Beer cheek: This baker's bottle tribute takes the cake

Crate Day just got a lot sweeter with a Whangarei cake maker creating a stunningly life-like and life-sized version of a Lion Red swappa crate.

Julie Hepi made the cake for her uncle's 70th birthday and says he liked it so much he didn't want to cut into it.

lion red cake baking whangarei julie hepi
The cake took a lot of creative thinking (Julie Hepi / Supplied)

"He's from Ohaeawai [in Northland] and they liked to drink by the crate, they're old school boys, and his favourite beer is Lion Red," she says.

Ms Hepi went to great lengths to recreate every little detail, including seeking permission from Lion Red to use their crate top, bottle caps and labels with their signature lion for the masterpiece.

lion red cake baking whangarei julie hepi
The cake at the 70th birthday (Julie Hepi / Supplied)

The images were then printed by cake supplies company Kiwicakes on the edible paper using a large specialised A3 printer.

"Then I had to figure out in my head how to make it," she says.

It took a bit of ingenuity, creativity and problem solving, but Ms Hepi, a 20-year cake decorating veteran, doesn't even think the cake was that special or difficult.

Photos of it were posted to Facebook and had people guessing whether it was the real thing or not.

"It was easy, that's why I was a bit surprised everyone loves it so much because I've done wedding cakes with flowers and lots of really difficult things, but this was easy.

"I didn't think it was a big deal, I was just making this thing for my uncle."

She's made a number of cakes for various occasions for friends and family, and the mother-of-four says she sees it as "quiet time".

julie hepi cake whangarei baking
(Julie Hepi / Supplied)
julie hepi cake whangarei baking
(Julie Hepi / Supplied)
julie hepi cake whangarei baking
(Julie Hepi / Supplied)

The chocolate cake bottles are two cakes on top of each other, with the outline of the bottles carved out. The crate panels are made of airbrushed fondant.

She says she could have shaped the dozen bottles separately, but had to take transport into account.

"Because it had to be carted to Ohaeawai from Whangarei where I live, it might not have stood the travel," she says.

"A three-tier wedding cake is heavy, but this thing was heavy. I'm really strong, but we struggled to get it into her car."

She also had to battle with humidity when she began to ice the cake.

"I went into town and two hours later came back and my fondant had fallen off, it had slid right off because of humidity I had to re-cover it, turn the dehumidifier on to get the moisture out of the room so that it wouldn't all fall off again."

She says she "winged" the design of the cake, using a real-life crate as her muse.

lion red cake baking whangarei julie hepi
A behind-the-scenes look at the cake (Julie Hepi / Supplied)

"I was copying it and trying to find ways to make shapes - I was trying to hand-make a cap, and it just wouldn't work so I found a beer bottle cap and you just push the icing inside the cap and you pull it out and it's a little cap."

She estimated the cake cost around $250 to make, and took around a week to complete.

Ms Hepi says while many won't notice the cake's flaws, there are plenty of things she'd change.

"I get annoyed if it's not right. I'll pull cakes apart until I'm happy with them."

And she'll get another opportunity to get it perfect - someone has already requested an Export Gold version of the cake.