There is something special about making a surprise birthday cake of your child’s favourite character or activity. This year Hatchimals are all the rave at our school and a Little Miss B loves them. A new series of Hatchimals Mermals had just come out before her birthday and her aunt had got Little Miss B a set. So we decided to surprise her with an underwater-themed cake with Hatchimal Mermal eggs.
This cake is a conch shell cake housing a nest of hatchimal eggs. It is decorated with little details to give the underwater theme. To our delight, it became more than just a birthday cake – it was a properly interactive experience for the birthday girl, who was totally enthralled by the magic of a cake that you can play with, as well as eat!
Our Hatchimals Mermals conch birthday cake never started out as a sea shell! It started with a rather lot of confusion as we tried to make sense of all the ideas and different things that my daughter loves. Happily, it evolved from a nest with birds to this lovely cake as we got stuck in and bounced ideas around.
For this birthday cake, you will need
For the base cake:
You can choose to bake your own base cake for decorating. For a completely home-made base cake we generally use our Easy Sponge Cake, which we show in this YouTube baking video. You can buy ready-made base from the supermarket or go halfway using a premix, like we did. One of our favourites is Betty Crocker, but most tried and tested mixes will do. ( Let us know in the comments below if you have a favourite that we can test for our next cake!)
- 2 packs Betty Crocker* (I used gluten-free) chocolate cake which also needs:
- 8 eggs
- 250ml vegetable oil
- 500ml water
* or your favourite cake recipe or cake mix
For the twirly whirly shell add on:
- 200g marshmallows
- 150g toffees
- 150g rice crispies
For the icing:
2 pots Betty Crocker cream cheese style icing
- 250g softened butter
- 500g icing sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-4 tbsp milk
We resorted to both these options as we ran out of the pre-mixed icing and it was late at night, so no chance of popping out to the store to buy some more.
For the decoration:
- strawberry jam (or the birthday girl or boy’s favourite flavour)
- 1 1/2 chocolate easter eggs (what do you mean, you’ve eaten them all?!), either dark chocolate or milk chocolate melted with approx 2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder added for dark colour
- 1 golf ball sized fondant icing
food colouring pastes in blue, yellow, gold, pink
- 1 set series 5 Hatchimals mermals (or other surprise toy of your choice)
- cake pearls
- edible glitter
Step 1: Shape the cake
Bake your base cakes in two 8 inch round cake tins, based on the instructions included with the mix or your favourite recipe.
Let them cool on a wire rack.
Cut a large doughnut shape out of one of the cakes- This will make the nest for the Hatchimal eggs.
You can measure how big to make the hole by putting the Hatchimals into a small bowl first and placing it on top of the cake to give you an idea of how big a circle to cut.
TIP: Keep the cut out pieces of cake for later, trust me, you won’t regret it!
Step 2: Put icing on the base cake
Whisk the butter and icing sugar until fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract and add just enough milk to loosen the mixture enough to still hold little peaks.
Swirl pink food colouring into the icing to give a marbled effect.
Sandwich the two base cakes together with jam, then cover the base cake in swirly tufts of icing. Don’t worry about being too precise.
TIP: A palette knife comes in really useful at this point, although you can use a rounded dining knife instead.
Don’t bother covering the ‘nest’ in the middle of the top base cake as this will be covered in chocolate instead. You can also leave one-quarter of the side of the cake bare ready to attach the shell swirl.
Step 3: Add the swirly shell shape to the conch
Unwrap the toffees and put them in a small microwaveable bowl or cup. Put to one side.
Melt the marshmallows and rice crispies together in another bowl in the microwave. It took about 3 1/2 minutes to melt in one minute bursts.
Melt the toffees for approx. 1 minute in the microwave. Now you need to be quite speedy, because the toffees go hard fast! Add the melted toffees to the marshmallow and rice crispy mix, and squish it all together. Be careful! It may be very hot, depending on your microwave strength.
TIP: Get ready to get incredibly sticky! I resorted to wearing disposable gloves. Dipping my hands in icing sugar once I’d taken the gloves off also helped.
….If you have a friend with you at the time, this is where they fall off their chair, laughing, watching you get stickier and sticker. Hopefully, they will come to your aid and get stuck in too!!
As it starts to harden, start shaping the mixture into a swirl, then add it like a prosthetic to the side of your cake.
Curl it round the cake to make a snug fit. You can hollow the inside of the swirl out so that the mixture goes further. It will still be very stable once cooled.
Here is where all those extra bits of leftover cake come in useful too: for stuffing corners or building up the sides.
Ice all shell shape to blend it in with the base cake.
Step 4: Adding the finishing touches to the cake
It’s the small touches are what really make the cake come alive and they are lots of fun for those with even the slightest bit of craftiness in their veins.
Melt the chocolate and dribble it inside the nest until it is covered.
It also has the big advantage of strengthening the whole structure so you won’t get any avalanches!
Once the chocolate has hardened, cover with edible glitter to make the shell sparkle, and add some clusters of cake pearls inside the nest round the edges…. really just let your imagination run wild!
Make a few little clam-shaped shells with white fondant icing and place a pearl inside for each decoration on the outside of the cake at the bottom.
Likewise, take a small amount of fondant and colour it gold for little starfish.
Make swirls of seaweed with the rest of the fondant. Colour it yellow and then add enough blue to make it light green.
Split into three balls of icing and make two of the balls even darker shades of green with a little more blue.
Roll them out and cut into strips, then twist and leave to dry. Add to the sides of the cake beside the clams. You can, of course, add as many or as few extra sea creatures and finery, as you wish. There were just had three little blue fish swimming along the baseboard.
Put the Hatchimal eggs or any other surprise toy inside the nest.
Our set came with two little fish that were already out of their shells, so adding these to cake board as a sneak peek of what to expect inside the eggs was a fun touch.
This cake was a huge hit with the birthday girl and her friends! It was a cake to play with and devour. Our kids generally love the different textures that come with cakes like this: there’s the chewiness of the spiral, the chocolate cake and then there’s crunchy chocolate where the Hatchimals nestle.
When do you show your creation to the birthday girl or boy?
We’ve got into the habit of showing it on the birthday itself or the birthday party morning, so they can enjoy the creation a little longer. The parties are so hectic and we can miss the surprise on their faces when they take in the cake you’ve created.
Yeah, it’s a little selfish, as the kids then have to go to school or wait till the part to actually eat the cake.
This year, Little Miss B got to open her Hatchimal eggs first thing in the morning as compensation.
Don’t forget to tell us about your favourite cake bases!
Please share this post with your friends! We love making cakes, but love inspiring other parents to make their own home-made birthday cakes too.