Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake

Today is World Book Day! As a child I used to love dressing up for it: my favourite costume was one Mum made me of Rita the Rescuer – I haven’t been able to find any photos, but I loved it dearly and wore the cape around the house as much as I could. Last Halloween my friend Zosia came to a party as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and the book has been stuck in my head since! So, I decided to get creative.

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The cake itself is a three layer chocolate cake, and it is so good. I’m a firm believer that a cake shouldn’t look better than it tastes, and this doesn’t disappoint!

Ingredients:
Cake:
– 270g butter
– 270g granulated sugar
– 4 large eggs
– 225g self-raising flour
– 35g cocoa powder
– 1 ½ tsp baking powder
– 2-3 tbsp warm water
You will also need 3 x 20cm round sandwich tins

Buttercream:
– 100g butter
– 200g icing sugar
– 2 tsp cocoa powder

Decoration:
– 1 kg white, soft fondant icing
– red, green, blue and black food colouring
– 2 shots vodka
You will also need a paintbrush and a sharp knife

1. Begin by pre-heating the oven to 180°C, and greasing and lining your cake tins.

2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time and mix in.

3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together, and fold into the cake. Mix in enough water to stop the batter being too stiff, then divide equally between the cake tins and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes beginning to shrink away from the sides, and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

4. For the buttercream, use a hand mixer (or a lot of will power) to beat together the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder until light, smooth and creamy. If it seems a bit thick, add a drop of water to help loosen it.

5. Use half of the buttercream to sandwich the cakes together, then use the rest to cover the top and sides.

6. Dust a clean worktop with icing sugar, and knead your fondant icing until pliable. Once it is, roll it out to about 5mm thick, then use the rolling pin to support it as you drape it over the cake. Smooth out the icing, and mould it to the cake before trimming the edges.

7. With the remaining icing, cut out the shape of the very hungry caterpillar and the various foods he ate! Once the shapes are cut, use the food colouring like paint: mix the colours together with a little vodka, then paint away – make sure to colour the sides, too. Once the shapes have dried, brush the backs with vodka and stick them onto the cake. Finish off by painting on the caterpillar’s feet.

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Vodka is used with the icing as it evaporates quickly, and so means the colours dry. If you don’t have any to hand, try using lemon juice or vanilla extract.

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