How to Make a Sandcastle Cake {Tutorial}

How to make a sandcastle cake--super detailed (and non-technical) tutorial for making a darling sandcastle cake.  Perfect for a beach or mermaid themed party, or even a casual beach wedding!

Oh, the cake!

I knew as soon as we decided on a mermaid theme for Trouble’s 4th birthday that a sand castle cake would be perfect.  I had seen a few really photos on Pinterest, I just couldn’t find any detailed instructions.  Since paying hundreds of dollars for a professionally decorated cake was out of the question, I decided to go with plan B: wing it!

I kinda prefer plan B anyways. ;-)

Let me just start by saying that I am not a professional baker, or even anything close to it, but what I lack in technical skill I make up for with sheer determination.  I’m not going to lie, this cake took forever and a day to make.  It was truly a labor of love. But, when all is said and done I was so happy I put in the time because it truly was the focal point of the entire party.  Luckily I already had most of the cake ingredients already on hand in my stockpile.

Now, a word about cakes.  I am not a professional baker, but I do love to bake.  After trying lots of from-scratch cake recipes, I decided that boxed cake mixes are much easier, the texture is often better, and they taste just as good.  However, the frosting makes HUGE difference!  I almost always make this homemade cream cheese buttercream frosting for my cakes.  It is super easy and SO much better than the store-bought stuff!

How to Make a Sandcastle CakeHere is what you need:

4 boxes of cake mix
vegetable oil
eggs
graham crackers
coconut
white or brown sugar
4 sugar cones
5 coconut marshmallows (optional)
1 large batch cream cheese buttercream frosting
candy melts
seashell candy mold & starfish candy mold
9″ square cake pan
2-8″ round cake pans
1-6″ round cake pan
metal cocktail shaker
paper flags
wooden skewers
toothpicks

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Step 1: Make the white chocolate seashells & starfish.  This is a very easy process!  Simply melt the candy melts in the microwave per the bag instructions, then place melted chocolate into a decorating bag, cut off a small hole at the tip, and pipe into the molds.  Place in refrigerator to harden for 15-20 minutes, then pop out of the mold.  I found that one bag of melts was enough to exactly fill my starfish mold and seashell mold 1 time each.

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Step 2: Toast coconut for the sand mixture.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then lay out several cups of coconut on a baking sheet.  Toast in oven for 10-12 minutes until coconut is completely golden brown, stirring several times throughout the process to ensure it is toasted evenly.

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Step 3:  Make “sand” mixture.  Place 2-3 packages graham crackers, toasted coconut, and several cups of white or brown sugar (I used white to get a lighter sand) into a 12 cup food processor and process until mixture resembles a fine sand.

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Step 4:  Begin making cakes according to the box directions.  This process will take a while since you will have to re-use the same pans multiple times.  Be sure to grease and flour your pans VERY well each time, especially the cocktail shaker.

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Here is the breakdown of how I baked them:
Box 1 (strawberry): square pan, 6″ round pan, cocktail shaker; reserved small amount in bowl. (See photo below)
Box 2 (strawberry): same as Box 1
Box 3 (coconut): 2 8″ round pans, cocktail shaker filled with excess strawberry from boxes 1 & 2
Box 4 (coconut): square pan, 6″ round pan, cocktail shaker 
 
How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Tip: Before baking, tap each cake pan firmly on counter several times to release any air bubbles.  This will improve your cake’s texture and help it to bake flatter!

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Step 5: Let all your cake layers cool completely; refrigerate if desired to make them firmer and easier to work with.

castle25

Step 6: Make your “turrets” and “battlements” out of sugar cones and marshmallows.  First, cut the tip of the cone with a sharp knife enough so that the flags will fit in the hole.  Next, smooth frosting over the cone and roll in “sand” mixture until it is completely covered.  Repeat process with marshmallows.  Set aside or refrigerate until needed.

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Step 7:  It is almost time to start assembling your cake, but first you need a base!  Cut out a piece of cardboard in a rounded wavy rectangle as shown.

How to Make a Sandcastle Cake

Step 8: Make your “towers.” Cut the bottom of your cooled and chilled cocktail shaker cakes so that the stand up straight.  Roll in sand mixture, much like you did with the sugar cones and marshmallows.  I found this was easiest to do by sticking a few skewers through the tower so I had something to hold on to.  Be sure to get the top as well!

How to Make a Sand Castle Cake

Step 9:  It is finally assembly time!  If all went according to plan, you should have 3 square layers for your base.  Level the layers with a cake leveler if necessary, then place the first layer on your cardboard base, add a thick layer of frosting, the add the second layer, followed by more frosting and the third layer.  Frost most of the top and the sides, then carefully add “sand” so that it sticks to the frosting.  The goal is to get the whole cake covered with sand.

How to Make a Sand Castle Cake

Step 10:  Level the two 8″ round cakes if necessary.  Lay the first cake flat side down on top of square cakes.  Spread a thick layer of frosting, then add the second 8″ cake flat side up.  Spread sides and top edges with frosting, then once again cover the frosting with sand mixture.

how to make a sandcastle cake

Step 11: Repeat this process with the three 6″ round layers.  For that section, I found it easiest to assemble the three layers on the counter, then frost and roll the sides in sand like with the tower pieces.  Once the top 6″ round layer is in place, push some skewers through the top of cake through all layers to add extra stability, then frost and sand the top of the cake.

how to make a sandcastle cake

Step 12:  Once the entire cake has been frosted and sanded it is time to add the towers to the four corners.  Use the cocktail shaker to cut out each cake corner, then spread frosting over exposed cake pieces and press tower into place.  Add a dollop of frosting to the top of the tower to secure turret in place, and push straw flag through the cone into cake so it stays in place.  Cover any cracks or exposed frosting with sand.

how to make a sandcastle cake

Step 13:  Add the battlements to the top of the cake by placing a toothpick in each one and pressing into place.

how to make a sandcastle cake

Step 14:  Add the finishing touches to your cake!  Use the seashells and starfish to embellish the top and sides, then, when the cake is in place on the table, use remaining sand to cover the cardboard and make the cake look like it is sitting in a patch of sand.  Your guests–and your guest of honor–will be blown away!

How to make a sandcastle cake--super detailed (and non-technical) tutorial for making a darling sandcastle cake.  Perfect for a beach or mermaid themed party, or even a casual beach wedding!

how to make a sandcastle cake

Beachy Mermaid Party--darling beach and mermaid themed birthday party (on a budget!)  So many cute ideas for throwing a high-style party for not a lot of money.

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Do you bake your own birthday cakes?  What’s the most creative cake you’ve made (or ordered)?

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{ 28 comments… add one }

  • Charlotte June 12,

    Wow. I love your sandcastle cake! The sand mixture is such a great idea. My daughter had a Hawaiian themed party and I used brown sugar to give the appearance of sand on part of her cake but you certainly couldn’t cover a cake in it. I almost always make my kid’s cakes. I’ve made Hobbit holes and turtle cakes. I think the most creative and my favorite was the pirate ship cake I make for my youngest son. You can see it here: http://www.waltzingm.com/2008/05/pirates-birthday.html

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup June 17,

      So cute! Thanks for sharing Charlotte!

      Reply
  • Nicole June 12,

    What would you suggest in place of coconut. Coconut won’t work for our family :(

    Reply
    • Sandra June 14,

      Just use vanilla sandwich cookies and try to crush so fine that you can’t see the white filling anymore. :)

      Reply
    • Ruth Soukup June 14,

      I would just blend the graham crackers and white or brown sugar in the food processor and skip the coconut completely. It just won’t be quite as “speckled” looking but it will still look just like sand! :-)

      Reply
  • Peter @ Caravan Parks In Wales June 13,

    Lovely structure and after it was finished didn’t you want it to be a real cake. Would have tempted though

    Reply
  • Jennifer Dawn June 13,

    What a fun idea! It would be a pleasure to have you join my weekly link party and share this. http://thelifeofjenniferdawn.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-little-bird-told-me-link-party-46.html

    Reply
  • Kathryn June 13,

    Such a cute cake!! Fun idea! I love your tablescape too! I’m sure she had a blast!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup June 14,

      Thanks Kathryn! It was definitely a very fun party! :-)

      Reply
  • lisa June 13,

    Wow! This is adorable! Such a cute idea and it turned out to look so professionally done!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup June 17,

      Thank you Lisa!

      Reply
  • Angela @ CreativeBlossoming.com June 13,

    Wow, impressive! Your cake is beautiful and looks quite realistic. And I agree with making your own icing. I like to bake too but sometimes I use box mix… but NEVER store bought icing again!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup June 14,

      Yes, the icing is KEY! :-)

      Reply
  • bri June 16,

    is there another option besides coconut? I am allergic but love this idea…..

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup June 17,

      I would just omit the coconut and make the sand mixture using sugar and graham crackers. It will look almost the same, it just won’t have the darker flecks. You can use any flavor of cake mix!

      Reply
  • Jess @HungryHarps June 19,

    I can not believe how much that looks like an actual sand castle!! Although my hubby may shake his head at me adding another dish to our 4th of July party – I am thinking this one needs to be included!! :) Pinning right now. Can’t wait to try it – it sounds just as good as it looks. It would be great if you could link this recipe up at Tasty Tuesdays this week. :) http://www.hungryharps.com/2013/06/tasty-tuesdays-15-9-recipes-youll-love.html

    Reply
  • Vicki July 14,

    This is one of the best beach themed cakes I’ve ever seen! Amazing!

    Reply
  • Carrie @ My Favorite Finds July 16,

    So cute! I love this for a beach, luau, or mermaid party! I am adding it to a round up of beach themed crafts and ideas on my site next week. It also made it into my Looksi Curated Collection for Looksi on Friday, July 19th.

    Reply
  • Sharon July 28,

    I took classes in cake decorating, this is a great looking cake. One thing they taught us is never use oil on your pans, use Crisco, the will come loose better and you can buy if you want insulators to go around the pans so the cake rises more even. This is a great cake for a beach themed party, get out the little umbrellas and enjoy :)

    Reply
  • Cindy deRosier July 31,

    I’m the Editorial Assistant for Fun Family Crafts and I wanted to let you know that we have featured your awesome cake! You can see it here:

    http://funfamilycrafts.com/sand-castle-cake/

    If you would like to display a featured button on your site, you can grab one from the right side bar of your post above. Thanks for a wonderful project idea!

    Reply
  • Selena Briles August 1,

    This is so pretty! All hard work and the long process will be paid off after seeing this beautiful cake. I haven’t seen any kind of cake near to this idea, thanks for sharing this with us! And kudos for this brilliant cake.

    Reply
  • Sarah August 16,

    Thank you for your awesome mermaid party ideas! My six year old picked your cake as her favorite one on Pinterest, and we set out to recreate it! What a huge hit! We also used your free printable invitation. Thanks for helping us out with your terrific ideas.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup August 17,

      I’d love to see pictures Sarah! You’re very welcome! :-)

      Reply
  • Sue Johnson February 9,

    Hi Ruth, I love this cake but need to make on for 40-50 people any recommendations on pan sizes to do this and how many cake mixes? You are brilliant!

    Reply
    • Anonymous February 12,

      Hi Sue
      You should be able to follow the recipe as is for your for your large party. We had a party of 50 guests and had left-overs.
      I hope your guests enjoy!

      Reply
  • The Well Tended Nest April 24,

    How cleaver! I’d love to see the decorations that went along with the cake. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Pam July 3,

    I love it, I will actually use your tips to make the Dune cake for this weekend friends party..

    Reply
  • Samantha August 18,

    I want to attempt this for my daughter’s 1st birthday but I’m terrified. How long did you bake the various sized pans? Each would be different times, no? I suppose I’m asking mostly for the shaker and 6″. Also, how many packages of coconut vs. how many cups of sugar for 2-3 packages of grahams? I can imagine running out of “sand” and by then being totally DONE. Any specifics would be SO helpful!

    Reply

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