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I was wondering about the methods used to produce non-uniformly (i.e., not a box or cylinder) shaped cakes. Let's say, I want a t-rex shaped cake (I went to engineering school long enough to know how to compute the balance as long as the batter is even, so I don't think design is the issue here)

I was wondering if using a mold would help. Maybe I can make a mold for a shaped cake, but how much of the cake would have to be exposed to air in the oven?

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Do you mean a 2-D cutout, or a 3-D shape? The first one is entirely possible with a mold, the second one not (unless you are talking about a rather flat bas-relief), because the batter has to be even. –  rumtscho Jul 16 '13 at 9:38

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A lot of those nicely shaped cakes are made from a rectangular or round cake. You just cut the required sizes and shapes so you end up with something T-rex looking. You put a bit of frosting between each pair of pieces, so that they stick together and the cake does not fall apart. Usually the whole thing is covered with fondant, so you cannot see the separate pieces.

This is a youtube example using this method for a dinosaur cake.

Using a mold is also a possibility, but very likely that you'd end up with pieces of cake that are over- or undercooked, because you have smaller and larger parts in your dinosaur. You should also be very confident that the cake would slide easily out of the mold, because an odd shape is more fragile than a rectangle or a circle.

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Even if you're making a 3D cake, you typically stack a bunch of cakes together, add some structural supports (dowels or similar), and then carve away the parts you don't want ... but a T-Rex is going to be difficult due to the head and arms. (the arms could be dowels covered in rice krispy treats ... might work for the head too, as it's lighter and doesn't sag the same way) –  Joe Jul 18 '13 at 1:13

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