Ladybug Cake

Sometimes I bake for Belle, not with her. And recently, it was to celebrate Jailbreak Day.

You see, Belle spent 102 days in the NICU after she was born 14 weeks early. They said she’d likely come home around her due date, but she was doing so well on so many measures that we not-so-secretly hoped she’d come home earlier. Alas, she just couldn’t get the hang of eating, and so the nurses kept giving her milk through a tube, and so the doctors kept delaying her discharge. We felt like our baby was in jail.

When she finally came out, we called it Jailbreak Day, and swore to celebrate it every year as the anniversary of when life together really started.

This year, Belle really really wanted a ladybug cake, and I really really didn’t want a pile of icing. So, I needed the cake itself to resemble a lady bug. The first (only?) red cake I could think of was red velvet, and chocolate was dark enough to sub for black!

In my head, this required 1 9″ red velvet cake and 1 9″ chocolate cake: I would cut the red velvet in half and splay it a bit to form wings, cut a wedge of chocolate to fill the gap, carve a semicircle (maybe a crescent) as the head, and then get some shotglass-sized spots of chocolate to fill some shotglass-sized holes in the wings. The challenge would be finding recipes with similar texture and keeping the glossy sides up.

The other challenge would be completing this during naptime.

Skills worked on:

  • Surprising Belle!
  • Cake design

Equipment needed:

  • 2 9″ cake pans
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • Mixer
  • Parchment paper
  • Cooling racks
  • Mixing cups and spoons

Recipes:

Red Velvet Cake (15 min prep, 30 min bake, yield: 1 9″ cake)

My go-to red velvet cake is from Cake Central. I’ve sometimes tried to skimp on the red dye; the outside turns brown. Since I never have buttermilk, I’ve adapted it, and since I’m not doing a layer cake, I’ve halved it. Double the prep time with a toddler assistant.

  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) butter
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 oz (1 tbsp) red food coloring
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • A heaping 1/2 tsp baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease pan and line with parchment.
  2. Mix together 1/2 c milk and 1/2 tsp white vinegar. Set aside.
  3. Beat together 1/2 c butter and 3/4 c sugar until fluffy. Add 1 egg and beat in, then 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tbsp red food coloring.
  4. Mix together 1 1/4 c flour, 4 1/2 tsp cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and a heaping 1/2 tsp baking soda.
  5. Beating together each time, add half of flour mixture to mixing bowl, then half of milk mixture, the remainder of the flour, then the remainder of the milk.
  6. Pour batter into pan and bake 28-35 min. The top of the cake should be glossy and springy. Let cool in pan for 10 min, then turn out onto a cooling rack until completely cool, about 40 min.

Chocolate Cake (15 min prep, 35 min bake, yield: 1 9″ cake):

This recipe also had to be adapted from a layer cake by the Stay at Home Chef to fit the bill. There will be a little extra batter – making either a taller cake than you want or potential for cupcakes.

  • 1 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9″ pan and line with parchment.
  2. Mix in a cup or bowl 1/2 c milk and 1/2 tsp white vinegar. Set aside.
  3. Mix together 1 c flour, 1 c sugar, 1/2 c cocoa, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt in large mixing bowl.
  4. Add milk mixture, 2 eggs, 1/2 c warm water, 2 tbsp oil, and 1 tsp vanilla, and beat until smooth.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 min until top is glossy and springy.
  6. Cool on wire rack in pan for 15 min then turn out onto rack to cool completely, about 30 min.

Assembly (15-20 min):

Using a bread knife on cool cakes, slice the chocolate cake so it is the same height as the red velvet cake. Now, get creative.

While you could use icing to assist in gluing the pieces together, I chose to wing it and just place the pieces together on uncoated cardboard, so they would not slide around. I opted for an Amazon box (it was handy), then created a few leaves out of zucchini for the lady bug to munch and a parchment sheet taped on top (don’t use scotch tape – it won’t stick to the parchment) with some holes punched in it so the lady bug could “breathe.”

Excess cake can be frozen for later transformation into cakepops!

Like it? Pin it! Ladybug cake pin

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