kim’s kitchen

How and why I made a life-sized deer cake

Posted 3/26/24

“Would you be interested in making a life-sized mounted deer cake for my hunting camp’s one-hundredth anniversary?”

I’ve had many an offbeat conversation with my friend …

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kim’s kitchen

How and why I made a life-sized deer cake


“Would you be interested in making a life-sized mounted deer cake for my hunting camp’s one-hundredth anniversary?”

I’ve had many an offbeat conversation with my friend Glenn Horton. But none of them have started out like this.

Glenn’s an interesting guy. He’s recently retired from a productive career at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. He’s the first person I ever met who pilots hot air balloons. Plus, he’s a nature lover and an active member of the informal Friends of Walnut Mountain group out of Liberty, NY. 

My husband Fleck and I were hiking Walnut on one of our first dates when we met Glenn and his long-time partner Sharon Zimmerman working on wheelchair-accessible trails. We all hit it off right away.

Glenn and Sharon are supportive of me and my work, and are always asking me what I’m up to in the Cake World. So, when the Cherokee Preserve Club in Bethel, NY hit the century mark, Glenn wanted to commemorate the occasion with a one-of-a-kind, knock-out cake. And he wanted me to do it.

I’m not looking to brag, but I’ve done a number of big pieces in the past. I’ve sculpted wolves and giant turtles out of chocolate live in Busch Gardens, VA while passers-by stopped and watched. I sculpted a goofy Tyrannosaurus about the size of a basset hound—with a selfie stick—as well. And my teammate Chef Blāque Shelton and I sculpted a life-sized Lady Gaga on “Cakealikes,” which aired on Food Network on January 4, 2021.

So, let’s just say that—being a nature-lover myself—I was psyched about tackling this project. I always say that Mother Nature is my favorite artist, and here was a chance to recreate one of her most beautiful creatures in cake. Game on!

While Glenn built the basic display—the flooring and a back wall—I reached out to my contacts at Satin Ice (, The Sweet Chalet Shoppe (www.the, Icing Images (, and The Sugar Art ( for supplies. They were all intrigued by the project and happy to get me the products I needed.

Soon, Glenn dropped off the basic display. Fleck added casters and we rolled everything into my dining room.

And then, it was time for me to go to work.

I prefabricated the structure for shrubbery and tree branches out of PVC pipes and wires. I also pre-made rocks out of rice treats covered in fondant. I then crafted antlers out of wire wrapped in tin foil and covered in modeling chocolate and fondant.

On Glenn’s base, I built a strong skeleton—which included the two front legs, shoulders, back, belly, neck and skull—out of food-grade PVC pipe and some wood. I added layers of cake, then shaped them to form the body.

Slowly, I covered the structure in modeling chocolate “muscle,” shaping it as I went along. Next, I hollowed out sockets for the eyes and molded the snout.

The skin is actually fondant, which I added in thin layers and textured. Then, I placed my prefabricated rocks and branches in strategic places around the base. I added the eyes made out of gumpaste, and began spot-painting the deer with edible paints.

Next, I attached the antlers to the head. I added ears and covered the entire head and antlers with a thin layer of fondant, which I sculpted and textured.

For me, a piece like this one really comes alive when the painting starts. It took a while, but I hand-painted everything—the deer, the rocks, the shrubs, the branches, and the grass (which was actually an edible moss I made). I also whipped up some leaves out of wafer paper and attached them to the display.

In all, it took two weeks to complete. I “boxed” it up with furring strips and plastic sheeting, awaiting the day Glenn would pick it up and cart it off to the celebration. But my adventure wasn’t over.

On the appointed morning, our friend Jim Housman came over to help us load up the piece into Glenn’s van. But when Glenn rolled by to pick up the cake, we discovered that something had been mismeasured—the deer would not entirely fit! Now what?

We gingerly manipulated the piece in through the swinging doors. I can tell you, it was not light. Cake is heavier than most people think to begin with, and when you added Glenn’s solid wooden base, we had a tough time. But we managed to get 90 percent of the deer in, then closed up the doors over the backside as best we could with ratchet straps.

I hopped in with Glenn while Fleck followed right behind. We did pretty well on the trip—until we hit 17B. It was there that an evil pothole intervened and the rear of the deer display jerked back hard.

“I thought I was going to see that thing splatter on the pavement right there,” Fleck told me later.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I thought somebody was gonna hit a deer in the road for sure, and not the kind they’re used to.”

Luckily, the ratchet straps held. We managed to get the deer to the hunting preserve where six other guys helped Fleck and Jim extract the piece and set it in place. I had brought an “emergency kit” that consisted of modeling chocolate, fondant and edible paints with me. After a touch-up or two, the deer looked great. The people attending the party were blown away, and I was genuinely flattered to receive a ton of sincere compliments.

Now, I know that making a life-sized deer is beyond the scope of our usual projects for Kim’s Kitchen, so I certainly don’t expect readers to go all Dr. Frankenstein and try to create one of these. I just thought it would be cool to show what’s possible as you develop your skills in food and cake art. Working on smaller projects will expand your knowledge and confidence, enabling you to work up to bigger and more realistic pieces. Just remember that you’re not in a race with anyone but yourself.

Oh, and don’t forget to measure your piece accurately, or it might not get out the door!

Kim M. Simons is an artist, cake artist and food artist. She is a two-time Food Network champion. She has 10.5 doves on the Sullivan (NY) Catskills Dove Trail, and is in the process of completing two more. Kim is available to teach classes individually or in groups. Visit Kim at

kims, kitchens, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, Cherokee Preserve Club,


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