This blog post is finally happening because every year I get requests for the method I use to create a fun little watermelon cake.
I posted the photo a few years back on Instagram, and every year some sweet soul asks for a step by step! I apologize for taking so long in getting it up for you all. I thank you for your patience. It’s not the kind of recipe I’ll make unless there are going to be a few hungry people to help us eat it! It works great for summer bbq’s or picnics, or even for a more formal outside gathering, like a bridal shower, anniversary party or family reunion. And having said this, it can totally be part of a summertime dessert table inside!
Let’s get the white elephant addressed right away: Yes, there will be some mess, and yes there will be excess watermelon as you start carving them up. Perfect for snacking on, or for making Agua Fresca with.
At its most basic, this cake consists of three ‘cake’ layers. In this case it is three different watermelon rounds, of varying sizes, to create a tiered cake effect. The fun comes in the decorating of it. Instead of piping frosting over a cake, the decorations consist of fruit. Small berries, cherries, grapes, even currants or citrus slices all work wonderfully. I also use mint leaves to add some softness to the overall look.
Here’s what we’ll do:
If you can find a large, oblong watermelon, you may be able to carve two of the rounds from it. Then you will only need a smaller one for the final layer. For the demonstration in this blog post, I could only find three watermelons of varying sizes. It’s all good, whatever you source.
You’ll start with trimming off both ends from each watermelon with a sharp knife. This will give you a stable base to work with as you remove all the rinds. Then just follow along the rind, removing it to expose only the red flesh as must as possible. Once the watermelon has been completely trimmed away, trim the centre ‘equator’ perimeter to make it a bit more cylindrical. You should be left with two or three oblong cylinder shaped watermelons.
Now lay the largest of the melon sections on its side and you’ll trim away the top and bottom couple of inches. You want to have at least a 5-6 inch tall cylinder in the end. This will end up being the bottom tier of the cake. Do the same with the other melons, and if the next two sections are not quite as tall, that’s alright. You can see by the final photos, that the bottom layer is larger and taller than the little one on top (I think it was only about 4 inches high). It’s a proportion thing at this point. Let your eye help guide you- it will feel right if the top layer isn’t as tall as the bottom one. (If you are using two watermelons, then cut the larger one into approximately 1/3 and 2/3 halves cross ways to create your bottom and middle layers) Also, at this point, if you find that part of the watermelon that you have exposed isn’t all that pretty, or looks kind of gnarly, don’t worry. It may get trimmed away when you do the fine trimming. And if it still remains, this will be a section where the fruit will go. You can see below that I didn’t have a perfect watermelon for the bottom round.
Once you have the three layers, rummage through the kitchen to find three different round lipped cups or bowls that will fit just inside each round. They should fit inside so that you can use them as a guide to trim the watermelons into perfect rounds. Also, make sure that each circle you will use as a template is at least 3/4 inch smaller than the next, or else the tiers won’t really be defined- you want to create obvious ledges, if you know what I mean!
You can see below that the outer rim of one of my glasses fit just inside the smallest round. So I laid it directly on the round, leaving the outer edges exposed for trimming. Take a sharp knife and cut straight down. Give the cutting board a slight twist and cut down again. Keep doing so till you have gone all the way around the watermelon. You will be left with a pretty decent round layer of watermelon. *Ensure that you are cutting straight down and not cutting in on an angle- or else it won’t have straight edges when looking straight on at the finished cake. Repeat with all three rounds.
Now it comes time to get it ready for decorating. First things first. Are you prepping this cake well in advance of the event? Then don’t leave it on a cutting board. The watermelon juices will weep out from the bottom and through the wood eventually, leaving a puddle on the table you want to display it on. So place the bottom layer on a plastic or metal or enamel plate of some sort. Even a baking sheet will be great. You can surround the cake with all sorts of extra fruit and berries, even a bowl of sweetened whipped cream, so the baking sheet can be disguised.
Once the bottom is situated where you want it, you need to prep it to hold the next layer on top. Take four bamboo skewers and trim them so that when inserted into the watermelon, only about one inch is exposed. You’ll feed these into the bottom round, but make sure that they are inside the diameter of the watermelon round that will be slipped over them. Place the second round over these skewers. Make sure that the least attractive sides of all three watermelons are lined up. You want to hide them all with the fruit, so don’t mess up by not having all three looking their best when people see the naked sides. Repeat once more for the top layer- you may only need three skewers this time around.
Now you are ready to decorate!! Whoo whoo! This is where you can have some fun. Find all the berries and other fruit you want to use. I used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, grapes and mint for this cake today. If there were currants available, they would be such a lovely addition- they drape and are so delicate. Figs or small citrus segments work great as well.
Gather them all together and start by skewering them with toothpicks. I put the dull end into the part of the berry or fruit that is the least pretty, leaving the sharp end to poke into the watermelon. Once you’ve got a good collection of a variety of fruit prepped, you can turn your attention to the cake. Before you start poking the cake, just create with your eye a wavy line from the top to the bottom of the entire cake- it shouldn’t be straight. You want it rather undulating, like a soft garland or ribbon. Kind of like an S-curve. This will guide you when you start placing the fruit. And make sure you are covering the section you decided is the least attractive.
I start with the largest pieces of fruit, no matter if it’s a variety of cherries, blackberries and strawberries. And I start at the bottom. Catching a piece of mint onto the skewer as well, I poke them into the bottom of the cake. Then start placing the large pieces all along the S-curve you have created in your mind to the top of the cake. They don’t all need to be touching each other- leave some spaces. These will get filled in with the smaller fruit pieces. Keep building the S-curve with various berries and mint leaves. If you find that for so reason a toothpick is exposed even though you pushed it all the way it, just hide it with another berry.
At the top you can have an abundance of the berries and mint leaves. It should look festive!
So now you are ready to share it at your bridal shower or family reunion. But how to serve it!? Have a bowl of all the fresh fruit and berries you used, as extra, as well as little bowls or plates. And you can serve this with a slightly sweetened whipped cream or honey yogurt.
Gently remove the top berries and mint leaves. Set them aside. Slide the top layer off the skewers and cut it just as you would a round cake- into wedges. Place the slices on small plates or bowls, scatter some fruit around it and dollop some whipped cream on top! Repeat with each layer till everyone has been served.
Any leftover watermelon can be juiced and turned into Agua Fresca. This is a brilliant summer drink from Mexico. It’s a combination of fruit, honey and lime juice. And yes, it can be spiked with tequila or vodka or even gin!! Win win! Here’s are great recipe to keep on hand: Melon Agua Fresca.
I hope you try this at least once this summer. You will be the hit of your next family reunion, I promise! And it will be the first cake that no one will say they can’t eat due to gluten or dairy or vegan issues!
If you follow me on Instagram, I have a saved Highlight on my Profile Page, which shows me making this step by step. So if anything isn’t quite clear here, please refer to the highlights, as I talk you through it.