Tom’s 2nd Birthday – Monkey Cake

Tom is two. Not sure how or when this happened but it has. We had a brilliant party for him. A joint party with his one year old cousin, Ciarán. There were balloons, bubbles, sausages and a scandalous amount of cake.

We don’t know how that happened either. Glad it did but surprised nonetheless. My sister chose a deep, dark chocolate stout cake for Ciarán’s birthday cake. I went for a hodge podge of a vanilla sponge and a golden syrup one. I’d used the vanilla recipe before and found it deadly. Not the most exciting of cakes but a stalwart that can be stacked and carved without any hassle. The second, the golden syrup, cake was stumbled upon when trying to find a nice caramel cake recipe. I chose it because it is the easiest type of all-in-one sponges. It calls itself a chocca mocha caramel cake which is a ridiculous name and I’m not even sure it tastes like that. It tastes like golden syrup. So that’s good.

It was all stuck together with milkshake straws, salted caramel buttercream and vanilla buttercream and a feck load of dark chocolate ganache.

I might add that the caramel was a revelation. I was browsing through a few blogs when one helpful woman said that sugar won’t caramelise properly in non-stick pans. Why was this not known to me already? I made the caramel, assuming it would fail miserably, but it didn’t. It worked first time. I like being able to do things that I thought I couldn’t. Macaroons are next on my list of things to conquer.

Last thing about this monkey cake. I can’t tell you how I made the poxy monkey. It was a lot of carving and sticking and swearing and questioning why. But what I can tell you are the general methods I use to make 3D cakes.

Oven temperature 180 Celsius

Vanilla Cake;

Butter                     275g

Caster sugar         375g

Vanilla extract     2 teaspoons

Eggs                         6

Plain flour              425g

Baking powder      3 teaspoons

Hot water                5 tablespoons

Golden Syrup Cake;

Instant coffee          2 teaspoons

Cocoa powder           2 tablespoons

Hot water                   2 tablespoons

Butter                           175g

Caster sugar                175g

Eggs                               2

Golden syrup               3 tablespoons

Self-raising flour       200g

Milk                                4 tablespoons

Vanilla buttercream;

check out the full recipe here

Salted caramel buttercream;

use half the buttercream recipe from here

Caster sugar                  125g

Cream                              80ml

Salt                                   1/2 teaspoon

Vanilla extract              1 teaspoon

Dark Chocolate Ganache;

Dark chocolate              250g

Cream                               250ml

Muscavado sugar           100g

Meringue Monkey Features;

Egg white                          1

Caster sugar                     50g

I’m exhausted just typing that.

Line two 20cm round tins with baking parchment and preheat the oven.

Vanilla Cake

To make the vanilla cake beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together till smooth.

Add in one egg at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Mix the flour and baking powder

Fold in a third of the flour mix into the eggy mix.

Beat in half the water.

The second third of the floury stuff.

The rest of the water.

The rest of the flour.

Pour it into one of your prepared tins and pop it into the oven. This beast takes up to an hour and a half. Make sure to check on it every 15mins from 1hr to make sure it doesn’t over bake. It should be deep golden brown and firmly springy to the touch.

Golden Syrup Cake

For the golden syrup cake add everything to a large mixing bowl and beat to combine.

That’s it.

Pour the batter into the other lined tin and into the oven with it.

It should take approximately 40mins and will be gently firm and springy in the centre when it’s cooked.

Vanilla Buttercream

Make the vanilla buttercream exactly as I did for my own birthday cake.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

For the salted caramel buttercream make half the quantity of german buttercream I used for the red velvet cake. Follow the recipe exactly but add in the caramel and the very end.

The caramel? Yes the caramel.

Mix together the caster sugar with 60ml of water in a heavy based NOT non-stick saucepan.

Put it on a high heat and let it come to the boil. After it starts to boil it’ll probably take another few minutes to get to the medium caramel colour you’re after. DO NOT STIR IT. DO NOT TOUCH IT. YOU WILL RUIN IT AND PROBABLY BURN YOUR HAND.

While you aren’t stirring it you can mix the salt and vanilla with the cream in a separate jug.

When the caramel reaches the desired colour, quickly remove it from the heat. Pour in the cream mix and whisk carefully till it is all lovely and smooth.


Let it cool completely before stirring it into your buttercream.


Finally for the ganache, snap the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a good big bowl.

Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan till it boils. Reduce the heat sightly and let it simmer for 2mins.

Remove it from the heat and let it cool for a minute before pouring it over the broken chocolate. Whisk till it becomes too beautiful and you have to taste it.



For the monkey meringues pieces put the egg white and the sugar in a bowl and whisk on high until stiff and glossy.

Pipe into whatever features you fancy.

Cook at 150 celsius till cooked – small pieces (eyeballs and the like) will take about 30mins.


So now you should have;

2 x 20cm cakes

1 x vanilla buttercream

1 x caramel buttercream

1 x ganache

1 x assorted monkey features



I had no plan when making my monkey. But here are a few tips;

I carved the sponges using a serrated knife

I used milkshake straws where added structural support was necessary

To mould roundier bits – like the monkey’s arse – I made a ‘cake pop’ style mix of crumbled off cuts of the cakes mixed together with buttercream

I did a crumb coat of buttercream on larger expanses before ganaching

I put buttercreamed pieces in the freezer/ fridge to firm up and make the following ganache set faster

The meringue bits were stuck on with ganache

I drew on the monkey features with store-bought writing icing

Anyway best of luck.




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