In this Instructable I'm going to show you how to make a Suprise Yellow Owl Cake.
The cake is shaped like and owl, is decorated with different types of yellow icing. The surprise should be that the inside is multi-coloured, but I've kind of spoiled the surprise in the above gif!
This is my first Instructable, my Husband has been trying to get me to write something up for a long time and I finally had to give in!
I really hope you enjoy this, we sure had a lot of fun making (and eating) it.
This is not an overly difficult cake to make, but it does take a pretty long time as there is so many different parts and assembly. I'm really happy with how it turned out though so it was worth it! Not only did it look good, but it was really tasty too!
Let's get started!
Step 1: Ingredients Needed
There are two main parts of this cake, the main cake body which is a simple Madeira cake and then the decoration's which is mainly a butter cream icing. There is also some additional ingredients needed, mainly for decoration.
For the Maderia Cake you will need the following
- 225g (1.5 cups) Self Raising Flour
- 225g (1.5 cups) Golden caster sugar
- 170g (3/4 cups) Butter (Softened)
- 2 tbsp Milk
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- Food colouring (More details about this in a future step)
* We needed to make 3no. batches to make enough batter for cake
Butter Cream Icing*
The Butter Cream Icing is requires the following
- 140g (5/8 cups) Butter (At room temperature)
- 280g (2 cups) icing sugar (powdered/confectionery sugar)
- 1-2 tbsp milk (to required texture)
- Food colouring
*We made needed to make 4no. batches of buttercream.
We also used some icing for decorations such as the eyes and the beak
- Fondant icing (Ready to roll icing/molding icing) in required colours (We used white, pale yellow, dark yellow, black and brown)
Step 2: Equipment Needed
We used the following equipment for making the cake.
- Cake tins - we used 4no. 7 Inch round tins, these will be cut to size so size isn't that important.
- Stainless steel bowl for the owl's head - We used a 12cm one from Ikea.
- Mixer - we used a Kenwood stand mixer but a hand mixer would fine.
- Mixing bowls & Spatula.
- Weighing Scales
- Cooling rack
Assembling the cake required it's own set of tools!
- Cake tin
- Bread knife
- BBQ skewer (or cocktail stick)
- Parchment paper
- Angled blade palette knife preferably stainless steel
- Jug of hot water
- Kitchen Towel
- Large size circular cookie cutter (aim to have it as a similar size to the largest diameter of the head cake)
- Hard level surface such as a choppingboard
And finally we used the following for decorating the cake.
- Icing bags ( we used disposable icing bags)
- Icing nozzle - large round nozzle
- Selection of small circular cookie cutters
- Display plate/board
- Moulding instruments (not a requirement)
- A bowl of water
Step 3: Cake Method
We are going to make 4 cakes in standard cake tins to make up the Owl's body and then one cake in the stainless steel bowl that will make up the head. Feel free to add or remove layers to suit.
- Preheat oven to 150'C or 300'F
- Lightly butter/grease all baking tins.
- Weigh out all ingredients for madiera cake.
- Sieve flour into mixing bowl
- Cut softened butter into squares, approx 1cm x 1 cm as this will make mixing easier and add to mixing bowl.
- Add all remaining ingredients to bowl (Caster sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla)
- Turn mixer on a slow speed (1/1.5 speed on a kenwood stand mixer) until all ingredients are combined ( it will look like a messy ball with no dry flour visible)
- Once combined turn speed up to full speed for a couple of minutes until the mixture is a smooth, but slightly firm texture. See GIF below for example of how it should look.
In one of my mixes I didn't allow the butter to soften up enough nor did I leave the mixer on long enough. The result was a mixture with some small buttery lumps in the mixture. Don't worry if this happens to you, although it will affect the texture of the cake slightly, it wont affect the taste of the cake.
- Once the mixture is ready, its time to add the food colouring.
There are a number of different types of food colouring that can be used. The main ones being liquid or gel colouring. I much prefer the gel colouring as it goes a lot further for less product and it also doesn't affect the consistency of the mixture.
If you are using more than one colouring in a single batch, I would recommend weighing out the mixture in the baking tin and use this weight as a guide as to how much mixture a tin takes, which will also give you a guidance as to how much mixture you will need for your full project. Using the same amount of each mixture will also mean that your cakes should all rise by approximately the same amount and therefore each layer will be approximately the same thickness.
To add food colouring, empty weighed mixture into a mixing bowl. With all food colouring you should add a little, mix and continue adding more colouring until you reach the required colour. This is particularly true for gel as a little goes such a long way. See the below GIF for an example of how far a small amount of gel goes!
- Transfer the batter into a cake tin. Make sure the tin is greased first! We did 4 of the regular cake tins and one in the stainless steel bowl.
- Once you have your tin filled with the coloured mixture, place it in the preheated oven. The cooking time will vary depending on your over and size of tin. In my non-fan assisted oven at 150'C it took approx 30mins to cook each cake.
I put 2 cake tins in at the one time. The cake tin on the top cooked quicker and in approx 30mins, while the cake tin on the bottom was slower. Once the tip cake was baked, I placed the second cake tin on the top shelf and it took approx a further 5 minutes to fully bake. The owls head took a lot longer, approx 45 minutes (we lost track of how many times we reset the timer so i dont know for definite). It took so much longer to bake because the centre of the bowl was further away from the bowls surface than the cake tins.
You will know if the cake is cooked if you stick a fork/knife/stainless steel skewer into the cake and it comes back clean. if the cake is under-cooked some of the cake will come back out on the skewer.
- Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and leave it on a heat proof surface too cool for a few minutes.
- Once cooled turn the cake upside down and ease out of the tin onto a cooling rack to cool fully before assembly and decoration
- For the owls head, I was impatient as we were rushing out the door and didn't leave the cake to cool enough and forced the cake from the mold. This resulted in some of the cake being stuck to the cake tin and the cake looking quite lumpy. For this project, its isn't critical as we will be doing a crumb coat before main decoration of cake, so don't worry if it happens to you.
- And that's it for the cakes! The orange cake could have done with a little more colouring gel, Brian did that one, so I blame him!
Step 4: Buttercream Icing Method
- As per the previous step, cut the softened butter into cubes, approx 1 cm x 1 cm and place in the mixing bowl.
- Turn on the mixer until the butter is a soft paste.
- Sieve the icing sugar into a separate mixing bowl.
- Spoon approx half the icing sugar in to the butter. Turn on the mixer at a low speed until the icing sugar and butter have combined and there is no visible icing sugar.
- Once the butter and first half of the icing is combined, add the rest of the icing sugar, milk and vanilla extract and mix until it is a nice soft mix. The vanilla is not a requirement, but something I like to add. You only need to add a small amount.
- If this buttercream is being used for decoration now is the time to add the colouring. Add a small bit at a time until the required colour is achieved. If using liquid food colouring, you may need to add some extra icing sugar to balance out the consistency of the buttercream.
We purposely went for a different colour on the head than the body, but if you want it to be the same colour all around you might want to mix two batches of buttercream before adding the colouring as it will be very difficult to get an exact colour match on two seperate batches.
Step 5: Main Cake Assembly
- Once all your cakes are cooled, get a clean cake tin and place the cakes into it individually. With a bread knife, carefully cut along the top of the cake, using the edge of the cake tin as a guide, and cut off any cake that has risen above the height of the cake tin.
- Place each piece of cake on a hard surface, get the large cookie cutter and place on a section of the cake that is level and cut through. Do this with all layers of cake. Leave excess cake to one side as you will use it for the branches later on.
- If the head section is slightly bigger than the cookie cutter then place it gently through the cookie cutter to make sure that the 'shoulder' section of the cake are the same diameter.
- Place a sheet of baking paper on a hard surface that will fit in your fridge. We used a large glass chopping board. Place your bottom layer of cake.
- Get a spoon of butter cream and place on top of the cake and start spreading. Its far easier to spread and get an even layer if you use a stainless steel palette knife which has been sitting in hot water. The hot knife melts the buttercream enough to make it spreadable - I used a plastic palette knife for the first layer of buttercream which wasn't ideal. It is advisable to have disposable kitchen towel at hand to wipe the palette knife clean of both buttercream before putting it in the water and for drying the knife when you take it out of the water.
- Once you are happy with the layer of buttercream icing, place the next layer of cake on top, ensuring that it is centred on top of the previous layer.
[Add new layer photo]
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have the head on.
- Once you are happy with the construction of the layers of cake, place the BBQ skewer through the middle of the head and through all the layers. This just gives an added level of strength that the cake layers wont slip off each other. We cut our skewer so it would be hidden, but you could leave it sticking out and remove it just prior to serving.
- The crumb coat needs to be added once all the cake construction is finished. This is a coat of buttercream that sits on top of the cake before you put on the main decoration. It is advisable, if you have time to place the cake in the fridge before applying the crumb-coat as this will harden the cake a small bit and less crumby.
To apply the crumb coat, get a scoop of buttercream and place on the bottom of the cake and with the hot palette knife spread it upwards towards the head, as far as the shoulders. Do this the whole way around the cake. When you get to the head, I found it easier to use a heated spoon to spread the buttercream. The crumb coat does not need to be perfect by any means, but once you have the cake coated it is advisable to go around the cake with the heated palette knife and tidy up any unevenness that is very noticeable and make sure there are no bare patches.
- Once the crumb coat is applied, place the cake in the fridge to allow the buttercream to set. This should take in the region of 15/20 minutes. You will know when the buttercream has set when its hard to touch.
Step 6: Branch Assembly (Optional)
We can use the excess cake that we cut off to make branches for decoration.
- Place cut-off cake in a blender (we used about half of what was left over) and blend into a breadcrumb texture.
- Using a small bit of any left over buttered icing, place it in the mixing bowl, add some of the crumb mixture and blend. The buttercream goes a lot further than you would think, so add a small bit at a time until the blended mixture is a soft mold-able texture.
- Place some of the mixture on baking paper and mold into the shape of a branch. We did two branches
- Place into the fridge to set.
Step 7: Fondant Icing Shapes
When the crumb-coat is in the fridge, it's a good time to get the fondant icing shapes sorted out. I use the fondant icing for the feather detail in the front of the bird and then the eyes, ears, beak and feet. The bow is a fondant decoration we bought pre-made in a baking goods store.
In this step I'll cover making these shapes, the placing of them on the cake will be covered in a later step.
I'll jump ahead here with this photo, but it makes it easier to see what all the pieces are for
- Select the size of the cutter you want for the front feathers. I used the large end of a nozzle as my cutter.
- Select the Fondant icing colours you want to use. For this bird we used white, pale yellow (2:1 yellow:white and mixed together to get the colour gradient) and a strong yellow.
- Sprinkle some icing sugar on the smooth chopping board. Give your rolling pin a very light covering of icing sugar. Try keep as much sugar off the top of the icing as possible while working as it could cause discoloration, especially on the darker colours.
- Roll out icing to approx 2mm thickness. You want the icing to be thick enough to handle without being to thick visually.
- Once you are happy with the thickness, cut out your circles for the front feathers. You need different numbers of each colour. In this case we had:
- 5 pieces in the strong yellow
- 4 in the paler yellow
- 3 in the white.
Step 8: Cake Base (Optional)
We decorated the base or plate that we placed the cake onto as it was a mirror finish base and it wouldn't have been very easy to keep clean and presentable after the buttercream icing was being done. We covered it with fondant icing.
- Get a large piece of icing (to get as smooth of a finish as possible you need more that you think so that you have excess to cut off and don't have to be adding any icing to fill a patch) and soften it in your hands by rolling it around.
- Roll the icing into a ball and place in the centre of your base.
- With a rolling pin (preferably a plastic rolling pin designed for icing) carefully roll the icing in an outward direction, ensuring that you move around the base and roll the icing evenly towards each edge.You don't want to concentrate on going in one direction in case you push to much towards that edge and then don't have enough remaining icing for other edges.once you have the icing rolled to all edges, pick up your base, and with the back of a knife, rubbing against the edge of the base, trim off all excess icing. This should give you a nice even edge.
Step 9: Setting Up for Icing
Before you start decorating the cake you need to get your icing ready. Please follow the method on how to make your butter cream icing as previously described. Before starting you will need to have everything ready to go as working with buttercream needs to be a quick process to ensure that it doesn't soften up or melt on you.
I use disposable icing bags as i generally find them easier to use and more flexible. They don't have any pre-cut holes in the corner of the bag that you pipe through, so you have can use a wide selection of nozzles of all different sizes.
- Choose the nozzle you want to use (I used the largest circular nozzle that I have, 12.5mm) and place it in the piping corner of the bag. This is to give me an indication of where i need to cut the bag so that the nozzle will fit through. i generally cut somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the length of the nozzle from the tip. Once cut make sure to push the nozzle firmly into the hole.
- Place the icing bag between your thumb and forefinger on your non-dominant hand and hold just slightly above the nozzle. fold back the rest of the icing bag over your hand.
- With your dominant hand fill the buttercream into the bag. When you have enough placed in the icing bag, pull up the sides of the icing bag that were over your hand, and push the buttercream icing down into the nozzle.
- To ice, I hold the icing bag in and squeeze with my non-dominant hand and use my dominant hand to guide the icing bag. It is desirable to have a glass to sit the icing bag into in case you need to leave it down. I had a kitchen helper, so I didn't it.
- The majority of the owls feathers are done using individual dollops of buttercream, it's worth practicing these on some of the excess cake from earlier, just to make sure you are happy with how it's turning out.
Step 10: Main Decoration
- On your base, put a dollop of buttercream icing in the middle of the area where you want the cake to sit. The buttercream will act as a glue which will help the cake stick to the base better.
- carefully lift the cake off the sheet of baking paper and place on the dollop of buttercream.
- Push down gentle on the cake to make sure that it is sitting firmly on the base and ensure that you are happy with its positioning.
- Using the icing bag, place 5 dots of icing at the bottom of the cake, this is to stick the fondant to the cake.
- Carefully place the strong yellow fondant working inwards from the two sides so that the middle circle is at the front of the cake and not being over lapped.
- Repeat steps 4 & 5 to build the front feather details.
- Once you are happy with the position of the fondant its time to start the buttercream icing. Start at the bottom on one side of the fondant icing (i start on the side of my dominant hand and go in that direction) and add a 'feather'.
- To do this, place the nozzle against the cake, gently squeeze the icing bag and gently pull away from the cake. When you have a nice even sized ball of icing gently move the nozzle upwards and towards the cake and pull away. Practice this on a left over piece of cake first, but this action should give you the full round effect on the bottom and the flat effect on the top.
- Once you have the first row done, try stagger the second row so that the feathers are alternating in each row.
- Repeat steps 9 & 10 until you reach the top of the head. We changed colour for the head, but this is not required.
- When you have all the buttercream icing finished it is time to do the eyes. I've always built the eyes directly on the cake, as i like to see how it looks before placing the next piece, but you could certainly build the eyes fully prior to placing it on the cake.
- First place the largest white circles for the eye in a spot that looks correct. It's location is completely up to yourself, but I tried to place them close together along the centre line of the feathers. I also kept the whites very close together to have a slightly overlapping look
- Once you have the first row done, try stagger the second row so that the feathers are alternating.
- When you are happy with the location of the White circles, place the black circles in the the correct position and finish off by placing the small white circle. I made a small indent on the black circle so the white dot would be almost flush with the rest of the black of the eye.
- Place the remaining of the fondant shapes (ears, feet, beak). We used a cocktail stick to hold the beak in place.
- That's a might fine looking owl you have there!
Step 11: Decorating the Branch (Optional, Well Not Really If You Already Build the Branch!)
Once your cake is decorated its time to finish the branches!
- Double check that the size of your branches are the size and shape to suit your cake and the display base.
- Roll out fondant icing as on the previous step.
- Very roughly cut a piece of icing that is larger than your branch.
- Lift the fondant by rolling a piece of it back on to your rolling pin.
- Gently place it over your branch and let it settle for a second or two.
- Gently mold the icing around your branch and trim off any excess fondant at the bottom.If you have any smaller branches coming off the main section that the icing isn't fitting properly, remove it and cover it separately and glue back onto the main branch with some water.
- To give the branch contours we used one of the molding tools, but a fork or toothpick would give the same effect by simply running the lightly over the icing.
- Once you are happy with the icing of the branch, place some butter cream in the location of where you want to position the branch, and place the branch gently down onto it, making sure that it is firmly in place.
Step 12: That's It!
And that's it! A Yellow Owl cake with a surprise rainbow center!
If there is any parts of this build where you would like more information please let me know, we have a huge amount of pictures and video clips that we could use to add extra details if required.
As mentioned in the first step, this is not a very difficult cake to make but it does take time. We spent the best part of a day making this (but adjusting lights and cameras would have slowed us down significantly). We also stopped for a cup of tea and a sample at one stage!
There are lots of parts where little hands would be able to help out so it would be a really fun cake to make with children. Our daughter is too young to help out yet (although she did help eat it!) but we had two four legged helpers keeping us company through-out the process!
Hopefully you enjoyed this Instructable!
All the best,
Third Prize in the
Colors of the Rainbow Contest