This is a relatively famous scene from an Irish TV show - Father Ted where a woman bakes a jumper (sweater) into a cake. Video can be seen here for reference - https://vimeo.com/38355848

I’m wondering what the best way to go about creating something like this would be? In the video, it seems that the jumper is actually cooked into the cake, rather than added afterwards.

Could I make a normal cake mix and add in a suitably sized jumper before putting it in the oven?

My other thought would be to make a normal cake then cut out a cavity in the bottom to insert the jumper into. I was hoping there would be a better more-Father Ted like version if anyone with more experience has an idea.

  • it doesn't look like a jumper in a cylindrical "cake box" so I'd go for the first solution although we have passed the line of edible so this question probably belongs to a DIY site. Such line being crossed, also pressing the jumper and enough disposable sponge cake in a cylindrical press can work as well probably. – David P Oct 25 '20 at 22:23

In general, yes, you can bake stuff hidden inside a cake, but you are constrained in some ways. And before I go on: I don't believe that they actually baked a jumper in a cake for the film, they probably used some kind of inedible prop.

The most important constraint is the ratio of cake to item. If you embed something in a cake, you are messing up with leavening. It won't hurt if it is a small thing, or multiple small things, e.g. having nuts spread in the dough. But in this scene, the jumper was quite large. It was basically almost all jumper, with a tiny crust of "cake", and the cake itself was huge. It would be very difficult to bake a cake of this size all in one go even without the added difficulty of having a jumper in it, when you see huge wedding cakes, they are baked as separate layers, and the layers assembled afterwards.

I could imagine trying to get this to work. I would first choose a jumper that has as little weight and volume as possible, probably a girls' lightweight sweater. Or consider whether a doll sweater will be good enough for people to get the joke. If it has to be adult-size, maybe you can get away with a long-sleeve-T-shirt or a hiking base layer, especially if the fabric looks knitlike enough. Then find a suitable pan, large enough, and use a cutout baking mat on the bottom (you will never get it out with normal means if you do what I am planning). Parbake a very thin first layer for the bottom, Prinzregententorte-like. Then place the sweater on top, pour enough batter around it to get another layer, and bake the whole thing, using more top heat than bottom heat. Once this layer is set (doens't have to be through), add one more layer and rebake. When you get thick enough, I would suggest also starting to use a waterbath that only comes up to the height of the already-baked layers. You are finished when you have enough cake on top of the sweater.

The process will probably need several runs to be optimized. If the air in the sweater messes with leavening, consider soaking it in vegetable oil first. I'll also bet on you having to level the top, because it is unlikely you will get an even surface with this barbaric way of baking it and a whole sweater inside. It means that you probably don't want to serve it naked, since it will not resemble a plain cake out of the pan. You will likely need some kind of all-over frosting to cover the cut-off top and the unevenly baked layers on the sides.

Sweaters are also absorbent, so you will have to play with the liquid ratio in the cake. If using a dry sweater, you will have to make the batter more liquid, if you soak it in oil, you might need more flour in the cake (also, flour your sweater well before placing it in the cake, regardless of whether dry or oily).

You will have an easier time out of it if you use a packaged sweater, especially if you can package it in something with firm boundaries and nonreactive, such as a cookie tin or canning jar. You'll have some trouble finding a canning jar that has the proper shape, but maybe Weck has something appropriate, or you could consider using a modern glass-with-bamboo-lid storage container, they are available as squat cylinders. But I realize this may be too far from the original to get the joke across.

Finally, consider the sweater material. You can't have any amount of synthetic fiber in there, it will melt. This includes any kind of viscose too, even when sold with the label "natural" (may be labelled rayon, modal, lyocell, bamboo, etc.) I am torn between recommending wool and cotton - cotton is way too absorbent and heavy and will mess with the cake engineering more, but wool is not only expensive, wet wool exposed to heat usually felts. It is unusual in that you are not moving it here, but still it will probably feel pretty strange after baking. Other animal fibers are probably too expensive anyway, and unlikely to fare better than wool - although you may try alpaka because it felts less. Getting a lightweight sweater in non-fluffy alpaka might be difficult though. Silk will also be an interesting option, I'm pretty sure you will have to look a jumper made with cablé or tape yarn though, not spun silk. Since it is so hard to predict, you will probably have to bake swatches before deciding on an optimum material (a tray of mini-jumper-cupcakes as a rapid prototyping method!).

Bottom line, to get the promised movie effect - it can be done, although I can't guarantee how close to the original you can get in the end, you will certainly have more cake on the outside. You will also need to invest some serious engineering effort, and money.

If you decide to go the cutout route, it's not trivial for that size either. I recommend that you watch videos on constructing pi~nata cakes.

  • You'd still have to beware of any print, trim, labels, or stitching that could melt if you actually bake the jumper - though if fully encased in cake it shouldn't get too hot – Chris H Oct 26 '20 at 9:04
  • @ChrisH a cake should reach over 96 C internally for getting completely baked, and with the method I am suggesting, it will be hotter than that, especially in the early stages when the sweater is exposed. Thank you for mentioning these "additions" to a sweater, I have forgotten that they exist since I tend to wear either plain sweaters or handknit ones. I hope nobody will have placed print on a delicate alpaca sweater :) but yes, it can be there, especially on cotton (I have even seen people refer to cotton hoodies as "sweaters"), and if it has been sewn (as opposed to kettled with the... – rumtscho Oct 26 '20 at 9:08
  • ... sweater's own yarn) they are likely using polyester thread too, even if the label says 100% cotton. The small amount will not mess with the cake even after softening/melting, but you can expect some serious deformation on the sweater itself. – rumtscho Oct 26 '20 at 9:10

I'd take a different approach to the other answer - bake a cake in a large normal tin, with a smaller empty tin suspended in the top centre so you have a bowl-shaped cake. I'd use stiff wire, such as coat hanger wire, to suspend the spacer tin. The void should be big enough to pack the jumper in (perhaps cheat a little and tie a ribbon round it tightly to make it take less space).

Then either invert and ice, or bake a shallow cake of the same diameter for a lid and sandwich them together.

This means the cake mixture doesn't soak into the jumper, and the jumper doesn't get hot, so you won't need to worry about even trace amounts of meltable fibre.

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