Recipe: How to make a Cross-Dressing Ken Cake, plus the Gallery of Ken!

Here, for the delectation and delight of those who have far too much time on their hands, is the full and complete recipe for how to make a Cross-Dressing Eurovision Ken Cake, with costume reveal marbled insides and alcoholic agar jellies for the outside.  Read it, and be appalled at the sheer amount of sugar in this recipe.  Or just marvel at the insanity of making your own sweets just to put on a cake, Womens’ Weekly style…

Alternatively, you could just scroll down to the bottom of the post to view the Gallery Of Ken in all his glory – the complete collection of every Cross-Dressing Ken Cake that I’ve ever made and managed to get a photograph of.  Enjoy!


Your Shopping List

For the cake
250 g butter or dairy-free margarine
250 g sugar (caster, icing or white)
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
100 g almond meal
350 g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup almond milk
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp blue curaçao
50 g raspberries
food colouring

For the icing

125 g butter, softened
240 g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp almond milk
food colouring and flavouring of your choice

For the agar jellies

400 g water
15 g agar agar powder
600 g white sugar
350 g glucose syrup
25 g citric acid solution (13 g citric acid dissolved in 12 g boiling water – strictly speaking, it should be 50/50, but I don’t want to scare you by making you think you have to measure out half gram increments)
1-2 tbsp rum (approx – this is very much to taste); combine with pineapple essence and yellow colouring
1-2 tbsp tequila; combine with lime oil and green colouring, and a sprinkling of sea salt
1-2 tbsp kirsch or cherry brandy; combine with raspberry essence and red colouring
1-2 tbsp blue curacao (needs no help from you or me or anyone)
You will also need
1 Ken doll, divested of his legs (use these for a shark attack cake, or something equally tasteful)
1 Dolly Varden cake tin, though a bundt tin works in a pinch – Ken will look as though he is curtseying
assorted colourful decorations
1 candy thermometer which you haven’t broken yet, for the jellies

Now what will you do with it?

If you are planning to make your own agar jellies for this, I recommend starting them a day or two before.  They keep for months, really, though they tend to get sticky over time.  But the important thing is that they work best if they get 24 hours to dry out at room temperature.

Start, then, by soaking your agar in a largeish saucepan for at least twenty minutes, or until you remember you left it there.  I use this time to make my citric acid solution (easiest to do in large batches – it keeps indefinitely and can be used for many other kinds of confectionery, or just to make things taste fizzy), and to measure out all my other ingredients.

Bring your agar solution to the boil and simmer gently for a couple of minutes until it is allegedly clear or you are tired of waiting for it to become so.  Pour in the sugar, raise the heat, and let the whole thing boil merrily until it reaches 105°C.  Do keep an eye on it – there’s a reason I told you to use a largeish saucepan, and that reason will become messily apparent if your saucepan is too small and your heat too enthusiastic.

When the solution reaches 105°C, remove it from the heat and stir in the glucose syrup.  Let it stand until the temperature of the syrup reduces to 65°C.  You need to do this because if you add the citric acid too soon, the jellies won’t set.  You can use this time to line four 15cm square containers (or as close to an area of 225cm squared as is practicable) with baking paper, and getting out four bowls for the four flavours (need I say that this is, of course, much simpler if you decide to make one or two flavours from a batch, rather than four?  Though you then do wind up with a terrifying amount of jelly).

Add the citric acid to the agar syrup, and stir well.  Divide between the four bowls – you should have about 250g per bowl.  For each bowl, stir in one of the collections of flavours and colours.  Make sure the colour is good and bright (pastel agar jellies impress nobody), and taste to check that the flavour is right, before pouring your jelly into its container to set.  Leave for 24 hours to set and dry out – it will actually set much faster than this, but the longer you leave it out at this stage, the better chance you have that the agar won’t return to goo before you want it to.

When the agar jellies are set, sprinkle them with caster sugar, and put more caster sugar in a shallow bowl.  Then take to them either with a knife to cut out squares or diamonds, or use nifty miniature cutters to make hearts, circles or stars.  Drop the individual jellies into the bowl of caster sugar as you go, toss them to coat properly with sugar, and then set aside ready to use!

Now make the cake.  Preheat the oven to 170°C, fan forced if possible, or this cake will take forever.  Put one of the racks at the lowest point in the oven, and remove the other from the oven entirely.  Get out a flat tray and put it on the oven rack, ready to hold the Dolly Varden tin.  (Trust me, balancing the Dolly Varden tin on the oven rack directly is a fool’s game – it’s amazing how easily those things tip over, and then you have the most appalling mess imaginable.) Grease the Dolly Varden tin and line the base with baking paper.

Get out four bowls – maybe even the same ones you used for the jellies yesterday! – and prepare your flavouring and colouring ingredients, because once you get to the point of adding them, the baking powder and self-raising flour will already be working, and the faster you get the batter in the oven, the better.  So, zest your lemon into one bowl and your lime into another, and push your raspberries through a seive into the third bowl.  Have your colourings and blue curaçao on standby.


Bring your butter to room temperature or warmer by whatever means available to you.  Beat it with the sugar and vanilla until creamy, then add the eggs, one by one.  Stir in the almond meal, baking powder and self-raising flour, and then the milk, so that you have a nice dropping consistency.


Ken contemplates his fate. And turns to drink.

Now, working quickly, divide the mixture between your four bowls.  You want to wind up with blue, green, yellow, and reddish purple colours, so once you have added the various flavours, add a suitable amount of colouring to get the tint you want.  The blue curaçao (in bowl four) brings its own tint.


Layer the four colours into your Dolly Varden tin and put it into the oven.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it passes the skewer test.


Be warned – it could take a lot longer than this.  Or less time.  I have no idea why this recipe is so inconsistent, and have my suspicions about the cake tin.  Let it rest in the tin for a few minutes, then loosen with a spatula and turn out.  Leave to cool.


When the cake is cool, prepare the icing.  Don’t worry, you’re on the home stretch!  Soften the butter and beat it until smooth, then sift in the icing sugar.  Beat well, adding enough almond milk to get a nice, spreadable consistency.  Add colourings or flavourings of choice, then using a palette knife if you have one or a butter knife if you don’t, spread onto the cake.  It will make a fairly thin layer, but the coverage will be good.  Incidentally, spreading the icing away from you gets you a smoother finish, usually.


Use a sharp knife to cut a hole in the top of the cake – about 2 inches deep and 1 inch round is right, but basically, look at the base of your Ken’s torso, and make a hole that shape.


Stick Ken into the cake.  Congratulations, you have made a Ken in a dress!

Now decorate Ken with all those lovely agar jellies if you made them, or with anything else that takes your fancy if you didn’t.


Add any finishing touches, such as edible glitter, a headpiece of some kind, and maybe some Mardi Gras beads and voila!  You have Eurovision Ken…


… complete with costume-reveal marble cake!


(And that, O my readers, is how I spent my weekend…)


In terms of food allergies, this cake works just fine with cow’s milk or soy milk if you can’t eat almonds (just use 400 g self-raising flour and skip the almond meal and baking powder).  It’s easily made dairy free with Nuttelex, and a good gluten-free flour mix will make it gluten-free.  If you don’t use raspberries, it will also be low-fructose, but you might want to add a different flavour in for your pink cake section.  Though there is nothing wrong with vanilla, of course.  Vegans might want to use the lemon and coconut cake from Veganomicon as a base – I don’t think this cake would veganise all that well, due to all the eggs.

In terms of flavours, if you don’t want to mess around with all the different colours (and you really don’t need to), you can make this as a plain vanilla cake, or add the lemon and lime zest to the cake as a whole.  Alternatively, you could substitute in up to 100 g cocoa for the self-raising flour (again, I’d up the baking powder to 1 tsp or 1 1/2 tsp in doing this) for a chocolatey version.  You could even add orange zest or tangerine oil to that for the jaffa variety!

In terms of decorations, the world is really your oyster.  The one I did last week, I covered with white chocolate ganache, and then used two boxes of white fondant icing for the dress – half a box was tinted pink, rolled out into a half oval, and ’embroidered’ with coloured cachous (I needed to stick them on with water), then stuck to the front of the cake.


The rest was tinted green, rolled out thinly into a circle and flung over the entire cake, to drape as an overskirt, then pulled back to show the pink section.  If I had been super-clever, I would have actually made a slit up the front of the green layer, so that I could drape the sides back more effectively.


Another favourite Ken is Carmen Miranda, who wears fruit jellies, or sometimes jelly fruit, all over his skirt and piled up on his head, and two cherries around his neck.  He’s all class.

Though Leather Ken, with his licorice whip, shiny red chocolate ganache skirt and black icing (from a tube) latex bustier is possibly even classier.

Dominatrix Ken.  I was quite pleased with his latex-and-leather look.

Really, the possibilities are endless, provided you have absolutely no taste and even less shame.  Go wild!

Ken has an almost Marie-Antoinette aesthetic, don't you think?

Eurovision Ken 2011

Ken, Queen of the Desert, with bus.

Ken relaxes after a busy evening

Ken relaxes after a busy evening

NB: Now that I have this marvellous Gallery of Ken, I will continue to update it as more generations of Ken appear to us.  If anyone has a photo of the original Carmen Miranda Ken, or of Fairy Queen Ken (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream a few years ago), do please let me know – I’d love to have a copy for the gallery…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 comments for “Recipe: How to make a Cross-Dressing Ken Cake, plus the Gallery of Ken!

  1. May 21, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Wow, Ken really gets around! These are all gorgeous.

    • Catherine
      May 21, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Thank you! He has also been Lady Macbeth with bloody hands and tartan, and Titania, and many other characters in my pre-cake-photography days…

      (He’s also a great cake to make, because he’s quite simple to decorate for a very dramatic effect!)

  2. June 8, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    OMG Classic!!! What a hoot! Great cake 🙂

    • Catherine
      June 9, 2013 at 12:18 am

      He’s one of my favourites, and makes frequent appearances at appropriate festivals.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.