Every time I look at the photos of these cakes, they make me smile. They have such comical expressions – some more than others. Some of them actually look a bit peeved.
I made these for Agent Sunflower’s birthday (I’m no longer sure that is her correct code name but since most of you don’t know her anyway, that’s OK). Agent S can’t have wheat or dairy, so I had to make these allergy friendly cakes. She also loves owls, as you may have guessed from the title of the post, and after Googling ‘owl cake’ I knew exactly the kind of thing I wanted to make for her. My main inspiration came for this post on The Cupcake Blog which, in turn, came from Cuchilito Que No Corta (which means ‘The Knife That Does Not Cut); although my owls ended up different in the end, you can see the influence.
So, I started with a wheat free spiced chai cupcake. I made these using the all in one method; ie throw everything in the bowl and mix. The recipe is as follows:
- 200g dairy free margarine
- 200g plain wheat free flour
- 200g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs (two would probably have been OK)
- 1/4 cup oat milk
Importantly, I didn’t add any raising agent, because I wanted the cakes to have flat tops, for decorating. To start this decorating, I made a dairy free coconut frosting by mixing 200g dairy free margarine with about 600g icing sugar, then adding 100g desiccated coconut. So far, so simple, right?
Now to the fun part – the owls. To make your own, you will need:
- your preferred frosting or buttercream
- toasted coconut
- white chocolate buttons (I used dairy free) or circles of white fondant icing
- small, round cake confetti
- writing icing tubes in white or clear (with glitter), orange and black
Allow the initial layer of frosting to dry completely. Then begin the owl by blocking in the shape of the wings. I found it easiest to pinch a little of the frosting from the bowl and flatten into shape with my fingers. My piping bag still hasn’t been replaced from where I burst it doing some fancy decorating… The wings will be made of two half circles which meet in the centre of the cake, like so:
Next, apply the toasted coconut to the remaining uncovered parts of the wings, to represent feathers. You can toast coconut in a hot, dry frying pan – keep an eye out and your nose tuned in to tell when it’s toasting, and don’t let it stray into burnt territory. It doesn’t take long to go from one to the other, so it’s quite important not to turn your back on it. Never turn your back on a coconut, even if it’s been taken out of its shell and flaked up. You just never know what might happen. Practise constant coconut vigilance.
Press the coconut in to the wings, then turn the cake upside down and tap to shake off any excess. Brush any stray parts off from the top and bottom of the cake. You will always make a frightful mess when eating a coconut-topped cake, but this will help with damage limitation. Also press two chocolate buttons or two fondant circles into the cake to act as eyes. They should stick to the freshly applied frosting and coconut wings.
Next, get in some detail using the writing icing. You could also make your own coloured royal icing for the fine detail, but those ready-to-use writing icing tubes are much easier for a project like this. I did the ears (I am aware that they look a lot like eyebrows) and little feet at this stage, but I left the beaks until just before presenting the cakes. I’ve had experience of writing icing losing its shape overnight before, most notably when I wished my mum ‘Happy Biillidiy Mmm’.
I went with just two talons on each foot, trying to fit in three was an exercise in fury and smudged orange icing.
The next detail is the round cake confetti, which I have used in so many decorating adventures – most notably Katie’s Button Cake and the Death Star Cake. For the owls’ eyes I chose half blue dots and half green. I held the dots on the top of my finger, one at a time, and pressed the least amount of clear glitter writing icing that I could manage on to them, just enough to make them sticky. I then pressed them, icing side down, on to the chocolate buttons or fondant circles.
I will admit now that I made the owls a little cross-eyed, because I know my friends well enough to realise that if I’d put the pupils right in the middle of the eyes, someone would have realised that they looked like boobs and I wouldn’t have got any sense out of them for the rest of the night.
Not that I did anyway.
The final detail was, as mentioned, the beaks. I knew that there wasn’t room to draw a little triangle, so I decided that a simple line would be enough to convey beakiness. In fact, when I started drawing in the first one, I realised that if I just squeezed the icing tube firmly when I started drawing the line, and eased off as I drew it downwards, it formed a triangle by itself.
This is what we call a result.
I couldn’t decide which of these photos I liked best, so here are both: