Friday, 24 October 2008

How to make a nudibranch cake

As I have mentioned before, my friends seem to be competing for the strangest marine animal birthday cake. Despite my decorating being quite hacked sometimes (I've finally decided to enroll in a cake decorating course), I always like a good challenge. I decided to make a Tambja verconis, which is found off the south-east coast of Australia.


Beth's coconut lime loaf cake


I made this the day beforehand. Adapted from here.

200 g butter
215 g castor sugar
1 tbsp lime rind
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
Juice of 2 limes
165ml can coconut milk
  • Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease an 11 x 21 cm loaf pan with non-stick baking paper. Remember to do this part because I was lazy and thought that greasing a tin would be enough, even though I've read ~100 times that you should always put non-stick baking paper on the bottom of the loaf pan. The bottom of the cake stuck to the tin. That was OK for me because I was turning the cake into a nudibranch, but if you're not, then you probably want to put baking paper in the bottom of your pan.
  • Beat butter, sugar and rind until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Gently fold in flour, lime juice and coconut milk.
  • Bake for 50 mins until golden and cooked through. Leave for 5 mins before turning out on a rack to cool completely.
Swiss buttercream icing:

I decided to make a Swiss buttercream icing because it comes up very glossy, which is what you want when making a nudibranch. I really like Swiss buttercream because it isn't sickly sweet and is very easy to smooth over your cake. People will tell you lots of horror stories about making it, and having now made it a few times over the years, all you have to do is be patient. Keep beating and it will eventually whip up.
  • Four egg whites
  • 220 g castor sugar
  • 330 g butter at room temperature, cut into 10 pieces.
  • Blue and yellow food dye
Completely dissolve the castor sugar into the eggwhites in a bain-marie: a bowl over a saucepan of hot water (make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water). Stir continuously. You will know when the sugar is fully dissolved when you can't feel any grittiness in the mixture.

Beat the eggwhite/sugar mixture until stiff peaks are formed. Beat in the butter one piece at a time. You'll probably only start to see it fluff up after the last or second last piece is added. It might look like it's starting to break down and go mushy, but don't worry, just keep whipping.

Separate your icing into two bowls, add blue or yellow dye to each, and whip until the colour is evenly blended through. I also like to set some plain icing aside in case I've miscalculated and need more. The yellow of this icing actually came out very bright: "Bart Simpson yellow"!

This icing can be kept for up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container. You will need to re-beat it after it's at room temperature.


Place the cake onto two sheets of overlapping baking paper (this helps keep your plate clean and makes it easier for tidying up). Carve the cake into the shape of a nudibranch. Round the edges, brush away any crumbs.


  • Cover the cake entirely in yellow icing. Remove the baking sheet.
  • Pipe a large amount of blue icing around the entire edge of the base of the cake cake and smooth it out so it joins the yellow, being carful not to blend the two, to make the edge of the foot of the nudibranch. Refer to this website for more nudibranch anatomy.
  • Pipe blue lines/dots along the mantle of the nudibranch.
  • To make the rhinophores (the "antennae" looking parts), I used chopped down jelly snakes. Place a toothpick into the end of the snake to keep the rhinophore somewhat upright, and insert the other end of the toothpick into the head of the cake.
  • To make the gills, I made some blobs of Orchard icing, coloured blue. I made 4 x 4cm lengths of blue jelly snakes. For each section, I cut four slits down into the snake, leaving about 1cm at the base. I inserted them into the blobs of icing and then mounted them onto the mantle of the nudibranch. I piped some of the blue buttercream icing around it and into the centre to keep it in place.

  • The ridge the protrudes across the top of the nudibranchs "forehead" is made out of a strip of Orchard icing
  • I am aware that nudibranchs have eyes that are very tiny and can barely be seen, however the nudibranch cake looked pretty ridiculous without them, so I gave it some big blue eyes anyway (artistic licence is ok!).


13 comments:

cindy said...

Nothing wrong with a bit of artistic liscence. And how else could he see how cute he was without those eyes.

Hoppo Bumpo said...

Beth, you've outdone yourself again - the nudibranch is fantastic! Its perfect.

Sas said...

Yum yum yum. That cake was particularly nice, just like my lime cookies in the morning. I am going to give it a shot myself (albeit with no nudi decoration).

Beth I have planned out the cakes I want for my birthday, they become progressively more challenging :D
-2009: GIANT SQUID
-2010: Cuttlefish
-2011: Tassled Anglerfish
-2012: An ascidian cake that retracts when you poke it like IRL (you will be skilled enough for this for sure by then :D)

I wish I had more birthdays each year so I can get more of your delicious cakes *cries*

kt mac said...

hehe I love your crazy and fun cakes - and your friends for asking for crazy things :)

And I am so glad to hear you are enrolling in a cake course woohoo your going to do so great :)

Also I tagged you for a 6 random thing game.. if you feel like playing along.

Beth said...

Sas, I reckon the tassled angler fish and ascidian are doable... just don't ask for a leafy sea dragon!

Sas said...

DAMN I was trying to think of that! I knew I had one that I thought of the other day - was a leafy.

Ok 2013 - Leafy Sea Dragon. Or if you prefer 2013 - weedy sea dragon, then 2014 - leafy. Just to give you some practice :D

Paul said...

Awsome looking cake, before the I saw the photo I was trying to think of how you you were going to do the lungs. The blue snakes are great. And the eyes are definitely better.

Paul said...

Awsome looking cake, before the I saw the photo I was trying to think of how you you were going to do the lungs. The blue snakes are great. And the eyes are definitely better.

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Wow awesome design, I think I'm going to try an Octopus for my kid next birthday, it is his favorite animal.

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