Flying insect cakes
Skill level: Bit of effort
Get creative with your cakes by making Fiona Cairns cute insect characters. Fiona says: 'Flying insects and wriggly worms will delight young children, both to make and to eat (especially the worms).'
- 180g dates, pitted and chopped
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 180g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- 150g light muscovado sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 300g unsalted butter
- 400g icing sugar sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1 vanilla pod
- 350g white sugarpaste
- red food colour paste
- pink food colour paste
- black food colour paste
- yellow food colour paste
- 50g bag black royal icing
- 50g bag white royal icing
- 4 tsp chocolate sprinkles
- 8 long black liquorice strands
- icing sugar, to dust
- 1 x 15mm heart cutter (optional)
- 32 fairy cake cases
- 24 cocktail sticks
- 2 tsp coloured sprinkles
- 40 red mini chocolate beans
- 40 pink mini chocolate beans
The insects can be made a few weeks ahead, and must be finished at least the day before, and stored in a cardboard box at room temperature.
- Make all the insects at least the day before. Divide the sugarpaste into 5 bowls. Colour them red, pink, black and yellow (see Fiona Cairns' cake decorating tips). Leave the last one white. Seal in 5 polythene bags at room temperature.
- For the ladybirds, roll 8 red balls and shape them to be narrower towards the head. With a knife, make a seam down the middle for the wings. Make a little ball of black and, with black royal icing, attach these heads to the bodies. Pipe 2 eyes with white royal icing, then black dots on to the back. To make the spiders, roll the remaining black sugarpaste into 8 balls, flatten and roll in chocolate sprinkles. For the legs, cut 4 x 5cm liquorice strands per spider and attach to the underside with black royal icing. Pipe 2 eyes in white.
- For the worms, roll 8 sausages of pink sugarpaste - wider at one end for the head - and indent with the knife along the backs. Make the tails by rolling 8 smaller sausages and indent again. Pipe 2 white eyes. To make the bees, shape 8 yellow balls, making the head end a little wider, and pipe 3 black stripes over each body and 2 black eyes. Roll the white sugarpaste out and cut out 16 hearts (or mould 16 ovals) to form wings. Attach with white royal icing.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 170ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Place the paper cases into 3 fairy cake tins (or bake in batches).
- In a heatproof bowl, pour 180ml boiling water over the dates and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Then, with a fork, gently break up the dates and stir in the vanilla.
- Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar for a good 5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually, beating between each addition and slipping in 1 tbsp flour about halfway through to prevent curdling.
- Fold in the remaining flour and then the date mixture. Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 15–20 minutes (the tops should spring back when pressed with a finger). Remove and leave to cool.
- Pour in the batter and bake for 12–15 minutes. Remove from the oven, stand for a couple of minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile to make the buttercream, beat the butter in an electric mixer until really pale and fluffy. Add your vanilla extract or seeds and the icing sugar and beat for at least 5 minutes, until light and creamy. Once cool, ice the cakes with the buttercream.
- Push a cocktail stick into each insect. Attach 1 insect to each cake; for the worms, make 2 holes with the end of a teaspoon and push a head and a tail into 8 cakes so the worm seems to be crawling through. Scatter ¼ tsp sprinkles on the spider and worm cakes. Arrange 5 red mini beans around the base of each ladybird and 5 pink for the bees.
Recipe taken from BAKE & DECORATE by FIONA CAIRNS, published by Quadrille (£12.99, paperback) Photography © LAURA HYND