31 October 2011

Caterpillar Cake!

I am a big planner about some things. And others, well, I do better if I just start working and create as I go. This frustrates the heck out of the Hubs at times, but, alas, I'll call it one of my more endearing qualities.

I've been saying for about two weeks that I was going to make Carter a caterpillar cake for his birthday. I didn't exactly have the execution planned out, just the idea. His birthday was Sunday, so by Saturday I thought I better get to it. I had nearly all of the ingredients on hand except powdered sugar, and I still needed to get dinner supplies, too. So we loaded up and headed to Safeway, boys in tow, to buy four pounds of confectioner's sugar, a package of hot dogs, buns and two bottles of wine. The teenage checker, I'm sure probably gave me a low score on the Mom-of-the-Year scale, especially considering the roaming 3-year-old boy who laid down in the middle of the wine aisle because he thought it would be funny to block the cart. Good thing I shop on price instead of tasting notes. We'd have been there a long time!

After a walk home in the rain from church on Sunday morning, I got to baking. The text book would tell me to bake the cake well in advance of decorating time, but this momma was working on Halloween costumes the night before, so something had to give. Here's a quick run down of how I made the cake. It wasn't too difficult, and had I not been trying to wrangling two kids, it wouldn't have taken too long to decorate.

  1. I am so unoriginal, I once again used this cake and icing recipe. I baked three cupcakes and one cake in a Bundt pan. After making the icing, I pulled about one cup out and mixed green food coloring into the red. Then I tinted the remaining one cup red. I was going for the Very Hungry Caterpillar look.
  2. After letting the cakes cool for about an hour, I leveled the bottom off the Bundt cake, reserving the cut off portion for later use. Then, I cut that cake in half to form two semi-circles. I set one of the halves aside. I took the other half and cut that in half once again. The semi-circle forms the back, then place the other two pieces in the opposite direction to for the neck and tail, both curling upward. The whole cake should be assembled on something flat and much large than the cake. I didn't have a platter large enough, so I turned a cookie sheet upside down and covered it with foil. You could also buy one of those fancy cake boards at a craft store.
  3. Take the cupcakes and break them up. Toss them in a bowl with something sticky. You could use frosting (cake pop style), but I used about two tablespoons of homemade strawberry jam. The consistency was perfect, runny and so, so sticky. Then I used a pastry blender -- a fork would work, too -- and mashed the whole thing up well. Try taking a small pinch and forming a ball. If you can do that, you're ready to move on to the next step. If it's still too crumbly, add more frosting or jam, mash some more until you can form the ball.
  4. Make a large ball out of the cake and jam/frosting mixture. Place that ball on the neck end of the caterpillar and ta-da -- you've got a head!
  5. Next, use the remaining cake that was reserved when you leveled the Bundt to fill in any cracks in your creation.
  6. Then, using small sheets of wax paper, line the underside of the cake. Place the sheets just barely below the cake surface, so that they will pull away easily. These will be removed after frosting, so that you will have a clean surface under the cake.
  7. Frost the body green and then the head red. An offset spatula is the best tool for this, which you can pick up at any store that sells cake decorating supplies. After frosting I gave the body a good dose of colored sprinkles. Remove the wax paper and place the cake in the refrigerator. The icing will set up a bit when cooled.
  8. I used Tootsie rolls to make the eyes, antenna, feet and grass. I (thankfully) had chocolate, lime and vanilla Tootsie rolls handy from the Halloween candy bowl. You can pinch or cut the Tootsie roll and shape them pretty easily with your hands. For the eyes, I just rolled them into a ball and smooshed them with a rolling pin. Super simple. I made all of the shapes and then set them aside.
  9. Take whatever cake bits you have leftover and toss them in the food processor with a few graham crackers. Buzz. This is the dirt you can sprinkle around the caterpillar. If you don't have a food processor, you could just crush up graham crackers by placing them in a zip top bag and taking a rolling pin to them.
  10. Lastly, pop the Tootsie roll decorations onto the cake.
  11. Enjoy!