My son turned four this week, and asked for a dinosaur cake. Once I had the revelation that (a) I don’t like cake, so (b) Why bother making it? but (c) I do like creating peculiar things, and (d) The only thing they’ll eat is a horrifying amount of icing anyway… It all fell into place.
Or at least, it fell.
TJ is a winter baby (which means parties must be inside), and his father, grandfather, uncle, and oldest cousin all have birthdays within about a week. So I arranged to have two parties today: one for TJ’s friends (at an inside playground with a dino room), and one for his numerous relations (at my house).
That meant I could make a single giant cake and use leftovers for party #2.
There are two basic schools of thought for dinosaur cakes: One big dinosaur, or a scene with several dinosaurs. In my opinion, the one big dino cake takes more skill. Sure, there are dino-shaped cake tins out there, but you still need to be able to have smooth icing. Not gonna happen.
I was clever enough to assemble the cake at the location of the party, rather than attempting to carry it safely in a vehicle (and to take my own knives and large containers in which to bring home the leftovers). I was also clever enough to order the base from Woolworths. I ordered a basic slab cake, two layers, no icing. It was $20. I took three layers off part of it, and moved them to the top at the back. Voila! A cliff face ready for a waterfall.
At Woolies I’d previously bought various items: edible glue (which I couldn’t figure out how to open, so I hacked it open with a knife; used it to stick cupcake topper sheets around the sides), writing icing (used for the blue lines in the water), Natural Confectionary dinosaurs, and a full roll of “ready rolled icing” suitable for a 22cm round cake, which I sliced into shapes with a butter knife for the water.
I’d made a double portion of chocolate buttercream icing at home (it needs to either be made or re-mixed on the day or the butter hardens and it’s useless), which had a pleasantly different texture to my “water”. I spread it in a hurry, and quite thick, so it just covered the top. I was using my hands and laughing maniacally at this stage, rather aware of my deadline as one of the kids had to leave early and there was another party using the room at 12, etc etc. The buttercream icing had enough stickiness to draw up some of the cake, and it also struggled a bit to hold onto the “cliff”. But it worked well enough. As you can see, smooth flat icing is not my forte (not that I was particularly trying this time).
This icing was easy to shove about, and it was great for standing up little dinosaurs later.
I had prepared some desiccated coconut ages earlier with food dye, intending it to be green grass but it was too blue so I chucked it in the water.
The trees didn’t really work (but who cares? They’re made of Tim Tams, mint leaves, and lolly bananas), although leaning them against the cliff helped (the edible glue didn’t—using icing might have worked a little).
The mountains and volcanoes are “chocolate” waffle cones. I’ll go into more detail about the volcanoes in a bit…
The flowers were a pack of edible flowers I impulse bought at Woolies when I was examining sundry icing/sprinkle products for inspiration.
I also used:
-Green and yellow sprinkles for grass/sand. (If your child is very scientific, this is not the cake for them… grass is a relatively recent plant.)
-Edible white balls from the same pack to be dino eggs (quite a stretch).
-Dino candles (they are parading across the water at the top of the waterfall. I presume this is how they became extinct. That, and being on fire). Ebay.
-Lots of fondant dinosaurs from ebay (actually, I was pretty happy with them despite how fragile they are. They mostly survived the post and last a long while (weeks), and taste better than anything rice paper-ish).
-Dino sprinkles around the edge of the water (SO not necessary… AND mixed with other sprinkles… but TJ was rather taken with the idea of dino sprinkles).
-Strawberry topping carefully applied around the edges of the volcanoes for lava (it was important that none of the topping got inside the volcanoes).
-Mini plastic dinos (tube of 20 or so for $4 from Kmart and I dropped some in each party bag afterwards), and two wind-up dinos ($3 each at Kmart).
-Dino cupcake toppers for the sides of the cake (stuck on with “edible glue” from Woolies), and Tim Tams.
As you can see, the aesthetic I was going for was: I bought a whole lotta vaguely cake-related stuff and I aim to use it ALL.
So there it is in all its glory.
Now let’s talk volcanoes.
I dug two holes in the cake, and inserted small empty (clean) coke bottles (I experimented with other shapes and the mini soft drink bottle worked best). Then I broke a hole in the pointy end of two waffle cones and placed them over the top.
I was careful to make the bottle hole and cone hole match up as well as possible. You can see one of the bottles in the top of this pic:
The cones did shatter a fair bit, but they fundamentally worked.
Bring a SEALED bottle of DIET red (the colour doesn’t matter; a lot of people use Coke because the dark colour is more dramatic but obviously red was better here).
At the last moment, fill both bottles. Then drop two MINT MENTOS into each one.
NB: The red diet drink I used uses stevia (considered a more ‘natural’ sweetener than the old chemical ones that have a number and/or a multisyllabic name). A LESS natural drink is likely to cause a greater explosion.
My daughter and her friend held the wind-up dinosaurs and let them go when I said, “Now!” and dropped the mentos into the volcanoes.
I lit the candles before pouring the diet soft drink into the bottles.