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  • Writer's pictureGrace Saadi

DIY Kiki's Delivery Service Sign (Actually Made Out of Bread!)

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Of the many great Studio Ghibli films, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a joyful classic. An animated coming-of-age story of the young witch joined by her black cat Jiji, the film is something anyone could relate to. In discovering a small town with an ocean view, Kiki sets up her own delivery service based within a small bakeshop. One day, the head baker surprises her with a sign made entirely out of bread advertising her business. With that, director Hayao Miyazaki will never cease to surprise me in his attention to detail. Yes, this sign is made out of bread. But more than that, he specifically found inspiration in an old fashioned (and somewhat forgotten) baker’s clay called dead dough. Much like making gingerbread houses for display, dead dough was often used in shop windows like Kiki’s sign. Today I will show you, step by step, how to recreate it. Just a heads up, you may want to have a selection of Studio Ghibli films on in the background, making this will take some patience!

Here I've included all the recipes you'll need as well as a template I made as a guide for cutting out the dead dough pieces and assembling the final wreath. Print out the template and cut out the stencils from page 2.

Kikis Delivery Service Recipes
Download DOCX • 20KB
Kiki shop sign template
Download DOCX • 4.61MB

Making the Wreath

Make the live decorative dough recipe from the attached document and place page 1 of the provided template underneath parchment or a Silpat on a cookie sheet. Proceed to the following steps.

Begin by dividing the dough into 3 equal sections (approx 170g each). Tightly round each piece so the surface is completely smooth, cover with plastic, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Remove one round from the plastic and being rolling to elongate it and make a strand. To do this, make a cupping motion with your hands so that your fingertips and palm are touching the table. You should hear the friction of your hands on the table as you roll the dough. Stretch the dough as long as possible, but do not force it. When it no longer stretches, cover the strand with plastic and move onto the next round, repeating the same process. Keep cycling through each strand and try to keep the thickness as even as possible. Continue elongating and resting the dough (it may shrink back slightly after resting) until each strand is approx. 25” in length. Always keep the dough covered when not working with it.

To make the braid, firmly pinch together one end of each of the 3 strands. Proceed by making a typical 3 strand braid (right over middle, left over middle, so on), ensuring the dough is firmly woven together, not too loose but not strained or stretched either. Arrange the braid on the prepared cookie sheet, aligning it so that the braid matches with the template’s wreath as closely as possible (this dough will not expand in the oven). The ends of the braid should meet on the bottom of the wreath, where the flowers are. Firmly press and pinch the ends together. Cover with plastic wrap.

Place the dough wreath in the fridge for at least 1 hour and set the oven to 360 F towards the end. After 1 hour, brush the chilled braid with egg wash and bake at 360 F for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for approx 45 minutes, until the surface is golden. Let cool on a rack for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Making the Dead Dough Accents (Kiki/Jiji, Broomstick, Flowers, Sign, and Bow)

During the downtime of making the bread wreath, cut out the stencils from page 2 of the provided template with an x-acto blade. Make the sugar syrup and each of the dead dough colors from the attached recipe document. Once again, place page 1 from the provided template underneath parchment for a Silpat on a cookie sheet.

Dead Dough Tips:

Mixing colors: As I made each of the following pieces, I sometimes found myself mixing together two of the doughs to get a more specific color. I will offer suggestions, but the quality and type of ingredients you possess may alter the color so take everything with a grain of salt. Also, if you find yourself constantly remixing the doughs to blend the colors, be careful not to over-knead. Overworking the dough will cause air bubbles once baked and will dry out the dough much faster.

Rolling: the dough can occasionally be sticky. If this is the case for you, dust the surface area very lightly with rye or buckwheat flour. Do so sparingly as it dries out the dough. If it gets too dry, knead some syrup into the dough.

Attaching: As you roll and cut each piece, attach it to the base piece(s). Do this by brushing some of the sugar syrup onto the area that you are attaching it to. Place each cut out so that it matches the template (it helps to have an image of the original sign open as well). Gently press the dough to help adhere them together.

Covering/storing: Always cover dead dough with plastic when not working directly with it. If you are not using dead dough immediately after it is made (though it is recommended to use it as soon as possible) wrap the dough in plastic. Place all the wrapped colored doughs in an airtight container with a damp towel. The dough can also be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Baking/cooling: Bake at 300-320 F until the edges are slightly golden. Thinner, smaller pieces will bake much faster. The baked pieces will be soft when first removed from the oven but will firm up when cooled. Let the pieces cool completely before final assembly.

Making Kiki

Kiki’s template has 5 pieces: a full-body piece (A), a dress (B), hair (C), bow (D), and shoe (E). Begin by making piece A as a base, this is done by rolling out a chunk of the white dead dough. Roll it out to approx. 1/8th of an inch thick, place the precut stencil on top and cut out the shape from the dough with an x-acto blade. Gently transfer it to the prepared cookie sheet, aligning it so that it matches the template. Cover with plastic and proceed with the other pieces.

Repeated the same process for Kiki’s other pieces. I suggest combining some of the white and brown dead dough to make the color for her dress (B). Use just the brown dough for her hair (C). I personally would have liked for her bow (D) and shoe (E) to have more color when I made them but play around with this one. Try mixing some pink, yellow, and brown to your liking. Lastly, roll a very small ball of black dead dough for her eye. I rolled everything to 1/8-1/16th of an inch thick.

Making Jiji

Jiji’s template has 3 pieces: the full body (F), head and body (G), and head (H). Piece F will be the base, roll a small piece of black dead dough to 1/8th of an inch thick. Once cut, brush the side of Kiki that is touching Jiji with syrup and align his piece on the template. Be very careful of the tail! Roll the black dough slightly thinner (1/16th”) and cut pieces G and H, attaching them to the base (G 1st, H 2nd). To make the eyes, roll 2 small balls of white dough, pressing down to slightly flatten. Roll a very thin snake of black dough and cut 2 pieces. Attach them to the white circles, then attach those to the head (if they are jutting out too much, make indents in the head before attaching the eyes). Lastly, make a small oval of black for the nose (I actually forgot this step!). Now that Kiki and Jiji are made, they can be baked.

Making the Broomstick

Begin by making the shaft, mixing together white and brown dough (should be a similar color to kiki’s dress). Roll the dough to make a snake, matching the thickness of the template and cut to shorten if necessary. Roll out the white dough to make a long snake and cut several strands, tapering the ends to make them pointed. Fold each strand in half and overlap them to form the brush of the broom, using however many strands to reach your desired look. Using the same-colored dough as the shaft, make 2 small snakes. Attach these to the top of the brush to make the wrap, tucking in the sides to make it look cleaner. Roll out several small logs of scrap dough (these will be used for support later). Bake everything and cool.

Making the Roses

There are 2 smaller roses and 1 large needed for the wreath, but feel free to make extras if you feel it is needed. To make them, roll out the pink dead dough and cut several circles (I used a 1 ½” circle cutter). You will need 17 circles total (9 for the big rose, 8 for the small). Roll once circle onto itself to make the center spiral. With another circle, pinch the bottom and fold it down to give it a curved shape (should look somewhat like a mouse ear!) to make the petals. Repeat for the needed amount for each rose. To make the smaller roses, brush the bottom of 3 petals and attach them to the base, overlapping one side on each. To make the larger, add another row of 5 overlapping petals. Pinch the bottom of the flower to help open the petals if needed. Let dry for an hour or 2 prior to baking to help retain its shape. Bake then cool completely.

To make the leaves, roll brown dead dough to 1/16th of an inch thick. Cut out several leaves using the leaf shape (I) from the template. Lightly etch in a vain pattern and drape them over some crumpled-up foil to give them a curve. Bake and cool completely.

Making the Bow

For the bow, you’ll want to roll two snakes of yellow and pink dough, dividing each into strands that are the same in length. Lay the strands so they are alternating colors, with 4 yellow and 3 pink strips. Brush with syrup and press together to fuse. Roll slightly to flatten (approx. 1/8th of an inch thick). Divide into 6 pieces, 2 larger, 4 smaller. With the larger pieces, make the bow by folding the dough onto itself to make a loop. Repeat with the other piece and place foil inside to help prop it up. Make the smaller bow by folding 2 of the smaller pieces of dough in half and pinch the end to scrunch. You should have 4 separate loops. Lastly, cut a “v” out of the remaining 2 pieces and prop them up on a piece of foil to give them a curve. Bake and let cool completely.

Making the Sign

The sign only has one piece (J) from the template. Mix white and brown dead dough to your desired color and roll to 1/8th of an inch thick. Cut, round the corners if needed, and place on the pan. Make the bows by rolling 4 small balls of pink dough, pinching them to make a triangle shape. Roll 2 smaller balls for the center and assemble the bows on piece 10 using syrup to attach everything. Bake and let cool completely. Once cool, copy the Japanese writing as closely as possible (or write the name in English, your choice). I do not speak or read Japanese, so I hope I did everything correctly, but please let me know if you see any mistakes! Preferably this would be done with an edible ink of some sort, but my food coloring marker was dried out, so I opted for a black sharpie. This did come back to haunt me later.

Final Assembly

Keeping with the edible theme (though I doubt anyone has intentions to eat this), melted sugar or isomalt can be used as glue. But I personally see no harm in taking a shortcut by using hot glue, it’s what we did in school! It was a bit tricky at times to get the glue to stick to the wreath, so I found scratching the surface of the bread with a knife/fork helped around this. Also, it helps to have the template underneath what you’re working on as a guide.

I began by attaching twine to the back of the wreath. No measurement is specified for this, though I do wish I had made the strings longer for the bottom hanging piece on mine. Simply cut the twine, dot some glue on both the wreath and the back of the baked dead dough, and stick it on. As for the twine used to hang the whole piece (if you decide to hang it), I suggest tying it around the wreath. I originally glued mine on the back and quickly realized this would not be supported enough. And when re-watching Kiki’s Delivery Service, Miyazaki had already thought of this! I swear no detail goes overlooked when it comes to Studio Ghibli.

Next, glue Kiki and Jiji to the broomstick. Then place the scrap pieces of baked dead dough on the back to help support the piece. I place mine underneath Kiki, making sure it was also glued to the broomstick. You may not need this support piece, but I found that it helps in the longevity of the piece. Then glue the duo onto the wreath!

Then I attached the flowers to the bottom of the wreath. I began with the largest rose, then attached the smaller two, trying to make sure no glue was showing. Not only did I then place the 4 leaves to match the original sign, but I also angled them to help hide any visible glue. Feel free to take some creative liberties with this if needed, it doesn’t have to perfectly match!

To assemble the bow, glue all the loops together. It helps to glue the larger loops first, then angle the smaller two on top. If you find your dead dough will not sit together properly, it can be cleaned up with a zester/cheese grater. Shave off some of the rough bits if needed but do this very gently! Lastly, glue the ribbon ends underneath and attach the bow to the top of the wreath.

Last, and optional, step: shellac everything! Once again, this helps with longevity and gives the bread a nice shine. I typically place an old plastic shopping bag outside, place the finished piece on top, and spray 2 or three coats of Bulls Eye Alcohol-Based Shellac. Let it dry completely before moving. The only issue I had with this was the sharpie writing blurred slightly. I’ve never had this issue before, even when working with food coloring. But if you are worried about this happening to you, do a test piece with a scrap piece of dough.

And that’s it, you’re done! Unfortunately, I don't believe this should be hung for display in the exact same manner as the movie. The wreath has far more texture on the front and would not sit flat if it is meant for viewers outside the window. Dead dough does also tend to fade when left in direct sunlight over time. But this can be enjoyed as decor in plenty of other ways, even simply hung on the kitchen wall!


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