caterpillar birthday cake, which I attempted to pass off as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Sprout asked for another for her 9th birthday party last Saturday. I googled "very hungry caterpillar cake' and was all set to do one with a 'body' of cup cakes, until I began to ran out of time and realised that my piping bag skills remain a complete unknown. With her party being the middle day of three days of birthday catering I decided to cut my losses and fall back on trusty shop bought swiss rolls.
The plan was to make my own fondant icing, but after a latenight Facebook Messenger chat with a friend who makes cakes on a semi professional basis (when not delivering babies), she offered me 1kg of green sugarpaste, some food dye gels (apparently much better than the liquid ones), and some latex gloves - ooh err!
3 long swiss rolls or 4 shorter ones
1kg green sugarpaste
Blue gel food dye
2 large pinches yellow sugarpaste
100g red sugar paste
2 fat liquorice stick
1/4 jar of apricot jam
You can do this with regular fondant icing, which I believe you can buy ready coloured in the larger supermarkets.
First, cut your swiss roll to shape. I cut two of the long swiss rolls in half and laid three of them out in a bridge shape, making the righthand one slightly shorter than the left. I then used the third piece to cut a piece large enough to fill the gap at the top of the uprights and then cut this at an angle so I had two wedge shaped pieces to make rounded corners to the top of my caterpillar. Cut a head by cutting a slice off the leftover swiss roll as long as the body is high off the surface, and cut another wedge shaped piece as a neck. As you can see the tail is yet another wedge. I found it useful to have a picture of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar next to me. Assemble your caterpillar on the tray/board you are going to serve it on.
Heat the apricot jam in the microwave for about 1 minute until melted. Brush over all sides of your caterpillar, apart from the underneath, and using any excess as glue for your wedges. Most recipes using apricot jam as glue will tell you to sieve it, but I just picked off any large lumps. After all, caterpillars are supposed to be bumpy!
If you are feeling confident you could attempt to cover this with one big sheet of rolled out green sugarpaste. Me, being far from professional, did not. I divided it roughly into 4, rolled out three pieces with a lightly dusting of icing sugar to the thickness of £1 and covered each section. Tuck it firmly around down the sides of the body, but don't worry too much about tidying the joins as you can put a stripe across these. Roll out the red sugarpaste and cover the head.
Collect the excess green sugar paste and divide into two. Take one half and knead in a few smears of food dye applied with a cocktail stick. If you massage lots you will end up with a solid colour or a little kneading will give you a streaky colour. Both work well as caterpillar stripes. Divide the dyed ball into about 5-6 smaller balls. Roll these into sausages with your hands and then flatten them with your fingers and just lay them on to make stripes. With the excess, put to one side a couple of pinches to make eyes later. Repeat with the other ball. Use a fork to press it to your serving tray/board. This not only gives it a 'hairy' look but helps secure it to the tray so it doesn't slide off if you have to drive it anywhere.
To make the eyes, roll the two pinches of yellow into tiny sausages and flatten them. Attach with a dab of apricot jam. Take the two slightly smaller pinches of green and do the same so you can just see the yellow outside of the eye. Slice a sliver off the end of the liquorice stick to make a nose. Slice the liquorice stick on an angle about 1cm long to make 6 tiny feet and poke gently into the sugarpaste. Cut the last liquorice stick at an angle up along it's length to make the caterpillar's feelers. I just laid mine on the tray and poked them just into the icing as we had a car journey to make keeping this fella intact.
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