Tuesday 29 April 2008

Green Gourmet Giraffe Birthday Cake

A year ago today I started my blog with a Vampire Cake that I made for E’s birthday. This year he shared his birthday cake with my blog and it had to be a Green Gourmet Giraffe Birthday Cake!

I thought it was the right moment to share how I came up with the name of my blog: Green is a favourite colour because it is so cheerful and hopeful. It also signifies green politics that encompass vegetarianism, feminism, environmentalism and social justice movements. Gourmet was inserted into the title because I like alliteration and I wanted it clear that it was a food blog, although I don’t believe much of my cooking is terribly gourmet! I did a school project on the gorgeous, gracefully gangly Giraffe when I was 7 years old and have been fascinated by them ever since. Unfortunately I have lost the booklet I did but I can assure you my pictures were quite amusing. The giraffe is the tallest land-living creature and has a deadly kick and a tongue long enough to clean its face. They are mute, require 1.9 hours sleep on average a day and are quite vulnerable to lightning. Being tall has its drawbacks! They always seem so peaceful and gentle at the zoo, and I am sure would make a lovely pet.

So it seemed fitting - and fun - to make a green giraffe cake to celebrate a year of blogging. I love my novelty cakes. This cake comes from the esteemed Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book. Of course, in the book, the giraffe is yellow with brown spots.

Given that E loves plain vanilla sponge, I love chocolate and my blog is green, I decided that the best compromise would be a marble cake. I used to love this cake when I was little but my mum always made it with vanilla, chocolate and pink. It is really a pretentious butter cake. I found a recipe for choc orange marble cake, increased the quantity and changed it to a choc-lime-vanilla combination. You could also make other cakes such as a gluten free chocolate cake or a plain butter cake, so long as it is a firm cake that keeps its shape. And if you don’t want a green giraffe you can always colour the icing yellow and use brown sprinkles for the spots. My instructions on how to make a giraffe cake are lengthy as I wanted to share some of the problems and tricks.

We took the cake down to Geelong to share it with some of my family. With all the sickly sweet icing, I was only too happy to share it around, and it was nice to see the excitement on my nieces' faces when they saw it. With my mum's scones and my dad in charge of drinks, we had a lovely afternoon tea. A birthday cake wants a candle, and the little gluten free cake I made for my little niece Grace made a perfect candle holder. Happy Birthday E! Happy Birthday Green Gourmet Giraffe!

Green Gourmet Giraffe Birthday Cake
(adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book)

- 1 quantity of choc-lime marble cake (see recipe below) or use 1½ the quantity of a butter cake mixture
- about 500g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- 60g margarine or softened butter
- green food dye (or blue and yellow food dyes)
- shoestring liquorice
- jubes
- 2 smarties
- 2 x thin chocolate covered liquorice sticks or chocolate fingers or musk sticks or plain liquorice sticks or any other long thin edible sticks
- green and blue sprinkles (I used Twinkles)

Ideally cook the cake the day before so it is easier to cut. Two thirds of the cake should be baked in a lamington tin (28 x 18cm or 11 x 7 inch) and the other third in a long thin bar loaf tin (25 x 8cm or 10 x 3 inch). I didn’t have such a thin loaf tin so I just used my usual 20 x 13 cm and trimmed it.

When the cake has cooled, place it on a large board. The AWW suggests 45 x 40cm (18 x 16 inch). I used a large baking tray. Cover with plastic cling wrap if leaving overnight. Use a small sharp knife (preferably serrated) to cut the cake.

Cut a head shape out of the large flat rectangular cake. It should be quite thin so you might need to trim the sides a little. Cut the ears out of the trimmings – they should be about one third of the length of the face and have horizontal bottoms so they sit out at the side of the head a little. If I was to change my giraffe I would do the ears a bit bigger and a bit less central on top of the head.

Cut a thin layer from the top of the loaf and place on the middle of the head to shape the nose a bit. If your loaf tin is thicker like mine trim one of the long sides so it is about 8cm (3 inches) horizontally. Cut a horizontal line across the top so it will sit against the head at an angle to make the neck.

Remove the trimmings and assemble the cake to look like an uniced giraffe, as in my photo. You will have quite a lot of cake leftover so you might want to make trifle or these cookies or just have a mountain of iced bits of leftover cake.

Make the icing (or frosting) by mixing icing sugar with the margarine and enough boiling water to make a smooth paste. I have given very approximate quantities here, so use your judgement on how much you need. Add some food colouring to make it green, either with green dye or a mixture of blue and yellow. Spread icing evenly over the cake with a butter knife. This is the most time consuming part of the preparation and requires patience to go around the nooks and crannies and do all the sides.

Icing the ears was the hardest. First I put some blobs of icing on and then use a knife dipped in a mug of hot water to spread it evenly without bits of cake showing. For the rest of the cake I first spread the icing on and then when it covered the whole giraffe, I used a knife dipped in a cup of hot water to smooth it.

Once the icing is smoothly covering the giraffe, it is time to give her some personality. I cut some white bits off a strawberries and cream jube and then cut the eyeball out of a coloured jube and used a tiny bit of icing to attach the eyeball to the white and put them on the cake where the eyes would be. I cut some liquorice strip and used it to go around each eye. I place the smarties at the bottom to be the nostrils.

I mixed two thirds green and a third blue sprinkles in a small bowl. I used a teaspoon to drop small piles of sprinkles and smoothed them out into round patches. I found it hard to do this without a few bits of sprinkles scattering outside the circle. Finally I spread a little icing over the chocolate liquorice logs and rolled them in the sprinkles. I made sure there was a little icing on the end to meet the head and also on the bottom so the ‘horns’ would stick to the head and to the board. In the AWW, it suggested wrapping thin liquorice strips tightly around a lollypop stick - or ice cream stick? - and placing a jube at the top.

NB if you don’t want to spoil the appearance of the giraffe with candles, you can have one or a few little cakes on the side to put candles in. Just spread cake(s) with green icing and decorate with some sprinkles or lollies (sweeties, candies) so it looks celebratory.

Choc-Lime Marble Cake
(adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook)
Enough to make 2 x round 20cm cakes or 2 x loaves

60g dark chocolate (I used a large dessertspoon of cocoa)
185g butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla essence
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups self raising flour
1 1/8 cup milk
1 tbsp lime zest
Green food dye

Grease and line a lamington tin and a thin loaf tin (see instructions above). Preheat oven to 180 C. If using melted chocolate, melt it now so it cools while you prepare the batter.

Cream butter, vanilla essence and sugar. Add eggs, beating after each addition. (If you are catering for any gluten free diets, you can take out a few spoons of the mixture at this point and add a little gluten free flour, baking powder and milk then bake in a ramekin or muffin tin.) Add flour and milk and stir to combine.

Divide the mixture evenly among three bowls. Stir the melted chocolate or cocoa into one bowl, the lime zest and a few drops of green food dye into the second and leave the third bowl plain. Drop blobs of cake batter into the pans trying to evenly distribute the colours. Then take a knife and swirl the colours around once or twice to create a marbled effect.

Bake cakes in moderate oven for about 30 minutes or til a skewer comes out cleanly. Cool on a wire rack. The recipe suggested a fudge chocolate frosting but I chose a plain icing for the giraffe cake (see above).

On the stereo:
Café Concerto: Pulp


  1. Eeeeeeee! That is the coolest giraffe cake I have ever seen!! If you are a facebook member, can you please please post the photo to that group I'm always blathering on about on my blog (the group is called "The Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book is Awesome")? If you're not on facebook, can I please post the photo on the group (with a link to this post)? Well done!! :)

  2. Thanks Claire - glad you like my giraffe - I am not a facebook member so you are welcome to post it on the group with a link (I am interested in your group but just can't bring myself to join facebook)

  3. So cute!! You are so talented!

  4. That looks like the perfect cake for both E and your blog! Happy birthday to both--quite the accomplishment, to be sure!

    On a side note, I can understand the love of giraffes. A cousin of mine used to collect little girafee figurines and I inherited a couple when she died a few years ago. I have them on a shelf in the living room--they are really so graceful looking and sweet--will try to fit one into a photo some time!

  5. Happy Blog Birthday Johanna! I'm looking forward to the next year of delicious and inspired recipes. Your cake is adorable!

  6. What a gorgeous cake! And I love the idea of the limeyness. I always thought the giraffe part was because you are tall - is that right too?

    Happy birthday GGG!

  7. I squealed in delight at this! Fantastic! Happy birthday. :)

  8. That's a great looking cake! I had no idea giraffes were vulnerable to lightning.

  9. Congrats Johanna on your one year anniversary!
    Good gosh girl, that giraffe cake is too awesome! You are so talented!

  10. Happy Blogiversary! It's been great reading your vegetarian ventures these 12 months. :-)

  11. The greatest cake I've ever seen. Really. Intrigued by the idea of lime in the cake also. I only stumbled into your blog about a month ago, but I look forward to reading. Congrats on 1 year!

  12. Wow the giraffe cake is gorgeous, you have managed to give him such a cheeky character.
    Happy Bloganniversary!

  13. Happy Birthday Green Gourmet Giraffe! What a fabulous looking cake, I'd never have the guts to try anything like that!

  14. thanks Romina - it really requires a lot of patience with the icing and a smidgeon of talent!

    thanks Ricki - will look forward to seeing your giraffes

    thanks Lisa - very kind!

    thanks Lysy - regretfully I just wish I was tall so I could eat more and stand at the back of group photos (I am the one they always push to the front) but at least I am safer from lightnight :-)

    thanks Wendy - my nieces did a bit of squealing too :-)

    thanks Mary - I only found out about the lighting thing from Wiki when I wrote the post but thought it was interesting (isn't everything about giraffes!)

    thanks Deb - I've always wanted a giraffe cake and decided I needed to make one because E was too vague about what cake he wanted!

    Thanks Cindy - glad you have enjoyed and am grateful you have been following the blog from the start

    thanks CookinPanda - glad it was a fortuitous stumble and pleased you love the cake

    thanks Katie - yes my giraffe is a cheeky chappy - quite a few of my giraffes about the house have a cheeky nature so he fits right in :-)

    thanks Joanna - I was really inspired by a friend who is great at trying out new things - hope I can pass some of this inspiration to you!

  15. Oh wow, I have (for some odd reason) never even thought of dark chocolate and lime cake before and now I can't stop thinking about it!

    Cupcakes, I'll make it into cupcakes so I will be able to control my portions. Oh how silly that I even think I can stop at one cupcake!

    Thanks so much for posting the recipe (and the giraffe cake is incredibly adorable!)


  16. Happy Birthday!

  17. Thanks Vicci - your enthusiasm makes me want to make these all over again - it is hard to stop at one but cupcakes are a great way of portion control

    thanks Ann

  18. Happy Blog Birthday Johanna!
    I love you giraffe!
    I saw it before I saw the post, was fascinated, came to the blog and viewed it full size on your profile. Cool!!!
    You are super, super talented girlie :)
    ps what is a jube?

  19. wow, that is so cute Johanna!! Happy Blog birthday girl!:)

  20. Johanna,
    That is such a beautiful cake. If it tasted as good as it photographed, then it would be amazing.
    You know I have seen many of your cakes over the years, but still this stands out.

    When you get tired of the rat-race you should definitely take semi-retirement and make specialty cakes like this. It could be like counselling meets cake - chatting to someone about what they love, and then coming up with a cake that sums all of that up for them...


  21. thanks Holler - have been wanting a good green giraffe pic for some time so excited to finally have one. A jube is a sweetie that is soft like a jelly (usually full of gelatine so not very friendly to strict vegetarians but other sweeties can be used instead)

    thanks Mansi

    thanks Yarrow - I think it is one of my best too. I confess it probably looked better than it tasted - I love the look of all the icing but don't really like the taste! Nice thought for my semi-retirement! Maybe I can practice my cake counselling with you one year (when ice-skating isn't on the agenda) :-)

  22. What an incredibly awesome cake!! Such an adorable giraffe. Happy blog birthday!

  23. Perfect birthday cake Johanna! I absolutely LOVE It!

  24. That really is the coolest cake i think i have ever seen! Green does make it look like its a sick giraffe

  25. Hi .. I'm just about to attempt to make this cake for my son - he has a giraffe themed life thus far (it's his first birthday this week) and have been searching high & low to find someone that has made the AWW Giraffe cake - and then I found your blog!! You make it look so easy - thank you for your detailed instructions with pictures. Hopefully mine will work out just as good as yours (I am doing trad colours tho). Allison, Brisbane.

  26. Good luck allison - since making this cake I have found it easy to use my fingers to get icing to stick to the fiddly bits like ears - and hope your son has a very giraffey birthday

  27. I absoloutly love this cake I have just come home from holiday where I went to the Dubbo zoo and had an opportunity to feed the Giraffes. They are a truly beautiful animal and so graceful and gently


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