How to make a Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Cake

As far as I’m concerned having a child is really a front for being able to make elaborate birthday cakes.  Last year I got comfortable with food colouring and went to town on the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook number one cake.  But this year I took some inspiration from Pinterest and blogs to create a Hungry Caterpillar cake in homage to one of my daughter’s favourite books. 

The Hungry Caterpillar cake
The Hungry Caterpillar cake

The genius thing about this cake is it is really quite straight forward to make as no crazy construction is involved. It’s just one small, round cake and then as many cupcakes as you can fit.  No need for fancy piping skills either – you can make the eyes, nose and antenna (the Hungry Caterpillar doesn’t have a mouth!) all from lollies.  The one recommendation I would make is to buy more food colouring than you think you need. I use gel food colouring which are very true to appearance in terms of colour and don’t make your icing runny like liquid colouring can tend to.  But you need a LOT of red food colouring to get the cherry red shade for the caterpillar’s head.  A little red colouring and a lot of white icing just makes pink which is not what you are going for here.  

You need to make a lot of cupcakes - I made two dozen in total
You need to make a lot of cupcakes – I made two dozen in total

To save last minute stress I’d also recommend making the cakes and cupcakes ahead of the big day and just freezing them.  It’s easier to ice frozen cakes and all you have to do is icing and assembly in the midst of children’s party preparations.  You can make whatever flavour cake and cupcakes you want.  I went with a red velvet cake and then vanilla cupcakes but go with your favourites.  Hope your child loves this as much as little Gourmet Chicklet did! 

Making the icing
Making the icing
Hungry Caterpillar Cake
Serves 30
Children's birthday cake based on Eric Carle's Hungry Caterpillar
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313 calories
47 g
59 g
14 g
2 g
8 g
83 g
28 g
39 g
1 g
5 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 313
Calories from Fat 121
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14g
Saturated Fat 8g
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 59mg
Sodium 28mg
Total Carbohydrates 47g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 39g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Round cake for head
  1. 150g butter
  2. 150g caster sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. Few drops vanilla essence
  5. Pinch salt
  6. 25g cocoa powder
  7. 5g baking powder
  8. 1 tsp red food colouring
Cup cakes for body
  1. 240g plain flour
  2. 280g caster sugar
  3. 3 tsps baking powder
  4. Pinch salt
  5. 80g butter, softened
  6. 280ml milk
  7. 2 eggs
  8. Few drops vanilla essence
Vanilla frosting
  1. 750g icing sugar, sifted
  2. 240g butter
  3. 75ml milk
  4. A couple of drops of vanilla extract
  5. Red and green food colouring
  1. Licorice
  2. Crown mints
  3. Jubes
Round cake for head
  1. 1. Line and grease a 15 cm cake tin and preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. 2. Combine the butter and sugar and beat until creamed and fluffy.
  3. 3. Gradually add in the eggs, vanilla, salt, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and food colouring and give it a final beat to mix together.
  4. 4. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 mins or until it is firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  5. 5. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack.
Cupcakes for body
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 180c and fill two muffin trays with muffin wrappers.
  2. 2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a mixer and beat on a slow speed until the mixture sarts to come together.
  3. 3. Pour in half the milk and beat until just incorporated.
  4. 4. Whisk the remaining milk, egg, and vanilla essence together and then pour into flour mixture and beat until incorporated.
  5. 5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases until half full and bake in oven for 20-25 mins or until slightly browned, firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
Vanilla frosting
  1. 1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a mixer on a medium speed until the mixture comes together.
  2. 2. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the milk and vanilla extract a little at a time.
  3. 3. Once all the milk is incorporated turn the mixture up to high speed and continue beating until it's light and fluffy. The longer you beat for the better so I let the mixer run for at least 5 minutes.
  4. 4. Portion off one third of the frosting to ice the caterpillar's head and add the red food colouring to this. You will need a lot to get a red colour!
  5. 5. Take a small amount and do one rough coat of icing (known as a "crumb coat" then leave to set in the fridge.
  6. 6. Once it is set you can do the proper icing. Use a palette knife and a cup of boiling water to smooth the mixture onto the caterpillar's head. I had leftover icing so I piped a pattern around the sides but this is not necessary.
  7. 7. Add green food colouring to the remaining two thirds of the icing and use a star piping nozzle to pipe onto the cupcakes creating swirls.
  8. 8. Assemble the Hungry Caterpillar by arranging the cupcakes to make a body behind the caterpillar's head. I used Crown mints for the eyes, licorice for the legs and antennas and a jube for the nose.
Gourmet Chick
The Hungry Caterpillar cake ready to be eaten
The Hungry Caterpillar cake ready to be eaten

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