The Best Hungry Caterpillar Cake Recipe For Your Toddler's Birthday

Mum and toddler in the kitchen making a hungry caterpillar cake together.
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Image © senivpetro, under a Creative Commons license.

'In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf'...

This sweet and timeless story about the little caterpillar who turned into a very big butterfly is instantly recognisable. Despite first being published in 1969, this children's book has never been out of print. The beautiful collage illustrations and the memorable poetic writing make 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle a true classic.

'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' eats his way through this book, devouring all kinds of treats- from an apple, to five oranges, to an entire picnic including one slice of Swiss cheese and one cupcake! This 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' cake recipe is for actually a collection of cakes. With a small layer cake for the head, and an array of cupcakes for the body, this could be an opportunity to observe portion control- unlike the very hungry caterpillar himself, who as we know- ends up with a tummy ache!

Read on to discover how to make a hungry caterpillar cake- and cupcakes, perfect for a little caterpillar's first birthday.

Ingredients:

For the cake: 125g self-raising flour, 125g caster sugar, 125g soft butter, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 tbsp milk.

Fondant icing details: Fondant/roll out icing in red, orange, green and black, 2 x cocktail sticks (with pointy ends snipped off).

For the cupcakes: 220g  butter, 220g caster sugar, 220g self-raising flour, 4 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3 tbsp milk.

For the buttercream frosting: 300g butter, 600g icing sugar, 5 tbsp milk, food colouring paste in a few different shades of green. (This sounds like a lot of sugar and butter, but there are 24 cupcakes to ice! Feel free to half these ingredients and just use a little less buttercream on each cake- it will still make an awesome caterpillar.)

Equipment: 1 or 3 15cm/6 inch cake tins (you can bake all 3 layers at once, or one at a time), parchment paper, 2x 12 cupcake tins, a mixing bowl, an electric whisk, a rolling pin, a sieve, 24 cupcake cases, piping bag with 'star' nozzle, wire cooling rack.

Baby girl licking cake off her finger, with more icing on her nose.
Image © freepic.diller, under a Creative Commons license.

Method:

Cupcakes:

1.Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4, and fill the two cupcake trays with 24 cupcake cases.

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

3.Next add the flour and vanilla extract, stir until lightly combined, then spoon the mixture into the cases.

4.Pop into the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown, once cooked remove from the tins and leave to cool on the wire rack.

5.For the buttercream, whip the butter until it is super soft (but not runny) then add the icing sugar. Put a small amount of buttercream aside to use for the main cake.

6.Mix until smooth and then add the milk, a little at a time, you might not need all of it.

7.Divide the buttercream up and add a different shade of green to each bowl, add a scoop of each to the piping bag and swirl onto the cupcakes, we are aiming to recreate the collage/water colour look of the illustrations in The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Baby boy in a high chair sat with a piece of cake in front of him and icing on his face.
Image © Wallpaperflare

Mini cake:

1.Preheat your oven to 200ºC/180ºC Fan/gas mark 6. If you are using three cake tines, grease and line with parchment paper.

2.Use the electric whisk to whip the butter until it is very soft and light, then add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

3.Add the milk a little bit at a time, then the eggs with a small amount of flour along with each. Combine.

4.Next fold in the rest of the flour and add the vanilla extract.

5.Divide the mixture into three and add to each pan, it will not fill up much of the pan but we only want slim layers. If baking one at a time put 2/3 of the mixture to one side for now.

6.Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cakes cool slightly in the pans, then tip out onto a wire cooling rack.

7.Once the cakes have cooled, use a little of the buttercream from the cupcakes to sandwich the three layers together.

Top tip: For this next part it is very useful to have an image of the very hungry caterpillar himself for reference.

8.Roll out the red fondant icing to cover the whole cake, and trim the edges. Layer a small oval of orange, with a small oval of green on top for the eyes. Take a tiny oval of black fondant for the caterpillar nose, and make some tiny caterpillar boots to go underneath the cupcakes.

9.For the antenna, make two rolls of black fondant and place these onto the cocktail sticks, then gently push these into the top of the cake.

10.Now all that's left to do is arrange the cupcakes alongside the mini-cake, to create a wiggly caterpillar on the hunt for some treats!

Mum holding her two year old daughter who has a birthday cake in front of her.
Image © prostooleh, under a Creative Commons license.

Alternatives:

  • To make the cakes dairy free, or make it vegan- you can switch out a few ingredients. Coconut oil, vegetable oil or applesauce can work instead of butter (worth making a practise cake first!), or there are vegan spreads available. Oat, rice milk, or any dairy free milk can replace cows milk.
  • As an egg replacement, you could make a 'flax egg' or a 'chia egg', as they create the same binding texture.

More Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake Ideas:

  • Instead of cupcakes, you could make a few of the mini cakes, and create your very hungry caterpillar birthday cake out of those.
  • You could make one large layer cake, and make a cupcake caterpillar to go on top.
  • If you are feeling crafty you could re-create the caterpillar from the book and design a very hungry caterpillar cake topper out of paper and lolly sticks.
  • Take a look at all the snacks Eric Carle mentions in the book- you could make them out of fondant as extra hungry caterpillar cake decorations.

Storage:

This caterpillar birthday cake and cupcakes will keep in an airtight box in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, or un-refrigerated for 1-2. If you want to bake the cakes in advance, you can freeze them after baking but save the icing and decorating to do on the day.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

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