Crocodile handbag

Crocodile handbag

Madeira cake

The Birthday Cake Book
Laura Edwards

My fantasy cake! I’ve made a burgundy crocodile bag, but make any bag of your choice. A Mulberry maybe, or a Louis Vuitton; you’ll save your pennies and there’s no waiting list. Remember: the more food colour in the sugarpaste, the harder it will be to use.

For the cake and to decorate


Quantity Ingredient
1kg white sugarpaste
claret food colour paste
50g mexican modelling paste
2 x 20 cm squares Alice’s teapot, cake only, brushed with lemon syrup
1 quantity lemon buttercream, softened, (see note)
icing sugar, to dust
60 g bag burgundy-coloured royal icing, fitted with no. 1 nozzle
edible glaze spray, (optional)
2 mm gold dragees
4 mm gold dragees

Special equipment

Quantity Ingredient
20 cm square cake board
30cm white dowelling rod
1 cobblestone mat
3 cm heart cutter
tweezers, (optional)


  1. The day before you decorate the bag, colour all the sugarpaste with the claret food colour to make a burgundy shade. If you try to do this on the day, because you are adding so much colour you may struggle to roll it out. Also, colour the modelling paste for the handles the same colour. Roll it into a sausage, about 30 x 10 cm, and bend into a ‘U’ shape with a 7 cm gap between the ends. Leave overnight, or longer if possible, to dry out thoroughly.
  2. As always, put the cakes in the fridge or freezer for an hour or so to firm up before you mould them. Cut the cake board to size (about 20 x 9 cm) and cut a ‘V’ in the two shorter ends (the indent of the two sides of the cake).
  3. On a clean work surface, lay the two cakes out in front of you. Trim the surfaces so they are level and, with a serrated or sharp knife, cut a slice from both cakes so they each measure 20 x 15 cm. Sandwich together the two cut surfaces with the buttercream, spreading well to the edges. Carve the top length of the cake so that it is rounded and slightly narrower at the top than the bottom (which is the base of the bag). Spread buttercream all over the surface of the board and stand the cake upright on to it. Trim the bottom side edges to fit, cutting two ‘V’ shapes into the cake at the sides. You may need to return the cake to the fridge for half an hour to firm up if it becomes crumbly.
  4. Spread the remaining buttercream all over every surface of the cake. Cut the dowelling into three and insert in a row through the centre, about 5 cm apart, to help support the cake.
  5. Dust the work top with icing sugar and knead about two-thirds of the sugarpaste. Roll out to a 5 mm thick rectangle, about 25 x 30 cm long. Keep running a palette knife underneath to stop it from sticking to the work top. Press the cobblestone mat quite firmly on to the sugarpaste. If the sugarpaste is too sticky, you may need a fine dusting of icing sugar on the mat. It is best to practice with the mat first if it is unfamiliar, to work out how much pressure you need. The mat is slightly smaller than the rolled-out sugarpaste, but is the perfect size to cover the cake as it will slightly stretch as you lift it with your hands. Lift the sugarpaste on to the cake and very, very gently ease it into position over the front, top and back. Remember, the part most visible is the front, and the top will be covered by the flap.
  6. Trim all the edges very carefully... you may find a sharp pair of scissors is a lot easier than a knife here! Do keep any clean, buttercream-free sugarpaste to re-roll, sealed in a polythene bag. If for any reason the cake needs support as it dries, place something heavy behind it to stop it tipping.
  7. Next you need to cut sugarpaste for the sides of the bag. Roll out a rectangle about the same length as the textured mat (28 cm) and 12 cm wide. Press the mat on to the sugarpaste and cut it into two 13 x 9 cm pieces. Mould with your fingers to fit, shaping the slight dent either side and the ‘V’ at the base, trying not to lose the crocodile finish as you do so. Join up to the edges of the central part of sugarpaste as neatly as you can. Roll thin sausages of sugarpaste and glue with royal icing to the seams where the front and sides meet.
  8. Now make the handbag flap, by rolling out a piece of sugarpaste about 25 x 17–18 cm, rounding the edges. Indent with the mat. When you are happy with the shape, pipe a little royal icing on to the top surface of the cake, lift the flap on to the cake and position and trim to size; it extends about 5 cm down the back. With a cocktail stick, indent tiny stitch holes all around the edges of the flap. Indent two holes at the top of the flap with a wooden spoon handle or similar, 7 cm apart, for the handle. Fill the holes with royal icing, and insert the handle. Spray the entire cake with the glaze, if using, and allow to dry.
  9. To make the heart decoration, simply roll out a small piece of sugarpaste on a clean board lightly dusted with icing sugar to about 3 mm thick. Using the heart cutter, cut out one heart. Stick on the dragees with the royal icing. I placed the larger ones around the edge and the small ones in the centre, a pair of tweezers will help. When dry, attach the heart to the centre of the handbag flap.


  • To make the lemon buttercream, in an electric mixer, or with a hand-held electric whisk, beat 250 g softened unsalted butter until really pale and fluffy. Add 250 g sifted icing sugar and finely grated zest of two lemons and continue to beat for about another five minutes until light and fluffy. Add the juice of two lemons gradually and keep beating, tasting as you add it. You may not need it all.
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