Thursday, February 10, 2011


For my birthday last year. I originally requested a baby elephant cake, but the design time required was not feasible. So we turned to Totoro (video clip), whose cuteness quotient is very nearly as high, but whose shape and features are much simpler.


We used a single white cake recipe from the 1997 Joy of Cooking with approximately 3 T of macha (green tea powder) added. The macha lends a delicate green taste and tint to the cake. It didn’t mix in evenly, though – next time I would sift it with the flour.

We baked the batter in one 9"x13" pan and two round ramekins, one 3.5" in diameter and the other 4.5". Not surprisingly, the cake in the ramekins baked faster than that in the large pan.


We made a tasty and user-friendly whipped cream frosting--the recipe is at the end of the post. We left the Chibi Totoro white and colored the big Totoro with macha and carob.


Cutting the Totoro shape from a 9" x 13" rectangle is very simple – the arms come from next to the head and the ears from next to the feet.

To keep your frosting neat, score the cake deeply enough around the belly that you can erect a wax paper fence between the two colors. Remove the fence when you’re all done frosting.

  • Eyes – half marshmallows with small carob chips for pupils
  • Nose – Brazil nut
  • Mouth – miniature chocolate chip
  • Whiskers – Men’s Pocky (I am not responsible for the name – they are dark chocolate Pocky – very, um, manly)
  • Chest chevrons – cashews
  • Claws – dried cantaloupe

Chibi Assembly

The head is the cake from the smaller ramekin, and the body is from the larger, with two segments cut out for ears. (Sorry about the focus – Matt was working quickly and I had to grab pictures where I could.)

The dark green splot on the head is one of the places where the macha clumped in the batter.

The eyes are two halves of a licorice all-sort, with tiny bits of licorice for pupils.

Soot Sprite Assembly

We thought hard about how to make the soot sprites and, while we had a number of ideas, none of them were very good. Then I saw chocolate macaroons at the store, and it was remarkable how easily I overcame my qualms about not making the sprites from scratch. We finished the macaroons with purchased sugar googly eyes stuck on with honey.

Additional Possibilities

Our ambition did not reach as far as the Catbus. If yours does, check out Wisdom of the Moon for a rice crispy treat version (and an interesting, 3-D take on Totoro).

Whipped Cream Frosting Recipe

Amounts of sugar, carob and macha are approximate. The gelatin is added to stabilize the frosting so it will keep longer - it can be omitted if the cake will be eaten the same day you make the frosting.

Gelatin Mixture
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
Add cold water to make 2 1/2 Tbsp and let soften 5 minutes.
Heat gelatin mixture slowly until it melts. Let cool to room temperature. If gelatin starts to set between batches of frosting, re-heat as needed.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip 3/8 cup heavy whipping cream.
Drizzle 1 1/2 tsp of gelatin mixture in with beaters running as cream starts to thicken.
Add 1 Tbsp sugar.

Light Green
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp gelatin mixture
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp carob powder
1 Tbsp macha

Dark Green
1 1/8 cup whipping cream
remaining gelatin mixture
3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp carob powder
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp macha

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