Graduation Cake- Bake a Diploma Cake for the Graduate!

23 May


It’s graduation time, so I thought to re-post my graduation cake tutorial. This cake serves approximately 20, and if a *10 x 10 cake is added in the middle, you can most likely double the servings.

Surprise the grad in your life with a special cake made with love….

photo credit-

I decided to bake a cake for graduation as a close family member is receiving her college degree from Texas A&M University this Saturday. She’s a special gal and, as the family resident baker, I wanted to do a special graduation cake.

After searching GRADUATION CAKE and other search terms on the Internet, none of the cakes ideas that I saw excited me. Then it hit me! You know those Busch De Noel (log) cakes you see at the holidays? I’m a volunteer baker and recently made a ‘Tinkerbell sitting on a log’ cake for a child through the charity Free Cakes For Kids Killeen,TX, and thought it could be a perfect graduation cake using jelly roll cakes and fondant to create a diploma.

I mentioned that I’d be posting tid bits of happiness on my blog, and with graduations shortly approaching, I thought it timely to share this Graduation Cake on my blog.

I found this scrumptious cake recipe that I’m using here for a graduation cake on Kathy Niemer’s website. (You might want to bookmark her recipe for Christmas baking.)

Every step to complete this graduation diploma cake is listed below:

cake for graduation



1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

* 1/4 Cup cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp.salt

6 eggs-room temp

2 Cups granulated sugar (plus another 1/2 cup on the side)

2/3 cup water

2 tsp. vanilla

(* I was going to omit the cocoa powder listed in the original recipe, but chose to use it thinking it would look like parchment with browned edges once iced. After baking mine using 1/2 cup cocoa, I would have liked it lighter so here I’m listing 1/4 cup instead. Omit it if you wish. I did however, omit cocoa from the filling and icing recipes as I am using antique white fondant.)


1 Pint whipping cream

1/2 Cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. vanilla


1 Pint whipping cream

2/3 Cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Fondant-  2 1/2 pounds of white or antique white should do the job. (I recommend Fondarific fondant; it is great for beginners and extremely forgiving and doesn’t develop ‘elephant’ skin.)

Edible image – optional


Use two 15″ x 10″ x 1″ jelly roll pans. Pssst, cookie sheets will work just fine too.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray your pans with Baker’s Joy or Pam, and cut parchment paper to line the bottom of the pans. Spray paper and sides with Pam again to ensure easy cake release .

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 cup cocoa, and combine in a small bowl.

Measure out 2 cups of sugar and put aside. Set another 1/2 cup of sugar aside as well.

Jelly roll and other roll cakes are primarily a sponge cake and are dependent on the eggs for a large part of their leavening. You will need to whip the eggs for a full 5 minutes on high-speed. [Note: Break your eggs individually into a small bowl and then plop in the mixer. This way, you can fish out any broken shells without contaminating the batter with egg shells and having to start all over again.]

After 5 minutes of whipping, the eggs will be fluffy, thick and lemon-colored.

Gradually beat in the sugar, water and vanilla.

Gradually beat in the flour and cocoa mixture, beating only until batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and spread batter evenly, taking care to extend it evenly into the corners of the pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges of the pans so that your cakes will flip out easier.

For this next stage, you will need 2 spotlessly clean (duh) kitchen towels and the 1/2 cup of sugar you put on the side earlier.

Spread out the towel and sprinkle with sugar. Invert one pan onto the towel and remove pan and parchment paper.

Quickly roll up the cake in the towel from the narrow end while it is still hot. It will cool inside the towel which will keep it nice and moist.

Cool the cakes completely on wire racks.

graduation diploma cake

For the filling, whip 1 cup of whipping cream, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla in a small bowl till it forms stiff peaks.

Unroll each cake, spread with filling, and roll each back up again.

college grad cake

roll cake

I bake my cakes in shifts so that I stay ‘fresh and creative’ through the process. So at this point, I wrap the cakes up tight with cling wrap and put them in the freezer. I’ve also found that frozen cakes are much easier to work with, especially for crumb-coating and icing. Believe me, I’ve baked hundreds of cakes and freezing doesn’t affect the taste at all; in fact somehow it enhances the moistness.

cake for graduation

I eventually stumbled upon a diploma cake while searching to see if an example existed and found one on Wilton’s website, but something stopped me from running out to buy plastic graduation cake toppers. I had already ordered a gift for the graduate and had written a short poem for a card I planned to print and then BAM, I thought to use the poem on the diploma cake instead! The example did clarify how to work the fondant to make the diploma out of 2 jelly roll cakes.

Wal-Mart’s bakery department is a fantastic place to buy all sorts of themed cake toppers AND edible images. They normally will do edible images while you wait but if it’s as important as a cake for graduation, order it 24 hours ahead of time. Here’s the one I’m using for Claudia’s graduation cake.

edible image

The only crummy (pun intended) thing is that Texas A&M’s color is maroon, and I printed the layout in maroon but quite frankly, the print looks purple. Arrrgh!

Okay, back to work. Whip up 1 pint cream, 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla. Place the cakes on a large cake board (I used 2), and ice the cakes.

Roll out your fondant to the size of the width of your cake x at least 19″. [Note: I had a 2 lb. tub of fondant that I thought would be enough to cover one jelly roll and extend to the bottom of the other cake; however I did not have enough fondant to cover the other cake. This is why I adjusted the amount of fondant to 2 1/2 lbs in the ingredients listed above.] So, I was limited to roll a 10″ x 19″ sheet of fondant here.

I eyeballed where I thought the edible image should be placed and pressed firmly into the fondant.

Can anyone SCREAM, THIS IS A NIGHTMARE!!!! Ask someone for help here and use a chopper/scraper to help lift the fondant, and a rolling pin to hold the fondant and carry it to your cake.

This is not for the faint of heart. I freaked out when I ripped the fondant on the bottom jelly roll but thought that a patch would look worse. My hubby came in, gave it a look over and said that it looked like a proclamation and should have little wooden handles popping out the sides of the ‘scrolls.’ I knew I’d have to shoot from the hip at this point, so I went with an ‘aged’ proclamation look.

I cut fondant circles for the ends of the jelly rolls, pulled out pearl dust, got a tiny paint brush and a thimble of vodka (lemon juice works well too) and painted gold scroll marks and cut a fancy diploma seal and painted that as well. I also pearl dusted lightly around the boo-boo tear.

I also worked the fondant edges to look like parchment paper. Thank goodness I had red fondant in the house to make the ribbons, but you could always tint the fondant with red gel coloring to get it as well.

So, there you have it!

Cutting medallion-like 1″ slices, this cake should serve 20.

After making this cake, I realized that a much easier option (No nightmare lengths of fondant!!!) would be to bake a *10″ square layer cake for the center portion, ice entire cake and apply an edible image.

I hope you enjoyed learning how to make this graduation cake. I would love to hear from you if you try your hand at it. :0)

4 Responses to “Graduation Cake- Bake a Diploma Cake for the Graduate!”

  1. sherry fundin May 23, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    That is really cool!

    • Donna L. Sadd May 23, 2013 at 11:59 am #

      Thanks for popping in and for tweeting, Sherry! :0)

  2. Gerri Bowen May 23, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    That is a special graduation gift, Donna!

    • Donna L. Sadd May 25, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks, Gerri! She appreciated it, and boy, did it taste delish. :0)

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