Are you a perfectionist? It has been pointed out to me by a few people that I have some perfectionistic tendencies. More specifically, I have been accused of being like the character Monica from the TV series ‘Friends’ (showing my age here). In particular, there is a scene when Monica is hosting a party, and although she asks her friend to help her put out some food, she directs her on how exactly she should do it. Yep. That’s me. I do, however (when accused of being a perfectionist), proclaim that I do not strive to be perfect or flawless! I just have expectations about how something should be, which – according to those in the know – is what perfectionists say…
My recent experience with some cake decorating has kind of reinforced that perhaps I am a little perfectionistic… I’ve come to realise that I tend to be a little ambitious about my creations – such that I find myself in a pickle each time as I start early enough to actually do it properly (an all-nighter is often a result) and I always finish with thoughts of ‘it could be better’ or ‘if only I’d started earlier then x, y and z would have worked’, etc. Perhaps my psychologically minded friends might actually be correct…
The first cake I made this year comes from one of my favourite childhood books: ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar‘. For those who have not had the pleasure of reading it, the protagonist is a caterpillar that eats, and eats, and eats until it becomes a pupa and eventually emerges as a butterfly. The first thing the caterpillar eats is an apple, followed by two pears, three plums, and then four strawberries. [As I write this I am wondering whether this may have influenced my current approach to food... It is somewhat misleading as I am still waiting for my butterfly moment, however I doubt eating everything in sight will result in this.]
When my friend asked me to make a cake for a Hungry Caterpillar themed party I got pretty excited. I knew I wanted it to be a 3-D cake (not a flat caterpillar – that would just be too disturbing), but I had major concerns about how to transport the cake without the caterpillar collapsing on me enrolee – so after much thinking, I decided to use the apple for structural support… and here we have it:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake
I used a double batch of the Martha Stewart cupcake recipe and icing recipe. To create these shapes, I used one of those giant cupcake tins and a 8-inch round cake tin. You will also need a rectangular cake board and Wilton’s (or similar) gel icing colours in red, yellow, green, blue and purple. Also some soft black liquorice sticks.
1. Make the cakes two days before the party (one giant cupcake – top and bottom – and a round/circle cake) . Once cooled refrigerate cling-wrapped cakes overnight (it’s easier to cut and trim cakes when they have been chilled).
2. The day before the party make the icing as per recipe. Separate into parts for the different colours. You will need a lot of red. Very little yellow and white. For the green bits of the caterpillar its up to you how many shades of green you want to make – either through using different Wilton colours or by mixing your green with blue and yellow in different proportions. If you also want to make the extra fruit you will also need some purple icing for the plums.
3. Cut cakes to create an apple and the bits of the caterpillar. Keep all the cut-offs as you use them to make the other ‘fruit’.
To make the caterpillar, cut off the domed top of the round cake (to make it flat on the top and bottom). Then cut the ‘flattened’ part as below:
To make the apple: Take the top part of the giant cupcake (this will become the base of the apple) and trim the top so that it is flat. ‘Stick’ the smallest part down on the cake tray, using icing as glue. Next stick the base of the giant cupcake onto the piece you have just placed. Then use the bit you cut from the top of the circle/round cake above as the top of the apple. Use 3 skewers, that you push through all the layers, to keep them in place. Trim the cake to shape it into an apple. On opposite sides of the ‘apple’ cut out a groove (on each side) – this is where the caterpillar will emerge from. Also cut a groove out of the top of the apple, where the stem will be.
4. Cover the apple with a thin layer of red icing (except for the section where the caterpillar will emerge, instead use white/ uncoloured icing here). Put in the fridge to cool/ set.
5. Using the liquorice, cut legs, the nose, antennae, and spikes. Also make a stem (not pictured) by whittling one end of a piece of liquorice.
6. Take you the apple out of the fridge, and put a second coat of read icing (white for the caterpillar exit/ entry points).
7. Using the parts of the circle cake, shape the parts of the caterpillar and stick to the apple. For this bit I did a lot of trimming (as required) to get the correct shape. I also rounded the pieces to make the caterpillar round in shape.
8. Using a small palate knife and the different green icings you made earlier, paint the stripes of green onto the body of the caterpillar. [As you can see, I didn't do a crumb layer - i.e. base layer of icing - in retrospect it would have been a good idea to do so].
9. Use red icing for the head. Use yellow and green icing for the eyes. Stick on the liquorice nose.
10. Using green icing, pipe on a leaf, shape with the palate knife. Place your stem into the apple.
11. Add the legs to the front and back of the caterpillar. Add antennae.
12. Finally, add the spines the whole way down the body (both sides of the apple).
13. To make the extra fruit – I used the cake pop technique – i.e. crumble all the leftover cake and mix with icing until sticky. Shape into the fruits. Cover with icing/ decorate to look like the fruit.
14. Refrigerate until needed.