this skyscraper cake, I made a one-bowl chocolate cake with a classic chocolate frosting, per the birthday boy’s request. You’ll find the recipe for the chocolate cake below, but you should feel totally free to swap it for any other flavor!
The moral of the story is that this skyscraper cake is incredibly customizable. From the colors, to the flavors, to the shapes of the shards, there’s so many possibilities for creativity and I can’t wait to see what you come up with. If you do make this cake, share it with me on Instagram by tagging @flourcoveredapron!
Candy Shards Skyscraper Cake
One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk*
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup very hot water
Candy Melt Skyscrapers
- 3 twelve oz bags candy melts**
- sprinkles, for decorating
Classic Chocolate Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare three 8 inch cake pans by lining the bottom of each with parchment paper. Then, grease and flour the pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, both sugars, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix to incorporate. Add hot water and stir until just combined.
Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Tap each pan gently on the counter to remove excess air bubbles, and bake at 350 degrees for 30-34 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of each cake should come out with a few moist crumbs attached.
Remove cakes from oven and let cool in pans for about 15 minutes. Then, turn out each cake on to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.
Candy Shard Skyscrapers
While cake is cooling, make the skyscrapers. Starting with one bag, melt the candy melts according to the instructions on the package.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pour the melted candy melts on top of the parchment paper and use an offset spatula to spread into a large rectangle. Don't spread it too thin, aim for about an 1/8th inch thick or so. The height of the rectangle should be slightly taller than how tall you want your skyscrapers to be.
Top with sprinkles and let set at room temperature until slightly hardened, but still pliable (candy should no longer be sticky to the touch, but should still have a slight bend to it so it doesn't crack when being cut).
Using a large, sharp knife, cut the rectangle into skyscraper shapes, using inspiration from your favorite city. Straight lines and long edges make easy work, but feel free to get creative!
Carefully transfer cut skyscrapers to another parchment paper lined baking sheet and chill in the fridge until hardened completely.
Repeat with remaining candy melts until you have enough skyscrapers to surround your entire cake (I used about 2 1/2 bags of candy melts for skyscrapers about 2x as tall as my cake).
Classic Chocolate Frosting
Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
Gradually add powdered sugar (about 1 cup at a time), then cocoa powder, mixing on low speed until incorporated after each addition.
Add salt and vanilla and mix to combine. Add milk, then continue to beat until completely incorporated and frosting is light and fluffy.
If necessary, adjust consistency as desired by adding more powdered sugar for a thicker frosting, or more milk to make it thinner.
Assembling the Cake
Level each cake layer by slicing off the rounded domes with a sharp serrated knife or a cake leveler.
Place the first layer on top of a cake board, using a small amount of buttercream to secure it.
Top with about 1 cup of frosting and smooth into an even layer using an offset spatula. Top with second layer and repeat. Place final layer on top of the cake, cut side down.
Frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting and chill the cake for about 20 minutes.
Finish frosting the cake, reserving about 1/2 cup of frosting to secure the skyscrapers.
Remove skyscrapers from fridge and spread a little buttercream on the back (up to the height of the cake). Place skyscrapers on the sides of the cake and press gently to secure.
Keep cake chilled to prevent skyscrapers from melting.
* Make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to a scant 1 1/4 cup of whole milk.
**I used black candy melts, but you could use whichever color you prefer. If you'd like, you could also try this with melted and tempered chocolate!