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TARDIS Cake Recipe

by Stephen Barker

Our very own Spaced Out  (not from his own creations thankfully) chef , Stephen constantly astounds and amazes us all with his Kosmic Kuisine. Here he gives us the low down on how to create your very own edible Tardis! Just hope your stomach is bigger on the inside than….

A book we had at home was Debbie Brown’s “Favourite Character Cakes” (Merehurst, 1997) which included recipes for icons such as Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine and Noddy (but nothing from science-fiction).  It was a useful reference, and I’ve included some information from it below.

My original (if slightly ambitious) plan was to make a prototype as an experiment, before making the final version for the 2004 Pride March Bake-Off: the prototype became the final version.  I’ve condensed the time I spent into four days, which I expect would be reduced second time around.  Of course, the time taken can vary depending on efficiency and on how much of the day is used.

Day 1: Make cake (a Madeira sponge is recommended as it is firm, moist, and can be cut and shaped without crumbling).

I had checked the dimensions of the police box (outside only!) in the “Doctor Who Technical Manual” – its height is just under double the width of one side.

Imagining a decent-sized cake, I followed the quantities given for the Mr Men cake, requiring a 20cm (8in) square cake tin.  I used one measuring 22.5cm x 22.5cm x 8cm.

Madeira sponge cake ingredients:
440g (14oz / 3½ cups) self-raising flour
220g (7oz / 1¾  cups) plain flour
440g (14oz / 1¾ cups) butter
440g (14oz / 1¾ cups) caster sugar
7 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional; other flavourings can be used)


Grease tin and line with greaseproof paper.

Preheat oven to 160ºC (325ºF).  Note for next time: try 10ºC less for fan-forced ovens – I used one at 160ºC and the cake was nicely tanned…

Sift both flours together into a bowl.

In another (large) bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, with a spoonful of the sifted flour, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla essence.

Fold remaining flour into the mixture.

Spoon mixture into tin.  Note for next time: try to shape mixture like a crater so it rises more evenly.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 90 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  My cake was perhaps slightly overdone after 80 minutes (see note above on oven temperature).

Leave for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack, then leave to cool completely.  When cold, store in an airtight container (out of the fridge) for at least 6 hours to allow the texture to settle.  The cake should continue to be stored out of the fridge.


Day 2: Shape cake and make buttercream (used to “glue” cake and exteriors).

Using a sharp, serrated knife (bread knife), vertically cut cake into square quarters and trim tops to make them flat (I ended up with heights of between 5cm andstephen with tardis cake 6cm).

Buttercream (1kg) ingredients (can add flavouring if desired):
250g (8oz / 1 cup) butter, softened
2 tbs milk
750g (24oz / 5 cups) icing sugar

Method (I made the above in several batches):

Place the butter in a bowl and add the milk. Sift icing sugar into the bowl, a little at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition.  Repeat this step until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is light and creamy.

Store in an airtight container (out of the fridge) until required.

“Glue” the cake quarters on top of one another with buttercream, filling any gaps and larger holes.  This uses about 500g.  After this process, I had a tower-shaped cake with dimensions roughly 11cm x 11cm x 22.5cm.

At this stage the cake still fitted (on its side) in our largest cake container, but once the corner and base exteriors were added (see below), it had to be stored upright, necessitating a trip down to Big W for a large vertical-shaped container (that just happened to have blue handles).   Another handy item was an 18cm (7in) square cake board from Spotlight.  It was practical to use the container upside-down, so after each session working on the cake, I carefully moved it onto the lid and placed the container over it.

Fondant would create the outside definition (uprights, top, etc.), and the book suggested buying it ready-made, which sounded good to me.  The closest I found that was readily available (that is, from a supermarket!), was almond paste (often used as marzipan for Christmas cakes), packaged in 500g lots.  I ended up using about 850g, requiring two packets.

Day 2 (cont’d): Shape base edges and corner uprights in almond paste (uses about 500g) and attach with buttercream (uses about 300g).

Referencing specifications from the “Doctor Who Technical Manual”, but at the same time trying to remember that it didn’t have to be perfect, I set to work on the exteriors.

Note: paste should be cut with a sharp, plain-edged knife, pressing downwards and not pulling.

Base edges:
Roll paste to 1.5cm thickness, then cut 2 x 13cm x 1.5cm pieces, and 2 x 12cm x 1.5cm pieces.  Use alternate sizes around base (different width caters for corner overlap).  Bottom of base edges sit flush with the base of the cake.  Note for next time: logically, lengths should be 14cm and 11cm; I do remember having to stretch and squash them a bit to fit!

Corner uprights:
Roll paste to 0.5cm thickness, then cut 4 x 2cm x 20cm pieces, and 4 x 1.5cm x 20cm pieces (note for next time: reduce width of second set to 1cm to allow for buttercream join).  Use one length from each set per corner (different width caters for corner overlap).  Corner uprights should continue from the top of the base to 1cm from the top of the cake (shorten if necessary).

I found it easier to affix these pieces with the structure on its side, however to avoid squashing them once several were in place, I had to raise the structure from bench level using a couple of small containers as underneath props.


Day 3: Shape “police box” bars, top square and slope-gauge square in almond paste (uses about 350g) and attach with buttercream (uses about 200g).

“Police box” bars (underneath portions):
Roll paste to 0.5cm thickness, then cut 4 x 7.5cm x 2cm pieces.  Position them 1cm from the tops of the corner uprights.

“Police box” bars (outside portions):
Roll paste to 0.5cm-1.0cm thickness, then cut 4 x 11cm x 2cm pieces.  Centre the outside portions over the underneath portions.

Top square:
Roll paste to 1.0cm thickness, then cut a 9cm square.  Affix to top of cake.

Slope-gauge square:
Roll paste to 0.5cm thickness, then cut a 2cm square.  Affix to centre of top square.

Day 3 (cont’d): Make white icing, add sloped top, undercoat cake with white icing.

My intention had been to make blue icing, until I found some blue (peppermint-flavoured) spray-on colour in a cake decorating shop.  Rather than spraying it directly onto the cake and paste surfaces (yellow in colour), I thought it would be wise to first undercoat the structure with white icing.  If not using the spray-on blue colouring, the white icing can be coloured with blue food dye.

Make icing (I didn’t note the quantity as I made several batches – at least 500g icing sugar plus enough water to make a spreadable paste).

Using a spatula and a small amount of white icing, fashion a four-sided slope from the top edges of the slope-gauge square to the edges of the top square.  The slope-gauge square is not visible in the finished structure.

Undercoat the remainder of the structure (below the sloped top) with white icing and allow to harden.


Day 4: Spray cake blue, shape light in almond paste, colour light and affix with icing, decorate.

Spray structure with blue colour and allow to dry (I used newspaper as drop sheets).

Roll paste to 0.5cm-1.0cm thickness, then cut a 2cm square (light base).  Roll a cylindrical piece of paste 1.5cm high, diameter just under 2.0cm (light).  Shape a round flat piece of paste about 0.2cm thick, diameter just under 2.0cm (light top).

Use a brush and white edible paint (also found in cake decorating shop) to undercoat light base and light top, and to colour curved edge of light.  Allow to dry.

Spray light base and light top with blue colour (I used paper towel as a drop sheet), then allow to dry.

To top of slope-gauge square, affix light base, light, then light top.

Using a toothpick, write “POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX” on the police box bars in white edible paint.

Next, using a black food-colouring pen (cake decorating shop), draw door, door panel and window definitions on all sides, with a keyhole and door handle on the best side (front).  Again using a toothpick, apply white edible paint to the window panes as well as scrawling some illegible instructions on the front door.

tardis cake

The final dimensions were approximately 14cm x 14cm x 26.5cm.

Police Box © BBC
Cake design not to be used for commercial purposes