“Are you having a birthday cake Matthew?”
“Yes, I’m having a purple and yellow stegosaurus cake. Mommy is going to make it.”
Funnily enough, neither Delia, Mary nor the Hummingbird Bakery had a recipe for a stegosaurus cake in their books. I do have a cake decorating book which I’ve used once for Let’s Bake the Books (I made sugar paste for the Tennis Court Cake) but it’s full of flowers and funny-shaped cakes and, to be honest, it’s a bit too advanced for me. I ended up buying a new book, 50 Easy Party Cakes by Debbie Brown. It had me at Easy. It didn’t have a stegosaurus, but it did have Dippy Dinosaur which I thought would do as a starting point.
There’s a lot of equipment involved in making a dinosaur cake; cake board, cake smoother, dowelling, sugar glue, paint brushes, hemisphere cake pan, the list goes on. Thank goodness for Lakeland (and The Cook Shop for the things I forgot).
I started with the cake. I’d bought something called “Cake Release” to grease my tin. It’s an oil that you squirt onto the tin and it promises to release cakes perfectly. I thought I’d give it a try, since last time I used a funky shaped cake tin, half of the cake stuck to the tin when I turned it out. That was a birthday cake as well. I didn’t want it to happen again. Four is a lot less forgiving than forty-one when it comes to explaining why you haven’t got a birthday cake.
The cake itself was easy. It was a Madeira cake mix flavoured with vanilla. I creamed butter and caster sugar together, added eggs and vanilla extract and then a mix of self-raising and plain flour. The mixture went into my greased hemisphere cake tin and into the oven at 150° fan for an hour and three-quarters. The tin did topple over a bit in the oven, but I noticed in time and put it onto a pizza tray which kept it upright. Once out of the oven, I left it to cool in the tin for a few minutes before trying to turn it out. I held my breath as I turned the tin upside down. Out came the hemisphere cake in one smooth drop. Thank you Cake Release.
The main part of this bake, making the cake into a passable stegosaurus, was more like an art project than a cookery lesson – and I hated art at school, I was dismal at it. First, I covered the cake board with yellow sugarpaste (I decided to use shop bought because I was worried enough about making a dinosaur without having the extra hassle of making and colouring sugarpaste that may or may not work). I smoothed the paste over the board with my new cake smoother. Phase One – the easy part – successfully completed.
Now for the actual dinosaur. I levelled the cake off, the offcuts tasted pretty good. I gave myself another mental pat on the back. I cut it in half crossways and sandwiched it back together with vanilla buttercream, then I covered the whole thing in buttercream so that the sugarpaste would stick. I rolled out my purple sugarpaste and covered the cake with it, using the cake smoother to iron out the various lumpy bits that appeared. The finish wasn’t exactly professional, but it was OK.
The Dippy Dinosaur in the book is more of a brachiosaurus than a stegosaurus so, since a brachiosaurus would not do at all, I needed to go a bit off-piste with the head and tail pieces. I had a bit of a doodle and decided to try for something like this.
After a lot of time fiddling around with sugarpaste (mainly making sausage shapes) and sugar glue, this is what I ended up with.
It’s does look a bit like a stegosaurus I think, but it could do with some work around the eyes. They did give me a lot of trouble, mainly because I’d decided to colour white sugarpaste black and, instead of black sugarpaste, I ended up with a plate of grey slop that I had to dab on with a cocktail stick.
Although I didn’t particularly enjoy making the stegosaurus cake, I think it was worth it. Matthew loved it (and, as a bonus, he could tell what it was straight away). Although I don’t think I’ll be using Debbie Brown’s book regularly for Let’s Bake the Books it will definitely be off the shelf at least twice a year for the foreseeable future. Fingers crossed that my sugarpaste sculpting skills will improve with practice.