I think birthday parties should be all about the food, and especially all about homemade cake. But, much to my children’s disappointment, I draw the line at specially-shaped cakes.
I mean, really! Who has the time for that?! Amid the whirlwind of invites, bookings, games and goody bags, who has time to make a cake that is an exact replica of the Death Star? Please. My boys have had to make do with regular square or round cakes, possibly with a coloured icing or themed candies sprinkled on top.
But my resolve was broken this year when I agreed to make my youngest son a spider-shaped cake for his 5th birthday. I can’t actually remember now why I agreed to it. Did his big blue eyes puppy-dog me one too many times? Did he pitch a massive fit, which I am spared from remembering by post-traumatic-mothering-syndrome?
Whatever the reason, I agreed to it. And (surprise, surprise) I got really INTO it. Plans, ideas, designs. How to go about a spider-shaped cake with the equipment I already have. Which type of batter would work best? What kind of icing? This was actually fun! Like a modeling project for parents! I saw the theme-cake light.
Of course, it was not all fun and spideys. My 8-year-old, who is the anatomical authority on spiders since studying them at school, urged me not to forget that “all 8 legs come out of the spider’s cephalothorax, Mom”. (Thanks for that, now I can’t get all 8 legs to fit on the serving platter!)
My almost-5-year-old was quite proprietary over “his” cake and had very specific ideas about how it should look and what kind of spider it should be. “Discussions” ensued over child’s fanatsy vs cake reality. Even after we agreed on spider shape and sub-species, he insisted on complete control over the decorating of the finished cake. I had a hard time with that, the letting go of my austere and scary genoise black widow, handing her over to a little boy who turned her into a carnival of candy stripes.
However. It was the perfect fall birthday cake for a 5 year old boy: spidery and chocolaty and candy-covered. A bonus gross-out factor: the cake was served atop cake-crumb “dirt” which hid baby candy spiders and gummy worms. How could it get any better?
The only problem with this joyful story is that I have set a precedent . Now the boys have higher expectations. My oldest can’t wait for his birthday in the spring where he anticipates a Death Star cake, which, when cut into, would reveal dozens of different layers like on the Death Star itself.
Um….? Really, Mommy doesn’t do shaped cakes… only when she feels like it… or could we compromise on a caterpillar? PLEASE?
Hi I love the cake , GREAT JOB on the decorating too !! I want to make this for my sons 5th b~day . What size pans did you use for the spiders body 7 what shape & size for the legs ?
Hi Arlene, thank you! And your comment makes me realize that I did not include any instructions for making this cake. My bad! Since I made this by the seat of my pants, I can’t tell you sizes of much of anything, but I hope the following instructions are helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.
Cake batter – a standard chocolate genoise, but a double recipe. I think I used the genoise recipe in the 1997 Joy of Cooking.
Body – I baked these in two different sized mixing bowls. Out of my standard nesting bowl set, I think I used size #2 and #4, or maybe #1 and #3. Yes, I just put the batter in and popped them right in the oven. No damage to the bowls at all. I cut a little bit off the side of the small cake to nestle it closer to the “abdomen”.
Legs – I baked the remaining genoise batter in a 9″X13″ glass pan. Once it was cooled, I drew the legs shapes out on cardboard first, (and made sure I could fit them on teh serving tray)and then laid the shapes on top of the rectangular cake and cut around them with a sharp paring knife. I was left with some extra cake trimmings, which I crumbled up to make the cake “dirt”.
I put everything on a 10″x15″ sheet pan for serving and decorating. I used a chocolate ganache for the icing and my son did all the decorating.
Hi Heidi ,
Thank you so much for getting back to me !! I really appreciate the added information . I already made the body ( using pyrex bowls ) & crumb coated it , now it’s in the freezer waiting for its legs . haha ! I think drawing them out first is a very good idea & I will be sure to do that . I will keep you posted & let you know how it all turns out .
Thanks again , for posting this fantastic spider cake !!
Take care ,
Arlene, you are welcome and I’m sorry it took so long. Yes, please definitely let me know how it turns out! H
how long did you bake this ????
Baking time… good question! I recently made this cake again and, with no memory of baking time, I did not cook it long enough. It was cooked through but still very moist, so the shape collapsed somewhat. Next time, I would over-cook rather than undercook this cake for a shaped cake like this. Even though the first cake was a bit on the dry side, it held up very well and everyone loved it. So, cook the big dome for at least 30 minutes, and then check with a tester every 5 minutes after that. A skewer should come out clean and the top should be very springy.
Thank you !
A few weeks ago I promised to make a cake for my neighbours 10th birthday. My mind’s been going round and round thinking what kind of bug to make and how. She wants a jungle themed party and her parents have hired a guy who brings snakes and spiders etc.for the kids to touch and learn about.
Your spider is perfect.x
Awesome! let me know how the cake turns out, or if you have any questions.
WOW! This is amazing! I am busy preparing for my son’s 9th birthday party. He’s having a Fear Factor one this year and has been quite specific that he wants a black widow cake. This is PERFECT and I am in awe of your magnificient spider. Our party is next month and I’m going to do it with a red velvet cake, so that it’s extra gross when they cut it open. I see you wrote this post years ago, so perhaps you’re not even blogging any more, but if you are – did you bake 3 cakes, or just 2 and then cut the 2nd one smaller to get the legs? Did you have a template? I am in awe and hope my cake comes out half this good! Oh, also LOVE the dirt idea, brilliant!
Thanks for sharing,
Hi Susan, wow, thank you!
Yup, still blogging over here (slowly but surely). Your comment reminds me that I need to edit this post to include the recipe! However, if you look at comment #3, I include instructions there on how I made it: double batch of cake, baked into two mixing bowls and one 9X13 pan (this last was for the legs). I chose genoise because the egg foam cakes have a sturdier texture which I thought would hold up better to being cut and shaped. The scraps left over from the legs are what I used for the dirt. Also, make sure to bake all the way through (even slightly over-bake) rather than under-bake this cake. Softer cakes collapse their shape too much.
Please let me know how your cake turns out!
I have always made shaped cakes for my granddaughter. She will be 8 in Aug and wants a spider cake. This one is great. I think she will like it, her request was black widow or transula. Thanks for the info
You are welcome. I hope she enjoys it.
Please post the whole recipe asap. The cake is beautiful.
Hi Jennifer, posting the whole cake recipe is on my to-do list!