Gruffalo Birthday Cake

You know from my last post that I let the boys decide what they want for their birthday cakes. Now, our Cathal is not much of a talker but he is very good at getting his point across. His big brother’s birthday is eleven days before his so he was used to conversations about birthday cakes and when I asked him what he kind of cake that he wanted he immediately replied “GRUFFALO”. And so another internet search was born. There’s not much out there, but I read them all.

You do know what a gruffalo is don’t you? It’s one of our favourite bedtime stories, and is a lovely tale of a little mouse tricking a big scary creature called a gruffalo- check out the Official Gruffalo Website for more. The website has a cake but it’s a more casual cake than I wanted to make for Cathal’s first ever birthday party so I improvised a bit, using Rachel Allen’s Chocolate Letter or Number Cake recipe from her new book, “Cake”.

The cake is cooked in a large roasting tin, and then carved into shape when cool.

Gruffalo Cake Ingredients
For the Cake– I used the Chocolate number or letter cake recipe from Rachel Allen’s new book “Cake”.
350g butter
350g caster sugar
350g flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
6 eggs
3.5 teaspoons baking powder

For the Chocolate Buttercream Icing
225g butter
450g icing sugar
125g milk chocolate
(at least) 25g cocoa powder (although I just kept adding til the icing looked Gruffalo coloured)

For Decorating
One package white ready to roll icing
2 marshmallow dolphins (these are not vital, you could use cake offcuts or extra icing)
5 white mini marshmallows
Black writing icing
1 pink marshmallow
1 green jellybean
8 purple jellybeans
1 Licorice string (you can cut to length)
Orange food colouring paste/gel (I used sugarflair tangerine)

For the cake
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the roasting tin with baking paper.
Haul the mixer out of the press and cream the butter until it’s soft and almost white in colour, then add the caster sugar and continue beating until very light and fluffy. Mix the eggs together in a bowl or jug with a fork to combine and add them gradually to the mixture.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa together and then fold in to the mixture. Then, pour it into the tin, spread it all out and put it in the oven on a low shelf for about 35 minutes. When it’s done Rachel recommends leaving it in the tin for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire tray, but I forgot to do that and ended up leaving it in the tin til it was completely cool. At least I remembered to take it out of the oven this time.

For the icing
Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. (Remember not to let the water hit the bowl or the chocolate will seize). Wash the mixer bowl from the cake and then cream the butter in the mixer. When it’s fabulously light and fluffy, then sift in the icing sugar and cocoa together and beat in the mixer for an age until its even lighter and fluffier. Slowly stir in the melted chocolate. If it’s not gruffalo coloured then sift in some extra cocoa and beat again.

To decorate
First, shape the cake. I had a side profile of the Gruffalo and I tried to copy the shape from it. I found it difficult as I am not a natural sculptress, so while I had a template, our Gruffalo had some chin reconstruction to save him from looking too much like his adversary, the big bad mouse. If you make a mistake and trim off too much you can use the offcuts and cover them in the extra buttercream.

So, cover the cake in the chocolate buttercream icing (that’s what you just made) and then fluff it to look like fur with a fork.

For the eyes- get a piece of ready to roll icing and soften in your hands into a ball. Then get a cocktail stick and put a blob of the orange colouring into the middle of the ball and keep rolling to get the colour to blend. You may need to add extra colouring a few times to get the right shade of bright orange. When you have them shaped (slightly oval, flat) put a blob of writing icing on each one as a pupil. Make sure to put them off centre as any pics of the Gruffalo will show.

Put purple jellybeans all down the Gruffalo’s back for his purple prickles.
For the mouth use the licorice string and shape into a smile, then position the mini marshmallows as the teeth.
For the horns and tusks you’ll need to roll some ready to roll icing on a board dusted in icing sugar and cut them freehand. The tusk is a very similar shape to the horns. Unless you are using very very thick icing you’ll need something to rise the horns. I trimmed two marshmallow dolphins, to fit underneath but you could use cake offcuts too. Cut the pink marshmallow in half and place on the ear. Finally place the green jellybean as the poisonous wart at the end of his nose.

It does feel a bit cruel eating the Gruffalo but he tastes delicious.

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