Wise owl birthday cake

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This recipe is classed as easy

Rating 3.69 / 5 (143 votes)

Prep time:
50 min, plus 10 minutes cooling
Cook time:
40 min

All the chocolates used in Annie Rigg’s cute and very clever cake are easily found in supermarkets and sweet shops


1. For the sponge: preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease two 23cm round springform cake tins with butter and line the bases with greased baking parchment.

2. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale, light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Very gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time. Stir in the vanilla extract.

3. Sift together the plain flour and baking powder and add to the cake mixture in two batches, mixing until smooth. Add the milk and mix until smooth.

4. Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins. Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack. Turn the cakes the right way up and leave to cool completely.

5. For the frosting: melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barley simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Stir until melted and smooth, then set aside to cool slightly.

6. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla extract and icing sugar until smooth. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Leave the frosting to set and thicken up slightly before use.

7. To decorate: level the tops of the cakes with a sharp knife if necessary. Place one cake on a serving plate or board and spread the cut surface with about 3 tablespoons of frosting. Cover with the other cake layer, cut side down. Cover the top and sides of the whole cake with three-quarters of the remaining frosting, spreading evenly with a palette knife.

8. Arrange the chocolate buttons over the bottom half of the cake to resemble feathers and cover the top half of the cake with chocolate vermicelli. Fit a piping bag with a star nozzle, fill the bag with the remaining frosting and use this to pipe feathers around the owl’s face.

9. Position assorted chocolate buttons on top of the sprinkles for the eyes. Cut the flaked chocolate bar into thin pieces and push into the bottom edge of the cake to make legs. Cut the toffee bar in half. Slice one half diagonally into 2 pieces for the wings and push one into each side of the owl. Cut the remaining toffee bar at an angle to make a beak and position on the owl’s face.

Recipe from Birthday Cakes for Kids - by Annie Rigg published by Ryland Peters and Small


For the vanilla sponge

  • 350 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 350 g caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350 g plain flour
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 4-5 tbsp milk, at room temperature

For the chocolate fudge frosting

  • 350 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 225 g unsalted butter
  • 225 ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 450 g icing sugar, sifted

For the decoration

  • chocolate buttons, in different sizes
  • chocolate vermicelli sprinkles
  • 1 flaked chocolate bar
  • 1 toffee-filled chocolate bar

Tips and suggestions

Variation: to make a chocolate sponge, replace 4 tablespoons of the plain flour with 4 tablespoons of cocoa.

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Latest Comment


This was not difficult to make turned out lovely and was delicious

JulieR46198 JulieR46198  Posted 30 Jan 2015 9:07 PM

Made this for my dads 60th birthday and was very easy to make. I am currently in a cast and crutches, and despite it obviously taking a little longer than it should, I managed fine! It's very chocolatey so I decided to use normal sponge rather than more chocolate, and definitely need to refrigerate the frosting before trying to pipe (I just used a food bag and cut the corner). Looked fantastic and tasted even better! And integrated '60' into the feather design with white buttons.
All in all, a lovely impressive cake and easy to make!
(picture is uploaded)

LynneS33834 LynneS33834  Posted 27 Mar 2012 11:45 PM

Looks really wise

AbbygailShun AbbygailShun  Posted 23 Oct 2011 2:28 AM

Following on from my previous comment (forgot this bit!!) - used a normal sponge rather than a chocolate one!!

SamS25974 SamS25974 Posted 20 Oct 2011 7:17 PM

Fantastic!! Made this for my sister's 'big' birthday. Made a few changes though...... made a white chocolate frosting, put that & lemon curd in the middle, used white choc fingers for legs, white choc jazzies etc etc for decoration & dessicated coconut for the top half of decoration! Have uploaded photo to show what I mean!!

SamS25974 SamS25974 Posted 20 Oct 2011 7:14 PM

I made this cake once and it was a sucess. If you dont like this cake try it without all the frosting and sweets it makes a delicious sponge cake!!!

AoibhinnM51092 AoibhinnM51092 Posted 10 Apr 2011 11:55 AM

Made this last night on a whim, messed up the frosting a little so it was wetter than normal, but it still turned out tasty. Uploading pictures as we speak.
AlisonB67402 I just used a twix, worked pretty well.

RhiannonW3901 RhiannonW3901 Posted 30 Mar 2011 1:17 PM

Could anyone tell me what toffee bar they used for the wings etc?

AlisonB67402 AlisonB67402 Posted 23 Feb 2011 7:27 PM

Have made this now and it was a success.....will upload pics

michelleS61836 michelleS61836 Posted 09 Jul 2010 11:57 PM

Am making this cake today for my little girls 4th birthday tomorrow.......will let you know if its a success!

michelleS61836 michelleS61836 Posted 09 Jul 2010 9:14 AM

This was first cake I've baked in years and it turned out great. It was actually pretty easy to do the icing, and it looked really like an owl! I followed others advice and refrigerated the icing first which made it easy to pipe. I made it for my son's 3rd birthday and he was delighted. There was a lot of icing left over though.

ElinorN32508 ElinorN32508 Posted 05 Jun 2010 10:01 AM

AMAZING!!! its so fun to make and eat- it looks so much like an owl (for a cake)!!

LouieK10024 LouieK10024 Posted 17 May 2010 7:23 PM

Epic win, ennit doe.

BobS51844 BobS51844 Posted 20 Apr 2010 9:30 AM

Awesome....says my 10 year old boy!

WILLOW99 WILLOW99 Posted 16 Dec 2009 9:00 PM

lovely recipe,people were very impressed.Leave the frosting over night in the fridge before spreading, much more firm

nicki25 nicki25 Posted 31 Oct 2009 2:50 PM

Its a great cake, but I really struggled with the frosting. It was worth making

EmmaB28033 EmmaB28033 Posted 28 Oct 2009 1:59 PM

Made this for my daughters 5th birthday recently, and got an extra special hug thanks. Struggled slightly with the frosting tho'.

TDStranger TDStranger Posted 25 Oct 2009 11:35 AM

I made this for my owl mad step-son and it was delicious . It impressed quite a few people .

AmandaB3420 AmandaB3420 Posted 17 Oct 2009 2:03 PM

impressed so many people with this cake. Tastes absolutely delicious

kerryG94822 kerryG94822 Posted 15 Oct 2009 9:44 PM

i made this cake for my son reuben's 7th birthday and everyone was impressed !very rich very moist very yummy . only problem the icing was too soft and there was far too much so have tried freezing .5 stars !

LeitaS43895 LeitaS43895 Posted 14 Oct 2009 9:59 AM

carmenT12888 carmenT12888 Posted 04 Oct 2009 8:50 AM