goodbye grandma: suitcase cake

So a few weeks ago, it was time for my grandmother, who is filled with the most delicious traditional recipes one can’t find anymore, had to go back to her home country after a couple-month stay here at Down Under. And boy was it hard say goodbye.


I didn’t know how I should let her know we’ll miss her, or symbolise the reality of her leaving us… until one very late night the idea clicked into my head. Why not make a luggage bag / suitcase cake? This idea came after my thoughts of making flower shaped cakes, stacked cakes, square cakes, letter cakes, heart cakes, you name it, I probably thought it.


I wanted it to be a very simple, humble cake, to reflect her gorgeous inner humbleness and beauty. I did a bit of googling to see how people made theirs, I got the same repetitive way: fondant. fondant. fondant. Oh and wait, gum paste, fondant, gum paste, fondant, some more gum paste, fondant, and then a bit of edible paint, artificial colouring…. aaaand… some cream, too.


Well, I thought, now that’s not simple! I’ve never worked with fondant and gum paste before! And I’ve only 2 days to get my ingredients and make the cake successfully. No time for trying! And what is all this artificial colouring, no body in the family/friend circle likes it, I need to avoid it! So I set off to make up my OWN way. I love making “my own way” things. But what did I need? And how could I make the recipe simple. After all, I have some lazy chefs to impress…?!

I put together my list, eventually:


5 cake mixes (each weighing at 340 g)

My combination was 3 butter and 2 vanilla.

The wet ingredients as required by the mixes:

I needed 5 eggs, and 3 3/4 cup milk

Don’t judge me, I know how to make cakes, but I really needed a quick and easy way to bake this cake!

zest of 1 orange (or lemon or lime – your choice)

3 tsp vanilla essence (powder)

600 mL thickened cream

3 – 5 tbs cocoa powder (to taste)

5 – 7 tbs caster sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

1 tsp coffee powder (I used the Nescafe stuff) in 1/4 cup warm water

150 g melted dark cooking chocolate

2 Oreo biscuits (or any round cream-filled biscuits)

2 metres of licorice (strips)


Next was the tough decisions. What baking tray, how, which designs, which cake tray. I got a large round tray from my aunty, as it was the only one large enough to fit my proposed cake.



Preheat the oven to 190 degrees or as required by your cake mix instructions.

Line a deep, greased baking tray, with greaseproof paper. I used a 18 cm by 18 cm by 5 cm tray.

Grease the paper as well, leave aside.

Combine 3 of your packages with the wet ingredients required.

Mix until smooth. Add some zest and vanilla to the batter and mix in.

Add the batter into the baking tray and level out with a spatula.

Pop in the oven until cooked. Of course, all these instructions are on the pack.

Add the cream, cocoa powder, caster sugar, and dissolved coffee into a bowl.

Whip until soft peaks form. Leave aside.

Melt the cooking chocolate in a double boiler. I added some milk to mine to make it into a shiny ganache-like texture.

Optional: when it cooled down a little bit, but was still runny, I added about 2 tbs of it to the cream, and quickly folded it in, without over-beating my cream. This gave the cream a great looking texture.

Spray some greaseproof paper with oil.

Spread half the melted chocolate onto it with a spatula until fairly thin but sturdy.

Pop it on a flat surface and leave in the fridge until completely cool.

Leave the rest on the double boiler so it doesn’t seize up for later use. If it does seize, just remelt it.

10 minutes before the 1st cake is ready, begin to whip up the last 2 cake mixes.

Place the batter in a greased and lined 12cm x 18cm baking tray.

When ready, pop into the oven after removing the first one.

Tip: check if the first cake is ready by popping a skewer into the centre, the cake is done when the skewer comes out clean.

Remove the cake from it’s baking tray, and place it on a shallow serving tray. I lined mine with greaseproof paper just in case.

Put it in the fridge to cool completely. Do this for the second cake when it’s out of the oven.

While the cakes cool, break up half of 1 of the licorice rolls into small pieces.

Finely dice the pieces with your knife.

Add to a bowl with a teaspoon of milk, and pop in the microwave until very soft. They will be hot, so be careful handling them.

Roll out into a long rod, then make 2 bends a quarter of the way in from both sides.

This will be your handle.

Don’t freak: licorice is very sticky. Don’t be too impatient when rolling it, it took me a lot of effort and strength to get it into the shape I want.

Dust with icing sugar when you’ve reached the shape you’re after.

Brush with melted chocolate and pop into the fridge to set.

When completely set, brush the bottom side and return to the fridge.

When that sets, brush it again with another coat of chocolate, just to make it sturdy and smooth out any lumps you may have.

Return to the fridge.

To make the buckles, use the second 1m strip of licorice. Measure out the width of your cake with the licorice, and cut where needed. Cut about 2 cm extra, because the icing will thicken the surface area.

Do this for 2 buckles. Leave aside to finish later.

Place the two cakes up side down on your cake tray. I cut my 2nd cake a bit, so it was about 8cm in width.

Tip: Keep note to put one of the straps where the two cakes meet, just for extra cover up.

You may need to do some cutting, slicing and refilling to level them out evenly.


Find where you want to put the Oreo luggage bag wheels.

Cut out a dent large enough in the cake to fit the biscuits. I just did it with a bread knife.

Next, place the 2 strips of licorice where you’d want them on the final bag.

Find a suitable place (about a quarter in from the top) to cut out the buckle area.

Cut two diagonals to form a V shape in the licorice. This is the ending of the belt that goes into the buckle.

Turn the little strap around so it’s two spikes are under the cake when you come to assemble the final product.

Using the left over licorice, fold a rectangle in half, and cut out a square in the middle. This is the actual buckle.

Do this for both belts. Now you have complete belts and buckles.

Use a skewer to make holes in the belts. This is just cute detailing that’s optional.

You’re ready to ice and accessorise.

Use a spatula. Do a crumb coat, then go over it again smoothly. If you’re REALLY fancy, use a piece of paper to smooth out the icing. I didn’t do it, I like texture.

Place the handle where it should be (front side centre).

Use a knife to find the slots for the Oreo wheels. That way, what ever icing you mess up, you can just smooth over again.

When you’ve found them, clear any icing, and push the biscuits in.

Finally, add your straps to the cake.

Do this by putting the smaller straps down first.

These ones are the ones that come over the side where the handle is. Remember the 2 point “V” bits go under the cake.

Push through a square buckle into a belt. Position appropriately (in accordance to the holes).

Place the large strap over the bag.

Do this for the other side.

Fancy tip: You can get very fancy and put a little lolly or something to be the hook for the buckle, but I didn’t bother.

Your cake is almost complete. Remove the smoothed chocolate from the fridge, use a very sharp knife to carefully  cut out shapes, these are like the stickers you see on luggage bags.

Turn them upside down (the other side is always smoother than the top side) and put them on the cake.

Use a piping bag or syringe to draw/write on the “stickers”.

Keep in a very cool room, or in the fridge until it’s time to serve.

Chance: I didn’t get the chance to make a non-edible tag and put it on the handle, you please find the time to do one 🙂

Serve when everyone’s come to say goodbye!

Try not to cry because your loved one’s leaving, and wholeheartedly,


P.S. try to avoid the underwear and make up,

if you find that you’re getting a lot, then empty the luggage bag before serving. 😉


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