The Caterpillar cake seemed to be a big hit at the shower on Sunday....it's such a nice feeling after all that work! It's always easy to find a cute gift for baby but the cake is kind of my gift to the moms...they're the ones that will remember it and take pictures of it. Enough people have asked how I make it so I thought I'd post some basic instructions and if you have any questions you can ask questions under the comments area.....here goes:
Determine how many sections you want to create the length of your caterpillar.....I would say 4 minimum and 6 maximum are good guidelines. I used metal bowls from the dollar store to bake mine in but you could use glass as well...just try to find ones that have a nice dome shape to them but aren't too deep or the cake will never bake in the centre.
I box of cake mix will fill 3 bowls. I like to do chocolate and vanilla just for variety. Grease the bowls with margarine and lightly flour...this is very important for getting them out later. Fill your bowls approx. 2/3 full and bake at 350 on a pan. There is no magical time...each batch I made took different times to bake. It will take much longer than usual though because the bowls are deeper than an average pan. Mine took between 45 - 50 min. I just kept inserting a toothpick until it came out clean. Once baked, cool for approx. 1/2 hour then turn out onto cooling rack and continue to let them sit until completely cool.
Find a long board that you can cover with foil to place cake on. My board was about 1' wide and approx. 4 feet long.
Now that they're cool, place them back in the metal bowls and use a bread knife to even off the tops...they're your spares...handy for family samplings:) Now I usually put all the pieces in the freezer for at least an hour, or even overnight if you like, just cover with a tea towel. When I'm ready to start the cake I take the first section out, dust all the crumbs off with a pastry brush and begin the flat icing process (see below) Position your first piece (the head) and cut approx. 1 inch wide and maybe 3 inch long piece off of one edge on an angle where you will attatch the next section.
Icing: Techincally for optimal decorating you should use the correct Wilton recipe for decorator's icing...but me, nope, can't stand the taste so I make butter icing. Now, the problem with using butter icing to decorate cakes is that the warmth from your hands will tend to soften the butter quicker than decorating icing (made with shortening) and so you'll have to be careful not to get your icing too soft or the stars will glob and melt instead of form nicely. I used approx. 4 sticks of marg and kept adding icing sugar and milk until I had a consistency that would be thicker than I would normally ice a cake with. I used 4 icing bags all with decorating star tip #16. I made 3 kinds of blue icing initially and then used the remainders of those colors to make a a new color of blue when i needed another batch of icing. I also reserved just a bit of icing to color brown for accents...you don't need much for accents. When I wasn't using an icing bag with a certain color I kept it stored it upright in a cup in the fridge.
So, first you want to 'flat ice' the section of cake in the color you're going to do the stars in. All this means is that you're slathering a thin, smooth layer of icing over the surface of the cake to hide the natural color of the cake. This isn't absolutely necessary, and is a little more work, but it allows me to be more forgiving with my star decorating and hides the chocolate cake much better. So, ice those first if you like, then you're ready to start your decorating. I start with one star in the middle of the dome and continue around it. When you're ready to attatch another section you'll cut that one at an angle in two spots...first cut one angle and attatch to first section, then cut second angle where you want the next piece and so on. you can lay out the whole cake and then start decorating but then the pieces start the thaw and make the flat icing a little harder. Once all your pieces are attatched, just check that your seams between sections are covered properly in icing. If my icing was starting to soften too much I took a break and stuck my icing bag back in the fridge. I also sat out in my sun room which was freezing cold so the cake (and me) would stay as cool as possible. This is another reason why freezing the cakes first helps although if you're using the correct decorating icing you won't have this problem so much.
Now you're ready to accent. I made spots for this caterpillars eyes and body. I just attatched a plain round tip and make hershey kiss like globs on a piece of wax paper, then dipped my finger in corn starch (learned this in decorating class) and patted down the centre of the 'kiss' until it was the diameter I desired. I then did the same with the accent brown icingon top of the blue dots. Then I froze them for about 10 minutes and used a knife to pick them up off the wax paper and add them to the cake. I chose to do a little accenting with brown dots using a small plain round tip. I always use the chalky lollipops for antenae but you can be creative.
Well, there it is...I'm not great at giving instructions so if I've forgotten something please let me know:) The thing to remember is that you can do a cake like this as simple or as elaborate as you like...don't be afraid to try it. The magic #16 star tip does most of the work for you:) If you're one of my local friends reading this you know you can call me to either borrow my stuff to do this, or I'll even come and walk you through it:) Good luck and let me know how yours turns out:) PS...I added pink antenae because there was one baby girl out of the 4 babies so she had her own little piece of that cake:)