Half-made homemade penguin cake: A kid-approved wintry sweet that warms our hearts

Steer clear of the snow this weekend — stay in and make Melissa Barlow’s simple recipe instead.

Steer clear of the snow this weekend — stay in and make Melissa Barlow’s simple recipe instead.

(Photo credit: Zac Williams)

From skating to tobogganing to building perfectly misshapen snowpeople (it's 2019) in the front yard, there’s really no shortage of outdoor activities to try with your little ones when the winter chill sets in. But if you’re looking for a cozier venture that’ll still keep the kiddos occupied indoors, we present you this charming Penguin cake from Melissa Barlow’s cookbook Easy Christmas Cut-Up Cakes. The recipe pairs store-bought cake mix with homemade buttercream frosting (and comes with templates that show how to master the shape using standard baking pans) so everyone can focus on the fun part: the decorating! Make it for an over-the-top Family Day treat, or as the finale to any winter gathering.


By Melissa Barlow



  • Muffin pan
  • 9x13-inch pan


  • 1 (15.25-ounce) box cake mix, any flavour
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (recipe below) or 1 (16 oz) can white frosting, divided, ⅓ coloured black
  • 1 tube yellow decorating icing

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3-4 tbsp water or milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch salt (optional)
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 muffin cups and the 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Make cake mix according to package directions. Fill the 2 muffin cups 2⁄ 3 full with batter and then pour remaining batter into the 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake for 17–20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean; remove from oven. Continue baking the large cake 10–13 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; remove from oven. Cool cupcakes and cake in pans for 10 minutes, and then invert and cool completely on a wire rack.

Cut the cake according to the diagram. Place the cake on a large serving platter or foil-wrapped board to create the penguin and his wings.

Frost the wings and around the edge of the cake with the black frosting as shown in the photo. Fill in the center of the penguin and bottom edge with white frosting. Completely frost the cupcakes with yellow icing and then position as the penguin’s feet.

Using a decorator’s bag with a small round tip and remaining black frosting, outline the eyes and fill in the pupils. Use more yellow frosting to make the penguin’s beak.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

Beat butter, water or milk, and vanilla together with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Add salt if using. Gradually beat in the sugar, 1 cup at a time. If the frosting is too thick, add more water or milk by the teaspoon until it reaches the right consistency. If it is too thin, add a little more sugar.

Makes about 2 cups.

Note: Substitute 1 cup regular vegetable shortening and clear vanilla if you want a pure white frosting.

Yield: Makes 10-12 servings

Excerpted from Easy Christmas Cut-Up Cakes by Melissa Barlow. Recipes Copyright © 2018. Excerpted by permission of Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved.


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