Caterpillar cakes are a classic staple of children's birthday parties but since the explosion of Colin on the birthday party scene over 25 years ago many a knock off has appeared at rival supermarkets. with so many to choose from how on Earth is the savvy consumer to pick the appropriate treat for their celebration? There was only one way to find out...
We tested all the caterpillar cakes that we could find: Colin and Connie from M&S, Cecil from Waitrose, Curly and Carl from Tescos, Wiggles from Sainsbury's, Bonnie and Clyde from Asda and Morrison's Caterpillar Celebration Cake (there were rumours of a Charlie in Aldi but we couldn't find one).
There are many things to consider when choosing your cake: what do you want your caterpillar to look like? Should it have a chocolate or icing face and feet? Should it have ridges? Dolly mixture? Sprinkles? Do you want the filling chocolate or raspberry filling?
Let's consider price. There are two price points: the upmarket Waitrose and M&S who sell caterpillars for an extortionate £7 a cake compared to £6 from the other supermarkets. Our tasters were split in the higher price category. There were the traditionalists who believed that you can't beat a Colin, those who liked that cheeky raspberry flavour of Connie but Waitrose's Cecil pulled out slightly in front. It was certainly an excellent cake and well worth the extra £1, as long as you were willing to overlook his sleek design.
In the lower price category, Wiggles is the most Colin-like of all cakes. Not only do they look very similar but they taste nearly exactly the same. If you're looking to save a bit of dough on your cake, choose Wiggles from Sainsbury's can't taste the difference range.
The most liked of the lower price category was Morrison's Celebration Cake, presumably cheaper because they skimped on the name. Although some objected to the dolly mixture topping, the cake and filling were widely praised. It was certainly the tastiest of the cheaper range.
Asda's criminal pair of pillars Bonnie and Clyde did not fair particularly well in the rankings. Their decoration was described as 'terrifying' but their cake reasonable.
While there was no clear winner among the caterpillars, there was certainly a loser: Carl, Tesco's Free-From cake was slated by the critics with the kindest thing being said, "It's not as bad as I expected considering it didn't have any real ingredients" alongside the damming, "It feels like I'm eating an ashtray". Not only is Carl not caterpillar shaped (presumably it's hard to make a swiss roll without gluten) nor is he covered in chocolate. It reminded us that a childhood plagued by allergies is a very raw deal.
There was one thing that everyone agreed on: that M&S's mini Colins were an excellent treat. Their high chocolate to cake ratio and cute expressions won the hearts of all the tasters. And you don't have to slice them.
I've made a few changes to the classic family recipe this year.
1) Soak the fruit for a week, stirring daily:
500g mixed fruit and peel
1 small pot of glacier cherries
200g mixed nuts
70cl (minus two shot glasses worth to taste...) cherry brandy
2) Mix 4oz butter and 4oz brown sugar
3) Add 2 eggs alternately with 6oz plain flour
4) Add this to the fruit mixture with 1tsp allspice, 7ml liquid glycerol, 7ml black treacle and bicarbonate of soda.
5) Cook in a cool oven (150 C) for two hours then cool.
6) Feed with amaretto weekly.
It was a pretty delicious cake that went down very well with the DH's father- always good! The nuts definitely added something to it and the amaretto and cherry brandy made it very sweet so it didn't really taste of fruit cake, so not a recipe for the traditionalist.
Next year I will put in less amaretto- it was incredibly gooey!
More Christmas crafts. I had wanted to make these up last year but I moved house and didn't have time. I opened some large clear glass baubles and filled them with glitter, simple but very pretty.
I hung some candy cane charms inside some of the baubles but it's a little hard to see them: glitter by itself is just as effective.
Still too early to hang them, though, so I've packed them up until December...
I know it's a little early for Christmas posts but I've been making some Christmas decoration in preparation.
I used scales from theringlord.com. They have excellent YouTube instructions and one of their kits makes about 20 poinsettias.
I think they will look great arranged around a candle, hung on the tree or attached to a wreath!
You rip what you sew!