Sunday, 8 February 2009

How to make a Giant Squid cake

Yesterday was the hottest day in Melbourne on record: 46.4°C. We have massive bushfires raging throughout the state. Needless to say things have been a little stressful* in these parts. It also means it's not the best weather for making a birthday cake. However, I headed to my parents' place where they have air conditioning in the kitchen and a spare fridge out the back. I started nice and early in the morning, so it was all done before the worst of the heat kicked in.

The specifications:
  • Make a giant squid cake. I couldn't do a 1:1 scale giant squid, and I wasn't sure how people would know it's a giant squid if it was cake-sized, because it would just look like a regular squid then. So I went with some sort of giant squid reference point: a boat.
  • The cake should be a white chocolate cake. That didn't happen. I ran out of time, and the day that I was able to make the cake was way too hot and it was going to be really nasty for the oven to be on for that long (1.5+ hours cooking time). So a vanilla cake it was (only 40 min cooking time). Sorry Sarah!
  • Must be iced with butter icing (my friend dislikes the sugary soft, mouldable icing). Butter icing, in 46.4°C weather, was going to be far too unstable. So I went with white chocolate ganache, in the hope that that would be more stable and would make up for the lack of white chocolate cake.

How to make a giant squid cake

You will need:
  • Double quantity of vanilla butter cake batter (I doubled the vanilla so it was more vanillary)
  • 1 large loaf pan (23 x 13 x 8 cm)
  • 1 slab pan (25 x 25 x 4 cm)
  • 750 g white chocolate
  • 250 ml cream
  • Plastic ice cream container lid, cut into 2 triangles for fins
  • Red & blue food dye
  • Candy necklaces (I got a massive bag for $2 at the Reject shop)
  • Toy boat
  • Toothpicks
Baking the cakes:

A few days before you need the cake is a good time to bake them.
  • Transfer ¾ of the double quantity of cake mixture to the loaf pan, and ¼ to the slab pan. Make sure your pans are well greased and have a layer of greaseproof paper on the bottom. Bake the slab for 30 mins, and the loaf for 40-45 mins.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Freeze the cakes. (I do this even when it isn't hot weather, so it makes the cake easier to cut, and it crumbs far less).
Shaping the cake:
  • Allow the cakes to thaw slightly before carving.
  • Using a sharp knife, shape the loaf cake into the shape of a squid's mantle. I used this squid anatomy site as a reference. I wont feature the pictures here because they're kind of gross. Because it's a cake and we need to maximise the amount of cake to be consumed, mine is somewhat more squat than an actual squid. Refer to the shape below. I also made a slight ridge (0.5cm) where the mantle finishes and the eye section begins.

  • From the slab cake, cut the arms and tentacles by making wiggly strips from the cake. Cut 8 arms and two tentacles. Each arm is about 3 cm wide and 18 cm long (although I then later cut some shorter to fit on the cake board). Each tentacle is 25 cm long and 3 cm wide. I cut the two tentacles from the bottom 6 cm of the slab. The tentacles have a little diamond shaped bit at the bottom. Be careful with your arms and tentacles. If you break on don't fret. Use some icing and toothpicks to glue them back together.

My wiggly squid arms and tentacles. You can see that some of the legs have been cut shorter to fit on the cake board.

Make the ganache:

Melt together 700 g white chocolate and 250 ml cream over a double boiler. Set aside the spare 50 g white chocolate (don't eat it!). Stir through 5 ml red food dye and 1 drop of blue food dye. Beat together until blended, allow to cool to room temperature.

Assemble the cake:
  • Prepare the cake board. I used a wooden chopping board covered in a couple of layers of blue plastic.
  • Place the mantle in a back corner of the cake.
  • Arrange the bottom legs around the cake, below the ridge of the mantle, and use toothpicks to hold them in place. I had 7 legs/tentacles below, and 3 on top. Don't bother with the top ones until later.
  • Ice the cake with the ganache.

The toothpicks poking out there are just place holders for the top legs
  • Add the plastic fins. Ice them too. I saved the fins until a bit later so I could ice the sides of the cake better.

  • I used two white chocolate buttons and placed them in the centre of the bottom end of the mantle/head area, for a beak.
  • Place the boat at the end of the cake board. Drape the top legs over the top of the boat, and use toothpicks to insert the legs into the body, and carefully ice them too.

Beak and positioning of legs against the body. You can see it was getting a little messy in there! It's ok, ganache cleans up really well.

  • Put the squid in the fridge for a bit to set the ganache. Once firm, take it out and wtih a spatular or knife dipped in hot water (be sure to wipe off the water) smooth over the icing.
  • Add your candy necklace suckers along the sides of the arms and tentacles.

The eye:

This was a bit of serendipity. I didn't have any Orchard icing to mould into an eye and refused to go out into the heat. My mum had these small glass spice bowls. Originally I was going to use them as a chocolate mould (with the leftover 50 g white chocolate): fill the bottom with a centre of white chocolate dyed black, let it set, then fill in white chocolate over the top, then tip it out once its all set together. However, they didn't tip out. So I then decided to just keep the chocolate eyes in the spice bowl, and use the whole think as the eye. It really got that freaky eye lens thing going that squids have. I just pushed the eye/glass spice bowl into the side of the head.

The clean up and presentation:

Using a damp paper towel and some ear buds, carfully clean up around the cake board and tidy up any icing that has oozed into weird corners. And here it is...

Happy birthday, Sarah!

And, because I am lazy, this is also going to come under this week's Eye Spy something delicious theme, because, you know, white chocolate ganache is freaking delicious. This week's theme was suggested by the super crafty Handmaiden and hosted by the wonderful Cindy!

* My aunt lives in Whittlesea, one of the townships south of Kinglake where the worst has been that is assisting with feeding people and providing temporary shelter. We have friends who lives in Wallan and they managed to rescue their horses, fire came to within 3 metres of their house, but their house was been saved.


Isis the Scientist said...

This is amazing, Beth! I want to make a squid cake!!!

cindy said...

OMG I always get a little excited when the words Beth and Cake are used in the same sentence. I think this one may be my favourite!

kt mac said...

This cake turned out amazing Beth! love its quirky style!

Keep safe with those bushfires - we've had a few up here but nothing like what you guys are experiencing (or the heat 46, thats SO crazy!!)Morgan's dad actually came back from a 4wd trip from the VIC high country yesterday. They came back early due to the fires. So glad your friends house and horses were saved!! & praying for safety for you guys!

Melanie said...

That is what I would call an epic cake. The amount of work you put in and the result is astounding. I hope my kids never ever ever see the cakes you make and ask me for one lol

Our fires are contained here and the urge to kiss everyone wearing a fireman uniform is at an all time high.

amity ville boronia said...

Your cakes are always amazing! I think that the axolotl is still my favourite though :)

Tracey said...

A cake shaped like a squid with ganache. Doesn't get any better than that. I like it. Thanks for the step by step. Hope to try it some day.

Hoppo Bumpo said...

Its sensational Beth. I reckon its your best yet! I love the instructions too.

Sas said...


I just ate two tentacles and a bit of its head. Nom nom nom

Thanks Beth :)

alexthepink said...

Wow! And I never thought a squid could be cute...

pdcm said...

Wow Beth, this is one spectacular cake.. I've got to show it to a bunch of people!

sp8cemunky said...

I'm going to have someone make me this cake this year for my birthday! said...

This is SO amazing! Thanks so much for telling us how to make it, it's so creative! I'll have to link to this in the future!

mermaids said...

i am torn...i want to show this to my son who adores squids. but if i show him this, he will want me to make one.

the cake is fantastic!!

Aubrey said...

WOw, awesome job, the cake looks incredible. Good job improvising too, I think I would have just gone into panic mode. :)

my3boys said...

I'm writing from Southern California to say, "THANK YOU!" My 4 year old son is obsessed with Diving & Giant Squids and for his birthday I HAD to make him a giant squid cake. I started googling and low and behold the perfect cake popped on my screen..YOURS...with wonderful directions and photos! My cake wasn't as exquisite as yours but all of our friends and family thought it was BRILLIANT! My son LOVED it and the kids loved eating all of the tentecles! So thank you all the way from Cali for making a little boy so happy! Thanks for sharing all of the details and and photos for all the world to see! Email me if you would like to see photos of your cake in Cali!

Anonymous said...

This is so fabulous! I, too, have a son OBSESSED with giant squids. He wanted a squid cake so badly, and reading through this we were inspired to do it together. What a blast. We REALLY appreciated all the details and photos.

Anonymous said...

I am making this cake for my son's 4th birthday in May. He has been talking about colossal squids for months now after seeing them on the Discovery Channel. Thanks for the details, the cake is amazing, I hope I can do it justice.

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Anonymous said...

What an amazing cake!! My son, who loves Giant Squid and just turned 6, wants a squid cake for his birthday party. I was so lucky to quickly come across your blog and cake! I start baking tonight. Thanks again for sharing.

Brooke- Corvallis, OR, USA

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