A Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake (Happy 1st Birthday Will)


Send help. There is every chance I am going to be trapped by an avalanche of cake.

It all started innocuously enough. A stitched together photo collage of Will through the months texted to close family. ‘Come for coffee and cake- Will is one!’


And then I lost my head a bit. I could blame the Woman’s Weekly Birthday Book.  Two years ago, before Will was even a twinkle in my eye I wrote this about the yoke of responsibility that comes with children’s birthday cakes.  I sensed it held the ability to do me in.

And it did- to a degree.

I was calm at the outset. I had a vision for what I wanted- one that wasn’t captured in those magical pages.  Instead, it came from a different book. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of my favourite stories to read to Will. He particularly likes the feasting day. As the first offspring of The Hungry One, it was a choice which also had some nice internal narrative logic to it. A few nights of casual Pinteresting later and I found a version that was simple enough; one round,  brick read 20 cm cake for the head. Licorice legs and ears. And twenty or so green swirled cupcakes arranged for the body.

It was all going smoothly at that stage. Frozen cakes are easier to ice, so I planned ahead.  Last week when we took a quick trip down to my Mum’s in the country, I got my baking on. Flourless was the brief. There are a few gluten intolerant in the group and heck, I might as well practice what I preach.

The main cake was to be chocolate and coconut, bound with coconut flour. Coconut flour is a curiously thirsty thing, so in order to get the height I wanted I made two 20 cm cakes and sandwiched them together (a taller cake would potentially have dried out at the edges before the centre was set). It was melded together with cherry jam and a chocolate cream cheese mousse. For anyone who wondered if Will, like his Dad would share a taste for the black forest, it seems it’s true.

The frosting was my favourite cream cheese buttercream, with 1/3 less sugar. Though getting a true brick red was a challenge. It seems that anyone with a fifth grade education could have confirmed the following; add red colouring to pale cream and you’ll get…. pink. In the end, I said what the hell. A watermelon pink caterpillar it was going to be.

The cupcakes may have been gilded in lurid green, but were far less childlike on the inside. Made dense with almond meal, half were lemon, poppyseed and chia.

The other half were orange, almond – and because I felt like it- brightened with a dash of Campari (the alcohol bakes out in the oven- but what’s left is a nice slightly bitter twang which accentuates the citrus).

All of which would have been fine.

Except once I was on a roll, I couldn’t stop.

There were two of the magical bean cakes from the book; black bean chocolate and cherry and white bean, raspberry and rose. There were mini versions of Dad’s carrot and almond cake, with cream cheese frosting (do you sense a theme?)

There was a sugar free, oat flour, coconut, almond and cacao loaf.

There were blueberry, banana and flax muffins.

And then there were two batches of mini frittatas, for those who needed something a little savoury; one with lardons, mozzarella and spring onion, the other with blitzed kale, parsley, mint and feta.


There were date and coconut balls, quinoa, cacao and goji balls,  strawberries and watermelon, coffees and cuddles.

There was far too much food and possibly just the right amount of affection lavished on a small one.

We finished the day with a long, much needed walk by the beach and marvelled at how quickly the last twelve months have dashed. At one, Will is a hilarious, tottering, joyful, flirtatious, determined, wakeful bundle. He loves sitting on the sand and watching it seep through his pudgy fingers. He is content watching waves and will climb anything. He’s happiest when charging around, holding either a stubby stick, a spoon, or both. His chief phrase is ‘Dada!’ which he bestows on his father and anyone else he wants to express enthusiasm or affection towards. He has a distinct distaste for being constrained, getting dressed and the vacuum cleaner. He loves to bang on the piano and balance things on the top of my head. He’s inherited my father’s fearlessness, his late grandmother’s eyes, The Hungry One’s determination and my stubbornness. His electro-shock hair makes us laugh on a daily basis.  He still doesn’t like to sleep much. He is wilful.

He is wonderful.

He is my very, hungry little caterpillar. And I can’t wait to see what kind of butterfly he blooms into.

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