I always make my cakes at least a few days beforehand. Then, if your cake fails (as mine are prone to) you have time to make another. It also means you can refrigerate/freeze the cake which helps you to carve them into shapes.
- Mudcakes are fine for sculpting into cake creatures and can be stored in the fridge. If you are freezing them, allow a day to thaw out in the fridge because they are very dense.
- If you are making a butter cake or any other soft, less dense cake, then I strongly recommend freezing the cake. This can be done up to 2-3 weeks in advance. This doesn't affect the taste of the cake, but if you were concerned it did then I can assure you that your friends will be so amazed that you even made an axolotl cake they wont really care how it tastes. These thaw out fairly quickly, and you want the cake to be semi-frozen while you're carving it, so take it out of the freezer 1-2 hours before you want start carving it.
250 g butter, chopped
150 g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups/440 g castor sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
1 tsp vanilla essence/1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Grease a 20 cm round cake tin. Line with baking paper.
Combine butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in a medium saucepan.
Sitre over a low heat without boiling until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and cool for 15 mins.
Preheat oven to a medium-slow oven, 160 C fan forced.
Whisk sifted flours into mixture. Stir in eggs and essence.
Pour mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. Cover the pan with foil and bake for a further 40 mins.
I had some troubles with these baking times and after the 40 mins the cake was nowhere near cooked. I baked this for a further 20 mins covered, and another 25 mins uncovered. It still wasn't perfect then, but to be honest, when it came to eating the cake, no one really noticed or cared. It seemed like the cake tin they suggested was too small? Hope you have better luck with this than me!
White chocolate buttercream frosting
1/2 cup solid copha
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
40 g white chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
500 g sifted icing sugar
3-4 tbsp milk
Desired food colouring (I used red)
Red food dye
Pink jelly snakes. The harder these are the better, so go for the cheapo brands. I used the snakes out of a packet of 'Dip Dunk chew'
(I didn't end up using the smarties)
Make the cake
Cream shortening and butter. Add the white and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add food dye until you are happy with the colour.
Alternatively, if you're lazy like I am, you can put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend on a medium speed until a fairly stiff but fluffy mixture forms.
If you're not using the mixture immediately, store it in the fridge and then rebeat the mixture until it's fluffy again when required. This can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Carve the cake into shape
Place your cake onto a chopping board and, using a sharp knife, cut out your cake into the shapes below
Carve away the edges of the cake to create a nicely shaped body and head. Remembering that people have to eat this cake and have decent sized pieces, I kept the tail nice and thick, so it wasn't exactly anatomically correct (sorry!).
Transfer your cake to your prepared board. Place two slices of baking paper underneath the cake. After you have iced the cake you will slide these out (you wont messy up your board that way). Attach the head of the axolotl to the body using a bamboo skewer.
Ice your cake
Smother your cake all over with icing using a metal spatula. For finer areas, like the inner curve of the tail, I use a butter knife. Smooth out most of the creases in the icing using a metal knife or spatula dipped into very hot water. You will set the icing and repeat this later, so just get the worst of the creases out now.
Add the legs and dorsal fin
Make the legs by adding a bit of food colouring to your Orchard icing and kneed it through until the colour is uniform. Pull off a clump and roll into a sausage. Flatten one end slightly between your thumb and forefinger and then make 3 cuts to make the toes. Press to the side of the body.
Lightly dust your clean, dry work surface with icing sugar. Roll out a strip of Orchard icing so its 3-4mm thickness and 3cm wide (you will need to work out the length depending on your own cake, but mine was from the top of the head to the middle of the tail). Arrange the dorsal fin along the length of the axolotl.
Take your 'snakes' and cut them 4-5cm long sections. You will need 6 in total. Make slit down one end. With your sour straps, cut them into 6 x 3cm sqares. Cut 10 slits down the sides of each square to make the furry gill segments - do not cut right the way to the middle! Slip the sour strap into the slot in the snake and trim the sour strap "gills" so the top bits are shorter (see diagram). Squeeze closed. The stickiness of the snakes should keep the sour strap gills in place. Poke them into the head. I didn't have any trouble with them staying in place but if you do I would suggest poking a tooth pick into the "snake" and then poking that into the head.
Roll a small amount of the Orchard icing into a ball. Flatten slightly. I used a coriander seed (oh yes!) for the pupil because it was the only thing I could find in the cupboard. But you could use mini m&ms or those little silver ball things or whatever else you find in your cupboard.
Leave the cake in the fridge for about an hour or so to allow the icing to set. Run a hot knife (a metal knife or spatula dunked in hot water) to smooth over your axolotl's icing. Mop up any messy bits on your display tray with a paper towel -- or ear bud for fine parts!