‘The Great British Baking Show’ Reveals That Every British Person Gets a Caterpillar Cake For their Birthday: Huh?

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The Great British Baking Show on Netflix offers American viewers a weekly glance at a mirror universe where people make biscuits instead of cookies and everyone knows what a “Caterpillar Cake” is. Yes, apparently Paul Hollywood‘s chosen Technical Challenge for The Great British Baking Show “Party Week” is a classic birthday cake that every child in Jolly Old England knows as well as we Yanks know Fudgie the Whale. Caterpillar Cakes are so ubiquitous that Tasha Stones even scoffs, “Is there anyone who doesn’t know this cake?” when Alison Hammond quizzes her. And it’s like, yeah, Tasha. There are people who don’t know what a Caterpillar Cake is. We’re called Americans. 

While I’m sure there are some Anglophiles or Aldi heads who immediately understood Paul’s brief this week on The Great British Baking Show, most Americans tuning into “Party Week” on Netflix probably didn’t. At least, I’m a professional Anglophile and while I was vaguely familiar with the idea of a Caterpillar Cake, I couldn’t tell you what they taste like. Nor could I believe that every single person in the UK had eaten one in their lifetime. (Surely the whole conceit of The Great British Baking Show is that Brits bake cakes from scratch and don’t buy pre-made monstrosities from their local grocery chains? Right?)

Paul Hollywood literally told the five remaining bakers in The Great British Baking Show tent that they all knew what they were baking and they all did! But if you were confused by the Caterpillar Cake, don’t sweat. Here’s everything you need to know about the Caterpillar Cake Technical Challenge on The Great British Baking Show “Party Week.”

Paul Hollywood's caterpillar cake
Photo: Netflix

What is a Caterpillar Cake? All About The Great British Baking Show “Party Week” Technical Challenge:

In keeping with this week’s theme, Paul Hollywood asked the bakers to recreate an iconic British birthday cake: a Caterpillar Cake. So what exactly is a Caterpillar Cake? And why is it that most bakers have tried them, but never baked them?

The original Caterpillar Cake is known as “Colin the Caterpillar.” It was a cake launched by British grocery and department store Marks & Spencer in 1990. Colin the Caterpillar is a chocolate sponge roll cake filled with chocolate buttercream and covered with a milk chocolate shell. Candies decorate his body, while his face and feet are molded from white chocolate. Over 15 million Colin the Caterpillars have been sold in the last 33 years — and that’s not counting the knock-offs.

The Colin the Caterpillar cake was such a sensation that rival grocery chains produced their own versions with slight, subtle alterations. Aldi sells “Cuthbert the Caterpillar,” Tesco has “Slinky the Caterpillar,” and Waitrose has “Cecil the Caterpillar.” If you’re wondering if that’s legal, well in 2021, Marks & Spencer actually filed a lawsuit against Aldi, specifically. The two brands settled in 2022 for an unknown amount of money.

Paul Hollywood’s recipe for a Caterpillar Cake takes its inspiration from Colin the Caterpillar, but makes some key upgrades. In addition to creating the ridges you see on Sainsbury’s version, he asked for chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream for the filling, chocolate ganache as the topping, and meringue decorations for the legs, antennae, and spots.

If you want to try your hand at Paul’s version of a Caterpillar Cake, you can access the full recipe for free at the official website for The Great British Baking Show. Make it for the kid in your life or the next birthday on your calendar. Crib from Technical Challenge winner Tasha and give it Noel Fielding’s face! Go wild!

(Though, if I’m being honest, I’d rather get a Fudgie the Whale. But I’m just American like that.)