At the end of the first act of “High School Musical” (HSM) Sharpay is supposed to take a cake to the face. The audience LOVES this–the cast member playing Sharpay, not so much (note she is crossing her arms to keep from fending him off). This is a do-able event as Sharpay has all of intermission, and then the first scene of Act II (a decently long song) to repair her make-up and do any other fixes needed. Many of the videos of the show use something as simple as a pie plate, and that works, but it doesn’t have quite the same visual impact. You could, of course, use a real cake, but that would be a lot of work, and a big mess.
The cake is described as “a seven-layer coconut cake” (pg 49). The stage directions include “Zeke tries to present his cake to Sharpay. But, when Troy twirls Gabriella, she bumps into Zeke, and the cake goes flying right into Sharpay’s face!. Sharpay lets out an ear-piercing scream as the cake drips of her face in moist clumps.” (pg 50).
I tasked one of my college age daughters to work on this prop while she was home for a bit over the semester break. She’s helped before . . . making the Cinderella Giant Costume for me last year, and besides, she’s always had an interest in frosting and cake decorating, and for a time in high school had a cupcake business . . .so this seemed right up her alley and a way to make use of her cake decorating/frosting skills.
At first we focused on the “seven-layer” aspect . . . interpreting that as “seven-tier” because . .who wouldn’t like that? But, the practicality of carrying a cake that size, and figuring out how to get Sharpay’s face in it quickly convinced us that was an unrealistic vision. We also focused on the “moist chunks” and tried to figure out how to have a section of the cake be filled with “stuff” . . . but, the precision degree of choreography needed to execute that seemed a barrier as well. We wrestled with the need to have a firm foundation for the cake while minimizing the actual risk of harm to Sharpay–a bloody nose just wouldn’t do!
We ended up starting with a hexagon shaped hat box (which I had picked up as a possible prop for “Cinderella”). My daughter filled the inside of the box with pieces of scavenged stiff styrofoam packing. She reinforced any weak spots with duct tape:
The lid was flipped over which allowed the rim to be used as a form for the cake top. She duct taped the upside down lid to the box, and filled the inside with a layer of quilt batting (hot glued to the box lid). The quilt batting was then covered with a thick layer of clear packing tape. This also helped to hold the whole thing together.
This gave a fairly large surface to target Sharpay’s face, and the quilt batting cushion would hopefully cushion the impact.
In the meantime, my daughter went back to school (taking the cake with her to finish, and thinking it would go fairly quickly using some spray foam). Unfortunately, she found the spray foam hard to control and impossible to spread. In addition, it would require painting, so it was on to plan B (whatever that would be).
Next up she tried patching plaster. It wasn’t quite as frosting-like as she was hoping for, but it worked. In retrospect, since we weren’t able to get the nice swirls and fluffy frosting shapes we had been imagining . . . covering the cake in white craft foam would have been much easier–and looked like fondant.
She wanted to add decorations, but that was proving difficult as well, and time was getting short After a little google & youtube searching, she ended up softening model magic and was able to shape some decorations. She also used craft foam on the bottom. This was not as fancy as she had originally planned, but, she was quickly running into her first round of tests at school . . . so the cake had to go. Based on the online pictures and tutorials, with a little more experimentation and practice, you should be able to create some quite nice piped decorations.
I originally made some supplemental “cake bits” to pin on the jacket out of net, plaster, styrofoam and leftover model magic. The idea was that she could pin them to her jacket to simulate cake mess. I should have used a darker net as the light color showed up more than I thought it would (in retrospect a piece of old pantyhose might have worked well). This did look nice and chunky, however, in the end we didn’t use them.
I also covered the bottom with some more pink craft foam to give it a finished look. A cake plate would have been nice, but we should have attached that earlier in the process. I was concerned if the cake was just glued to the plate it would come off. Screws or wires holding the base of the cake to the platter would have been better. The inexpensive metal platters you can buy at dollar stores are very easy to drill or pound a hole in. Make corresponding holes in the base of the cake, and secure with wires, screws, toggle bolt, etc. Just make sure it is secured with enough reinforcement so that it doesn’t pull out (this will depend on what the base of your cake is made from). This would help eliminate the awkward appearance of Zeke holding the bottom and sides of the cake itself.
What to frost the cake with?
We really wanted to stay away from sticky, sugary food products to keep that mess off the stage. We originally tried shaving cream. The Director picked it up and she happened to buy really cheap menthol shaving cream. I don’t know if there is a better option out there . . but the first time we tried it, not only did it get in Sharpays mouth (although when she spit it out it was quite amusing) but it burned her nose, and we were concerned about her eyes etc. We switched to inexpensive frozen whipped topping, and this worked fine. The whipped topping has minimal stickiness and was not as offensive on her face/mouth. Zeke lightly covered the top of the cake with whipped topping shortly before the scene. He makes sure to “land” the cake somewhere on Sharpay’s face. During our performances, it was everything from the little bit seen in the pictures above, to a full face plant where her fake eyelashes were caked with whipped topping and she had to be led off-stage. Make sure you have helpers assigned to assist her off stage and help clean her face off.
During intermission she repairs her make-up, and smears some of the whipped topping on her jacket (ideally on the side that the audience can see). After the locker scene we just wiped it off the coat. We also just wiped the whipped topping off the top of the cake between performances.
This is our cake after at least five rehearsals and three performances. It held up well, the packing tape remains intact, and it is good for another show.
As far as costuming Sharpay . . my original thought was that I would need two matching tops, one that was “waterproofed” in some way, and one that wasn’t (for the locker scene). This really wasn’t necessary. I would suggest picking something that does not absorb liquids and/or stain easily. I did not wash the jacket until the end of the show. It was a little crusty by then. On another note–I ended up having to do laundry between each show to get makeup off the white basketball uniforms, so I could easily have added another costume piece. Using a jacket (instead of a blouse/dress) for the soiled garment makes the quick change from the locker scene into the study hall possible. We also used a glitter headband to help keep her hair back and away from the “frosting”.
If you are looking for a form for the cake, I would suggest looking at the containers the Dairy Queen ice cream cakes come in. Styrofoam cake forms and plastic cake carriers are also available, but they can be expensive. You could also make one out of posterboard–the key is to fill it with something stiff to help it maintain it’s shape. Paper mache might also work to give the cake stiffness, as well as create the decorations. Satin ribbons or fake flowers might also make some good decorations.