Love and Olive Oil

TARDIS Birthday Cake

Doctor Who TARDIS Birthday Cake

I only bake one cake a year… and that’s for Lindsay’s birthday. She knows that I don’t have much experience with baking in general, and even less skill when it comes to decorating cakes, so she insists that I don’t need to do anything complicated.

The thing is, Lindsay made me the most amazing slot machine cake this year for my birthday. The level of planning, preparation, and skill involved to pull that off is truly impressive. While I couldn’t compete with that (it’s not a competition anyway), I still wanted to make her something special.

For those who don’t know, Lindsay is a huge Doctor Who fan, and the most obvious choice for her cake this year was to make a TARDIS. If you aren’t familiar with the show, a TARDIS is basically a time traveling spaceship disguised as a police call box.

(Lindsay: Spoilers! Unlike the real deal, this cake was NOT bigger on the inside. Can we please figure out a way to apply that technology to cakes? Oh, and refrigerators too. Please and thank you.)

Doctor Who TARDIS Birthday Cake

Before you think I pulled this off on my own, think again. Lindsay’s mom and sister flew in from California to surprise Lindsay for her birthday. Lindsay’s mom, Margie, and I spent upwards of 12 hours building and decorating this cake (Lindsay: and banished me upstairs in the meantime! I spent my entire birthday WORKING for gosh sakes, because I couldn’t come downstairs). I challenge anybody to spend 12 hours with their mother-in-law on a project and still be on speaking terms afterwards. All in-law jokes aside, I truly feel fortunate that I have a wonderful mother-in-law with whom I enjoy spending time, and who was a perfect TARDIS-cake making partner. This was most definitely a joint collaborative project between the two of us and I had a great time working with her.

Doctor Who TARDIS Birthday Cake

We had quite a few challenges along the way. First, Lindsay and I were out of town at Food Blog Forum in Orlando the week before her birthday. I had to bake the cake in advance, wrap it up, and freeze it before we even left town. This way the cake would be ready for Margie and I to start decorating as soon as we returned home. Not knowing exactly what we would need to decorate with, I secretly bought a ton of extra ingredients and stashed them at a friend’s house so Lindsay wouldn’t get suspicious about what we had planned.

The outside of the cake is covered in two layers of modeling chocolate. This was the first time Margie or I had used modeling chocolate and immediately we had some problems. We tried to make our own, which looked easy based on a video we watched, but it turned out to be more finicky than we realized. We quickly turned 4 lbs and $40 worth of special-order gourmet white chocolate into two blocks of greasy goo. Yikes! (Lindsay: Yikes is right… I could hear their failure (and grumbled cursing) from all the way upstairs. I tried to interject some tips that white chocolate pretty much sucks, but they wouldn’t tell me enough to actually be able to help them.)

Our backup plan was to use blue buttercream to coat the cake, but this didn’t quite have the “wow” factor we wanted. Luckily, there is a great cake decorating shop in Nashville that sells pre-made modeling chocolate (in the perfect shade of TARDIS-blue even), which completely saved the day.

Tip: roll modeling chocoalte or fondant through a pasta roller for perfect, thin panels.

We have to give a huge thanks to the extremely helpful folks at Sweet Art Galleries, who developed the modeling chocolate we used. Being complete novices and under a tight time schedule to complete the cake, we called the company for suggestions on how to work with the product. They suggested we use a pasta machine to get uniform flat sheets. This technique worked perfectly. We were able to get pretty much perfect 1/8” thick sheets of modeling chocolate to cover the sides of the cake. The pasta machine also works for fondant, which we used for the white window trim and black police call box signs.

While not huge (the whole cake is made from one thick 8-by-8-inch layer sliced into two thinner ones), the cake is awkwardly tall, and thus needed some extra support. We used some acrylic cake dowels and a foil wrapped square of cardboard to support the cake in the center.

Doctor Who TARDIS Birthday Cake, complete with party light.

The light on top is a water-proof LED party light that lasts for 8 hours. It’s battery operated and requires no wires or complicated installation. We simply made a hole in roof of the Tardis and stuck the light inside. (Lindsay: The light was perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing. Why didn’t I think of this?!? My slot machine would have been 100 times better with party lights!!)

Not wanting to complicate things even further by using a new recipe, I used our favorite chocolate cake recipe, with one substitution. Instead of whiskey, I substituted Chambord, a raspberry infused liquor, which complimented the chocolate perfectly. Between the layers and under the modeling chocolate, Margie whipped up a batch of buttercream using this recipe, but without the blackberry preserves.

Decorating the TARDIS birthday cake

We couldn’t have completed the cake without a couple of tutorials and videos. While we didn’t follow it exactly, we used this tutorial as a guide and this video for additional ideas.

Lindsay and I have both agreed that we both totally went overboard this year, and for our own sanity, next year’s birthday cakes will be much more low key.

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  1. I totally love this for so many reasons. For starters, hello it’s the TARDIS. I am also a Doctor Who fan, and I totally agree, 10 is my favorite too! :) Second of all, the effort put into this cake is so absolutely lovely. What a wonderful gift in itself. The cake looks delicious and just AWESOME! :)

  2. A Doctor Who fan! The nerd in me is jumping for joy. So, who is Lindsay’s favorite Doctor? This TARDIS cake is absolutely fantastic.

  3. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this post! The cake is awesome and I love the LED lights!! I have never used modeling chocolate – only fondant – and it sounds scary.  And the chambord in the chocolate cake – I must do that! Yum!

  4. What a beautiful cake.  I’m still in shock that you only make one cake a year with a masterpiece like this.  Lindsey is one lucky lady to have a hubby like you.  

  5. This is brilliant. :-) I love it!

  6. Wild Cake for a lady who only bakes one cake a year. I love it. Actually you do good work, don’t you know. Pretty cute in the fridge.

  7. AMAZING!! job. AMAZING!!!!! Wow. I am speechless!! Pinned of course!

    Happy Birthday Lindsay and I hope you had a great one :)

  8. This is incredible, Taylor! What a creative, stunning cake. :) 

  9. Great job Taylor!! I always look forward to Lindsay’s birthday cakes and this one just exceeds all expectations!! 

  10. What an awesome cake!!!

  11. BRILLIANT Taylor!!!! Now that will be a birthday to remember. I can just imagine the unveiling, did you play Dr. Who opening sequence music?

  12. Definitely insane. BUT SO COOL.

  13. This looks fantastic!
    My daughter will love it.

    I think though I will bake the cake in a large bread pan, or two.

    Thank you for sharing

    Have a Joyful Day  :~D

  14. T is incredible! He’s so sweet!! And I almost told my mom what he did with your mom…but then I didn’t want her to go straight to my husband and propose the same task and have my husband give me “looks” for the next few months ;) butttt…. 
    This is amazing. I’m sure your birthday was wonderful after being able to come downstairs! 

  15. Great blog post and FABULOUS job on the cake!  Only wish I had been there to join in the fun!  Word of warning though:  It’s almost impossible to “dial it back” once the cake competition starts.  Just ask your mom!  :)

    • Thanks Lynn! We wish you could have been here and certainly could have used your help. I agree about the cake competition. I’m already planning next year’s cake :)

  16. This cake is AWESOME!! I love that there is even a light on top! I am definitely snagging this idea for Ben’s 30th bday coming up in September. I have no idea what the cake is going to be, but there will be lights on it! 

  17. Rolling out fondant with pasta rollers? Genius.

  18. A very ambitious cake, worthy of a 30th Birthday surprise for Lindsay.
    Luckily for us the weather (snow and record setting sub freezing temps) made this 12 hour indoor project a nice diversion. And a special thank you to Taylor for his preparation, back up plan/s and ability to compromise, just a bit, on his “perfectionistic nature”  so that we could complete this cake, almost in time:) And to top it off, it tasted delicious too!

  19. The bigger inside than it looks tech needs to be applied to libraries too please ;-)

    The cake look rich and yummy. I ended up with great in-laws, the parents and siblings. Plus the in-laws of one of my in-laws are great also.

  20. WHAT?!?! This is incredible!!!!!!!! 

  21. This cake is amazing !!! 

    With love, 
    Hayley xxx 

  22. Being a huge Doctor Who fan, I can only admire the SKILL and the BEAUTY of this cake! It’s gorgeous and perfect and I wish someone had thought of doing one for me for my last birthday (a girl can dream). You can be proud of it! Congrats!

    I also wich cakes were bigger on the inside, and I wish all cakes had David Tennant hidden in the icing. 

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