Monday 8 September 2014

Dinosaur Vanilla Chiffon Cake (A trial bake)

My friend requested for a dinosaur cake for her boy's birthday. Although the birthday is still about 2 months away, I thought it would be good to do a trial bake as the shape is quite complex. This dinosaur cake topper is made entirely out of chiffon cake :).

Not too bad for a first try since I had to estimate the baking times for the various body parts, and I wasn't sure that the whole structure is able to remain stable :). The cake was soft and fluffy, especially the head. My friend and her boy loved this dinosaur design although she would prefer a deeper shade of red. I tried the cake with my kids and they loved it too :). Will make some changes to the recipe to make it a deeper but brighter shade of red using strawberry paste instead of vanilla, and probably change the color of the spine. But for this attempt, this was what I did...

Egg yolk batter
2 egg yolks
10g caster sugar
27g canola oil
36g fresh milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs beetroot powder (dissolve in milk)
Red gel food coloring
Pinch of salt
45g cake flour
1/8 tsp baking powder

3 egg whites
33g caster sugar
1/5 tsp cream of tartar

Glue and paint
Milk powder
Charcoal powder
Yellow and white gel food coloring

1. Prepare the following bakeware for dinosaur parts:
- round silicone ice cube tray for dinosaur feet and spine.
- 11.5cm diameter round silicone mould (glass or metal will do too) for the body.
- 6x6" square pan lined with baking sheet for the neck and tail.
- an egg shell thoroughly washed and dried with the inner membrane removed. This is for the head.
- satay stick/ long wooden skewer to secure the head and neck to the body (not shown in picture)

2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius and position rack at second lowest position.

3. Prepare the egg yolk batter. Whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and sugar has dissolved.  Take your time to do this. About a couple of minutes. Add oil and whisk until thick like mayonnaise. Add milk with beetroot powder, vanilla extract, salt and a bit of red food coloring. I was afraid that beetroot alone will result in a brown cake. Gradually whisk in sifted flour and baking powder until no trace of flour is seen.

4. Prepare the meringue. In a clean metal bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form and the bowl can be overturned without the meringue falling out. Fold in the meringue in three additions using quick but gentle strokes with a spatula.

The batter is pinkish. Will try to achieve a red batter next time. 

5. Fill the egg shell to about 2/3 full, the silicone ice cube tray to full and the large silicone mould to about 1cm away from the rim. Fill the 6" tray with a thin layer of batter. Bake the various parts accordingly*:

6" layer: 160°C for 9-10minutes. Remove and immediately peel off the baking sheet. Place another fresh sheet over it to cool.

Ice cube tray: 160°C for 10-11 minutes. Immediately invert to cool. Carefully unmould by hand when cooled.

Egg shell: 160°C for 10 minutes followed by 150°C for 7-8 minutes. When cooled completely, crack the egg shell with as many cracks as you can with the back of a metal spoon and gently peel off the shell. Handle with care as cake baked in egg shell is very soft.

Round mould: 160°C for 10 minutes followed by 150°C for 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Immediately invert to cool. Carefully unmould by hand.

* Baking times are an estimate and may vary from oven to oven even if you use a thermometer so always check your cakes for doneness with a skewer.

You may have excess batter like I did. I made an extra head just in case one is destroyed during unmoulding.

6. Assemble the cake. Cut out rectangular strip of layer cake and roll it into a swiss roll around the satay stick to make the neck. Check the length of stick that you need and break off unwanted part. It should be long enough to accomodate the head (egg shell baked cake), neck and stick deep into the body. Melt some marshmellows with a sprinkle of water and glue the swiss roll ends together. Assemble the head, neck and body with the satay stick.

Next, create the feet using 4 small cakes baked in ice cube tray.  Use the back of a butter knife to create indents to form the toes of the feet. Hold the knife in place for half a minute or until the indent stays. Stick the feet on the body with marshmellow glue.

Create the tail by cutting out a rectangular or trapezoidal piece from the layer cake and roll in the direction of the shorter side to create a swiss roll. Trapezoidal piece will result in a more tapered tail. Bend the roll into a "U" shape and stick it to the body.

I added on the spine at the last minute after painting the dino. You may choose to add them on now or later. Take 4 more small cakes baked in ice cube tray and shape them into pyramids with pointy tops. Leaving them round is fine too. As the cakes are really soft, just press them for a while and they will stay deformed. Glue them on using melted marshmellow.

Ta-dah! Looking more like a creature...

7. Paint the features on. Make some yellow and white paint by mixing some milk powder with water, and then adding gel food coloring. Make some black paint by dissolving charcoal powder in water. Use a jumbo straw to dip into the white paint and stamp out two circles on dino's head. Fill in the circles with white paint and let it dry a bit. Clean the jumbo straw and dip it into the yellow paint. Stamp out yellow spots on the body and fill in with yellow paint. You may use a fine brush for painting. Use a regular straw to dip into the black paint to stamp out the black eyes.  Fill in with black paint using a toothpick. Outline the eyes with black paint. Draw nostrils and mouth with black paint.

Dry the cake in an air tight container.

I am doing this post partly because I don't want the actual birthday cake post to be super long :p. Will just include the changes to the final cake in my future post without going into so much detail.

With love,
Phay Shing


  1. Hi Phay Shing

    Wow another chiffon creation, indeed very creative of you but plenty of hard works.


    Priscilla Poh

    1. Hi Priscilla,

      Good to hear from you! Happy mid-autumn festival to you and your family! Thanks! Actually this is considered a relatively easy bake as there is no template and tricky piping of cake batter involved. Only one colored batter so it was quite a quick bake. The actual cake will be hard work with the base cake, wordings and assembly involved as well :p

  2. Wow, Pei Xin, thanks for putting in all that hard to create this cute dino!

    1. No problems Yiling :). Glad to try this out before the actual bake. My kids eyes open big big and went wow when I brought out the dino for their snack time... lol! I am recording the details for myself to take note too when I do it again in Nov :)

  3. Hi Phay Shing,
    Thank you for sharing your bakes!
    Please advise :
    -how to remove the membrane from the egg shell. I usually dry the egg shell by baking it in the oven for a while till dry.
    -How big a hole should I make in the egg shell? Wanna get a nice egg shape like yours.
    -Do I fill the egg shell to 80%? Why is there a thin, rough layer of chiffon at the egg shell opening? tastes rougher to the taste too. Otherwise the cake in egg is fluffy & soft.

    Thank you!

    LIm Mei

    1. Hi Lim Mei,

      Thanks for trying out the recipe :)
      I usually make a hole at the pointy end of the egg such that the air bubble is at the opposite end. It's easier to remove the membrane this way. I make sure the hole is big enough for my index finger to wriggle around inside to gently rub off the membrane with the shell half filled with water. Once I can get a piece of membrane to detach from the shell, I just carefully pull the sheet off. I must admit that it is quite time consuming to remove the membrane cleanly and I break a few shells by accident during washing sometimes.
      Hole size is about somewhere between 10-20 cent coin
      Fill shell to about 70-75% full as the batter expands quite a bit. I usually slice off the rough portion near the hole opening. Depending on the orientation that you want to use your eggshell, you may bake the shell lying vertical or horizontal such that the rough part can be cut off and hidden when assembled. My Peppa pig cupcakes have the hole at the side instead of at the ends.

      I hope this helps :)

    2. Thank you Phay Shing!

  4. Hi Phay Shing,
    I tried baking a 7 inch chiffon( 6 yolk & 8 egg whites) but I added 1 tsp baking powder to the recipe & substitute water with milk.

    The sides of my cake has a thin light brown layer. I wonder why....?

    Thank you.


    1. Hi Celine,

      You can try baking at a lower temperature for a longer time. Begin your bake at 160°C then gradually lower at 10-15 minutes interval by 10°C until 140°C or even 130°C if necessary. Each oven is different so the temperature and timings we post on our blog are estimates. I hope this helps :)

    2. Hi Phay Shing,
      Thank you! For 17 in cake, I lowered my oven temp by 5deg C. Began at 160 C- 15 min, 150C-15 min, 130- C 10 min. reduced baking time at 130 deg C by 5 min. much lesser browning at the sides.*
      I am thinking of reducing baking time from 15-10 min, 160 deg C to get rid of browning altogether. Please advise if it is ok ?

      My 17in cake only had browning on 1 side. Should I rotate the cake halfway thru baking. I used serrated knife to lightly scrap off the brown parts but not sure if ok? Sorry...I am such a new baker...


  5. Sorry typo.... 140 C 10 min. reduced baking time 140 C by 5 min.

    1. Hi Celine,

      You are getting there :). Yes you may reduce baking time at 160°C and extend the lower temperature baking times. It takes a bit of trial and error to get to know your oven. I wouldn't advise opening the oven halfway through baking chiffon cakes unless it's towards the end of baking. Try baking at lower temperature instead. Hope this helps!

    2. Thank you , Phay Shing. Will try it out!