Oscar is one lucky boy. Being an October baby makes him a Halloween baby and guess what? Here at Castle Von Baines we LOVE Halloween! It's no surprising then that all of his previous birthday cakes have had a spooky theme with last year's Harry Potter Cauldron topping the chart for most liked cake EVER. So what creepy delight would grace the party table this year? The cauldron was a tough act to follow but armed with my trusty piping bag, cake tins and soldering iron I set to work in true Shellian fashion to create a living but totally edible monster cake. It's alive!
Fortunately, in order to breath life into my monster I didn't need to rob graves or harness the power of lightning, I just needed some eyes. Not real ones of course, these eyes were created using a Teensy 3.2 microcontroller and two rather small computer monitors (1.5” OLED displays). These would be embedding in the cake to give the mass of flour, eggs and sugar some personality. A tutorial on how to build and program the eyes can be found here.
The eye circuitry was mounted in a dummy cake slice enclosure made from card. A section of cake was removed and the eye circuit was slotted into place and secured with a dollop of buttercream.
The recipe I use for my cakes is perfect for 'construction', you can stack two or three layers without the need of internal dowels for support and they don't collapse under the weight. They are light and moist but slightly denser in texture that you’d expect from a standard Victoria Sponge. I personally prefer 'heavier' moist cakes like apple cake and carrot cake
For this I used -
250g Self Raising Flour
250g Caster Sugar
250g Unsalted Butter
1 Teaspoon of Salt
4 Large Eggs (separated)
100ml Natural Yogurt
60g Cocoa Powder (use more if you like you cakes more chocolatey)
Gently melt 250g of butter and once it is fully melted add the 250g of caster sugar and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and place to one side to cool.
Add the salt & cocoa powder to the flour and sieve.
Separate the 4 eggs and place the whites in a mixer and beat until fluffy.
Tip the 4 yolks into the butter and sugar mixture along with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 100ml of natural yogurt and mix.
Then add the flour to the wet mixture and gently fold until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Finally, take the whisked egg whites and fold it into the mixture until it is fully mixed. Be sure not to over mix the batter.
Line a couple of cake tins, pour in the mixture and bake for 30 minutes at 180c. If the middle still wobbles after 30 minutes return the cake to oven for a further 5 minutes and repeat if necessary.
You can add pretty much anything to this recipe so be adventurous! My kids are boring, they only like chocolate which luckily is my least favorite meaning I don’t as many off-cuts as I normally would!
The cake consisted of three layers of chocolate sponge, with the middle layer being slightly smaller, similar to a fault line cake. This recessed area would be used to form a 360 degree mouth. The eyes were powered from a USB battery pack mounted under the cake board. To thread the wires through the cake I made a 12” long cookie cut fro Plasticard to channel a core a hole through the centre of the cake.
All of the layers were given a quick crumb coat and then placed in the fridge for half an hour while I prepared the buttercream.
Oscar has a particular fondness for chocolate orange so I whipped up a large batch of orange buttercream along with some pink and black for the mouth. The teeth were simply mini marshmallows. I had intended to make sharp teeth from white chocolate but I felt that the marshmallows gave the monster a friendlier appearance. Piping from the deepest point outwards, I started with the black followed by the pink gums.
I roughly piped the orange buttercream over the rest of the cake. I didn’t want perfect lines of icing, I was after a finish that looked slightly chaotic that emulated what I can only describe as ‘horny fur’. The ears were created using strawberry meringue swirls.
It only made sense that a creature with a 360 degree mouth should also have vision to match so I added a more eyes and an extra tongue. You never know when one could come in handy! Some parents commented on the uncanny realistic texture of the tongue. This was created by stippling the fondant icing with an egg wash brush followed by a couple of coats of confectioner’s glaze to give it a permanent dribbly wet look.
As you can see, the cake was a hit and the poor monster with a thousand eyes was promptly sliced up and shared between 20 hungry kids and their parents.