How to Make an Elephant Cake

A few weeks ago I was looking online for inspiration for making an elephant cake and found there really aren’t that many available.  Sure, there is a plethora of nursery-styled ‘Jumbo the Elephant’ type cakes, but I wanted something more authentic.

A baby Asian elephant

 The occasion was my father’s 80th birthday and the celebration was to be a sit-down dinner for 40 friends and family at a venue overlooking one of Sydney’s prettiest beaches.  When delegated the job of providing the birthday cake (that would be served as the dessert), I wondered what would be an appropriate tribute.

Starting point. Mould mixture into a elephant shape.

Begin sculpting the elephant

Carve with a small knife

In his career, one of my father’s greatest achievements was bringing elephants back to Taronga and Western Plains Zoos for a breeding program to help aid in the survival of the species.  The process of bringing five domestic females and one bull from Thailand to Australia had many incredible twists, turns and delays, but finally they arrived in November, 2006.

Keep going!

Keep going

Give him a nice round belly


Shortly after their arrival, it was with great excitement that it was announced that Thong Dee, a former street elephant in Thailand, was pregnant.  After a 20-month pregnancy, Thong Dee went into labour.  My father was there for the birth that was in the early hours of the morning on 4th of July, 2009.  The baby weighed 96kgs (212lbs) and was the first elephant to be born in Australasia. He was named Luc Chai which means ‘Son’.

He’s starting to take shape

Now he’s standing

Now he’s looking like an elephant

I couldn’t think of a more appropriate birthday cake than baby Luk Chai taking his first steps.

Cover in ganache

But how to make it!

Blanket him with grey fondant

Gently mould the fondant to the sculpture

Sydney-based artist, Peter Kingston, did a series of paintings of Luk Chai as a newborn.  I have one of the paintings and that image of Luk Chai became the inspiration.  I definitely wanted the elephant to be standing so instead of making him out of cake, (which wouldn’t support the weight), he has been sculpted out of rice bubbles (rice krispies) folded into melted marshmallows and butter.  The rice bubble mixture is extremely sticky so you need access to coconut oil to rub into your hands when handling the mixture.

Stick on his ears

Give him some wrinkles

He must have a tail

The elephant stands on a cake measuring 30cm x 40cm (12″ x 16″) that is covered in chocolate ganache then fondant representing Luk Chai’s surroundings at the Zoo of a grassy area with a swimming pool.  I purchased the fondant and edible glitters from Baking Pleasures, a business in Brisbane that delivered to Sydney in less than 24-hours.  The fondant is by Menina, an Australian company that makes fondant suited to Australian conditions (high temperatures, high humidity), and it is easy to work with and gives a silky smooth finish.  Best fondant I’ve ever worked with.  The edible glitter was applied to give the cake not only a sparkle but also some texture.

Level the cake

Cover in ganache

Roll out the grass

Disclosure:  I’m no sculptor but my husband is excellent with this kind of a project and really enjoys using his artistic skills.  I have to give him all the credit for turning a lump of rice bubble mixture into an elephant.

Fill in the swimming pool

Lightly brush with vodka and sprinkle with glitter

Finished

This cake will take several days to make.

The children were fascinated

And please excuse the background mess in the cake making photos – we are in the middle of renovating and I have stuff EVERYWHERE.

5.0 from 4 reviews
How to Make an Elephant Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Sculpted Cake
Cuisine: Australian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 50
 
A sculpted elephant cake
Ingredients
  • For the elephant:
  • 200g butter
  • 800g mini marshmallows
  • 650g rice bubbles (krispies)
  • coconut oil
  • For the ganache:
  • 250g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
  • ⅓ cup cream
  • For the fondant:
  • Non-stick sugar powder
  • 1kg Menina grey fondant
  • Short length of coconut wire
  • 1sp tylose
  • For the cake (Donna Hay melt-and-mix white chocolate cake):
  • 1kg (2lb) butter, chopped
  • 4 cups (2 pints) milk
  • 8 cups caster (superfine) sugar
  • 600g (20 oz) white chocolate, chopped
  • 8 cups plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 1½ tbspns baking powder
  • 1 tbspn vanilla extract
  • 8 eggs
  • For the ganache:
  • 500g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
  • ⅔ cup pouring cream
  • To decorate the cake:
  • 1 x large rectangular cake board (I used 40cm x 60cm)
  • Non-stick sugar powder
  • 2kg Menina dark green fondant
  • 1kg Menina navy blue fondant
  • Vodka
  • 5g jewel moss green edible glitter
  • 5g sapphire blue edible glitter
  • edible glue
  • 5 x flakes
Instructions
  1. For the elephant:
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
  3. Add marshmallows and stir constantly over heat until melted.
  4. Remove from heat and add rice bubbles in several batches until well stirred.
  5. When cool enough to handle, grease hands with coconut oil. then press down on mixture until well compacted.
  6. Shape into a basic elephant shape as shown.
  7. Place in fridge until firm (a few hours or overnight).
  8. Using a knife (we used a serrated Leatherman knife), shape mixture into an elephant.
  9. For the ganache:
  10. Stir chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over low heat until combined and glossy.
  11. Cover elephant with ganache to give an even covering and help smooth the surface. Allow to set.
  12. For the fondant:
  13. Sprinkle surface of bench with non-stick sugar powder.
  14. Knead fondant until silky smooth.
  15. Roll out until around 4mm thickness.
  16. Poke the wire into the elephant's backside to make the tail.
  17. Wrap fondant around elephant and the wire.
  18. Gently rub the fondant into position around the elephant.
  19. Rub tylose into a small amount of remaining fondant. (The tylose will harden the fondant).
  20. Roll out and cut out two shapes for the ears. Stick onto cake with edible glue and pin into place with sewing pins until dry (leave overnight).
  21. Using a ballpoint pen, (with the point retracted), mark eyes and other facial features (like details in ears) and wrinkles onto elephant as shown.
  22. For the cake:
  23. Preheat oven to 160C (325F).
  24. Place the butter, milk, sugar and chocolate in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until smooth.
  25. Place the flour, baking powder, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl.
  26. Add the chocolate mixture and use an electric hand mixer to mix until smooth.
  27. Line tin with non-stick baking paper.
  28. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 2 hrs 20 minutes or until cake is cooked when tested with a skewer.
  29. Allow the cake to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  30. Take a small quantity of fondant and mix with a little water until sticky.
  31. Place on cake board to ensure cake sticks to the board.
  32. Level the top of cake as required then place cake upside down on the cake board.
  33. For the ganache:
  34. Stir chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over low heat until combined and glossy.
  35. Cover cake in ganache.
  36. Allow to harden.
  37. Use a knife to mark out the position of the swimming pool.
  38. To decorate the cake:
  39. Sprinkle surface of bench with non-stick sugar powder.
  40. Knead dark green fondant until silky smooth.
  41. Roll out until around 5mm thickness.
  42. Cover over all of cake except for area designated for the swimming pool.
  43. Knead navy blue fondant then roll out until 5mm thickness.
  44. Cover over remaining cake.
  45. Smooth fondant over cake.
  46. Lightly brush cake with Vodka.
  47. Sprinkle green glitter over 'grass' and blue glitter over the 'water'.
  48. Trim flakes to make 'pool edging' then set into position with edible glue.
  49. Place elephant on top of cake.

Party time

Other sculpted cakes you might like are:

A Chanel Handbag

The Titanic

A ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ Bus

A Bible

 

Related Post

Comments

  1. Charlie, I don’t believe it! Have checked all the dates about three times over – welcome ‘back’! Fabulous to see your post in the mail!! OK: you may remember that I am neither a cake maker nor eater, but you have done a wonderful job with your Dad’s !! I so remember when Luk Chai was born but had no idea your father was in any way involved. What an inspired and loving and lovely choice. Happy birthday to your Dad . . . Now, Milady, ere you disappear into the realms of academia again, hope we may get some news and a few more posts. And so you did decide to renovate and not move . . . makes me think of a current Sydney Lifestyle show on Foxtel !!!

    • Hi Eha, lovely to hear from you and thanks for the big welcome back. I do plan not to disappear for quite as long as I just did! I’m currently on study leave for two weeks so will try to fit in a few posts ahead of exam week. And the renovations – unfortunately it’s more ‘stop’ than ‘start’ at the moment – so frustrating!

      • *big smile* Great! And so it turned out to be more ‘Love it!’ not ‘Leave it’! Well, with your suburb and your street methinks you are very wise! But exams come first of all after the work you have done, Milady !!

  2. Pamela Hayward says:

    The cake is amazing and the story even more so. I am sure it will be a great tribute to your father too. Congratulations!

  3. Charlie – I am totally in awe of both you and your husband. This is an astonishing achievement – I wish we could have seen the look on your dad’s face, He must have been so very thrilled. Just amazing!

  4. Stunning work.

  5. Welcome back, Charlie… what a magnificent thing to do for your dear dad’s milestone. Amazing. xx

  6. OMG your father would have been so impressed with your talents – yours and Andrew’s, of course. What a team you two are.

    Happy Birthday to your wonderful father. I’ve missed you!

  7. Lovely to see you doing a post Charlie. What an absolutely gorgeous elephant 🐘 you are so very clever and what a wonderful story about your dad Hope the renos are going well Xx

  8. Fantastic. That’s an amazing elephant, so clever. Your father must have been delighted. He sounds like a really interesting man. Hope you had a fabulous family feast. GG

  9. What a brilliant elephant! He did a wonderful job. I am going to check out that fondant too as I recently almost had a disaster with fondant.

  10. This is amazing! Truly brilliant! What did your father think?

  11. This is an excellent cake recipe which I can’t wait to try, Charlie. It seems very easy to make an elephant cake. 😉

  12. So nice to see you post again! I was thinking of you recently — we flew Virgin Atlantic to England on our recent trip, and I was thinking of your last post. 🙂 Anyway, what a terrific dish you’ve brought us — very creative. True work of love — thanks. And Happy Birthday to your father!

  13. Charlie, this cake is an incredible work of art. Wow. I bet your dad was thrilled. What a lovely way to honor your dad on his birthday and for the work he did with elephants.

    And welcome back to blogging.

  14. Oh, my gosh, what a perfect elephant cake! Belated birthday wishes to your dad!! xo

  15. Amazing cake and amazing story!!! xo

  16. Wow Charlie that cake is so impressive – I would love to be so creative with cakes but I think I can only marvel at your skill. I like your rice krispie slice to hold it up – kept thinking it looked like a funny sort of crumb in the photos til I read what it was. What a brilliant way to celebrate your dad’s birthday – he sounds like an amazing chap!

  17. Kudos to you both, the cake is splendid. The background story is so interesting, you dad must have been thrilled with such a personal cake. PS It is really nice to hear from you…good luck with your exams and your remodel.

  18. Well done to you and hubby on a magnificent cake! I would never attempt anything like this and happy 80th to your Dad. Very special work he did. Strange how an Indian elephants gestation is between 18 and 22 months and an African Elephant is a full 22 months.
    Have a wonderful and happy week.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  19. Hi Charlie, wow! wow! the cake is amazing, did not know that you and your husband have so many talents, don’t know how you find the time, the elephant is life like. Happy Bday to your dad.

  20. Welcome back Charlie!!! Hope life is good! As I’ve said before, you are an amazing cake maker! I love this elephant cake!

  21. Wow, that looks great! I love the ears. Your father must have loved it.

  22. AMAZING.
    Gorgeous.
    Stunning.
    …but the story about your daddy saving elephants
    is the True Star.
    Love this! Fascinating.x

Speak Your Mind

*

Rate this recipe: