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Beetle Forest Gateau

Those of you with entomophobia (fear of insects) may want to look away now. When I heard that the first Derby Clandestine Cake Club theme would be Trick or Treat I knew that last year’s Black Beetle Cakes would have to make a reappearance but in a slightly different form. The Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) has strict rules: no brownies, muffins, cookies pies or tarts and don’t even think of darkening the door with cupcakes. We’re talking big cakes that can serve 8-12 people. Derby’s first CCC was hosted by A Wannabe Foodie.

I decided the slightly macabre cake would be made from simple chocolate sponge (a variation on my Victoria sponge) that had been brushed with sloe gin, filled with cherries & cream then topped with edible dirt and beetles. This cake may look wrong, but I still wanted it to taste good.

I had forgotten that one of my pupils had borrowed on of my matching cake tins on Thursday so had to do some crafty cake trimming on the top layer so both layers would be the same diameter. I kind of like that the cake is unintentionally slightly wonky as it gives it the slightly decomposing look to it. Something that Miss Havisham would have in her dining room.

I think it’s fair to say this is one of my favourite cakes I’ve ever made. A perfect way to embrace my artistic yet science geek side.  You can take the girl out of biology, but you can’t take the biology geek out of the girl.  One of the guests suggested putting something in the bugs to give them a crunch. Oh, we are very much going to do this next time we make the cake. Hubs is working out how we can make them not only crunch but also ooze. I also intended on the cake featuring slugs, but I’m still working on how to make an authentic looking edible slime trail. I really enjoyed this afternoon and a big thanks to Julia for hosting. it. Because of this afternoon I now know what cake sweats/shakes feel like.

Beetle Forest Gateau
Serves 8-12

For the cake

The key to this chocolate sponge is to weigh the eggs, in their shells, at the beginning. You will then need the equal weight of sugar, butter and total weight of flour & cocoa. So if your eggs weigh 250g you’ll need 250g sugar etc.

4 large eggs

caster sugar

butter, softened

self-raising flour (you need 80% weight of eggs. In other words for each 100g of eggs you need 80g of flour. To work this out = weight of eggs x 0.8)

cocoa (you need 20% weight of eggs. To work this out = weight of eggs x 0.2)

1 tsp vanilla extract


200ml double cream

Tin (425g) pitted cherries

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

3 tbsp of kirche or in our case sloe gin


75g (½ packet) of Oreos or similar biscuits

200g icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa

fondant icing or marzipan coloured black (personally I find marzipan easier to work with)

edible lustre dust (I used antique gold and snowflake)

1) Line the bottom of two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment. Pre heat oven to 180°c.

2) Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined. Before adding the fourth egg add a spoonful of the flour into the mix to help stop the mixture curdling.

3) Stir in the vanilla extract then fold in the flour and cocoa. It needs to be of dropping consistency (in other words it drops off the spoon easily). If not, add a small amount of milk to help loosen the batter.

4) Share the cake batter between the two tins then bake for around 30 minutes until the cakes are risen and a skewer comes of out the cake clean.

5) Allow the cake for rest for a few minutes before turning it out of the tin and removing the baking paper. Allow to cool on a wire rack before filling.

6) While the cakes are cooling make the beetles. First knead black food colouring into the marzipan/icing until evenly coloured. Pinch off a Malteser sized piece of marzipan and roll into a rugby ball shape. Place on a piece of clingfilm and gently press to flatten. Shape into a beetle shape. Mark the head and wings using the edge of a teaspoon. Add additional detail with a knife and cocktail stick. Brush lightly with lustre dust. Roll eight mini sausages out of the marzipan about 1.5 cm long. Attach two of the legs near the head and two near the mouth (for the mandibles) then the other four to the rear. Leave on the clingfilm to dry for  few hours.

7) In a small saucepan heat the cherries, with the juice from the can along with the sugar and cornflour mixed with a small amount of water. Bring to the boil until mixture has thickened. Stir in 1 tbsp of kirche. Leave to cool.

8) To make the edible dirt blitz the oreos in a blender. Don’t worry about removing the cream. Set to one side while you begin to construct the cake.

9) Place the bottom layer of the cake on a plate and brush with the remaining kirsch. Spread on the cherry mix then whip the double cream and spread on top of the cherries.  Place the second layer of the cake on top of the cream.

10) In a bowl mix together the icing sugar and remaining cocoa. Add boiling water a tbsp at a time until it is pouring consistency. Pour the icing over the cake and guide it with a spoon until the top of the cake is covered. Allow the icing to drip down the sides of the cake.

11) Sprinkle the edible dirt onto the icing until well covered. If need be lightly press down on the dirt to help it stick. Place the beetles on the cake using a small amount of icing.

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Freelance food geek who's passionate about food education.

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  1. Christine

    Jules I love this! Really want to make it :)

  2. Lynn - The Secret Tea Room

    Great looking cake. So glad you enjoyed Clandestine Cake Club. Next time you make the cake, do a video of the Beetles crawling over it and post it on You tube :-)

    Lynn (CCC)

  3. @nicolareadcouk

    Happily this only looks like authentic dirt and bugs! It tasted wonderful. Phew!!

  4. Kate Buckley

    Love this recipe and your beetle cupcakes. I love that you have made the inedible edible

  5. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    Yikes! My mum would freak if she saw this!! I think I’d have to pick the bugs off before I took a bite!

    1. Jules

      Sarah, you wouldn’t be alone! I know some people at CCC couldn’t eat the bugs.

  6. purelyfood

    Looks fantastic. You are very talented! I’m useless at cake decorating.

  7. Domestic Executive (@domesticexec)

    That is beautiful and gross in equal measure. Fantastically baked and decorated!

  8. Cle

    truly horrific!!!!

  9. Laura Scott

    If I was going to make something for Halloween then this cake would be it- inspired!

  10. meemalee

    You *made* the beetles? Awesome!

    1. Jules

      I sure did make them by hand. No moulds used here.

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