How to Make an Epic Dino Cake

My son turned four this week, and asked for a dinosaur cake. Once I had the revelation that (a) I don’t like cake, so (b) Why bother making it? but (c) I do like creating peculiar things, and (d) The only thing they’ll eat is a horrifying amount of icing anyway… It all fell into place.

Or at least, it fell.

TJ is a winter baby (which means parties must be inside), and his father, grandfather, uncle, and oldest cousin all have birthdays within about a week. So I arranged to have two parties today: one for TJ’s friends (at an inside playground with a dino room), and one for his numerous relations (at my house).

That meant I could make a single giant cake and use leftovers for party #2.

There are two basic schools of thought for dinosaur cakes: One big dinosaur, or a scene with several dinosaurs. In my opinion, the one big dino cake takes more skill. Sure, there are dino-shaped cake tins out there, but you still need to be able to have smooth icing. Not gonna happen.

I was clever enough to assemble the cake at the location of the party, rather than attempting to carry it safely in a vehicle (and to take my own knives and large containers in which to bring home the leftovers). I was also clever enough to order the base from Woolworths. I ordered a basic slab cake, two layers, no icing. It was $20. I took three layers off part of it, and moved them to the top at the back. Voila! A cliff face ready for a waterfall.


At Woolies I’d previously bought various items: edible glue (which I couldn’t figure out how to open, so I hacked it open with a knife; used it to stick cupcake topper sheets around the sides), writing icing (used for the blue lines in the water), Natural Confectionary dinosaurs, and a full roll of “ready rolled icing” suitable for a 22cm round cake, which I sliced into shapes with a butter knife for the water.


I’d made a double portion of chocolate buttercream icing at home (it needs to either be made or re-mixed on the day or the butter hardens and it’s useless), which had a pleasantly different texture to my “water”. I spread it in a hurry, and quite thick, so it just covered the top. I was using my hands and laughing maniacally at this stage, rather aware of my deadline as one of the kids had to leave early and there was another party using the room at 12, etc etc. The buttercream icing had enough stickiness to draw up some of the cake, and it also struggled a bit to hold onto the “cliff”. But it worked well enough. As you can see, smooth flat icing is not my forte (not that I was particularly trying this time).

This icing was easy to shove about, and it was great for standing up little dinosaurs later.



I had prepared some desiccated coconut ages earlier with food dye, intending it to be green grass but it was too blue so I chucked it in the water.

The trees didn’t really work (but who cares? They’re made of Tim Tams, mint leaves, and lolly bananas), although leaning them against the cliff helped (the edible glue didn’t—using icing might have worked a little).

The mountains and volcanoes are “chocolate” waffle cones. I’ll go into more detail about the volcanoes in a bit…

The flowers were a pack of edible flowers I impulse bought at Woolies when I was examining sundry icing/sprinkle products for inspiration.



I also used:

-Green and yellow sprinkles for grass/sand. (If your child is very scientific, this is not the cake for them… grass is a relatively recent plant.)

-Edible white balls from the same pack to be dino eggs (quite a stretch).

-Dino candles (they are parading across the water at the top of the waterfall. I presume this is how they became extinct. That, and being on fire). Ebay.

-Lots of fondant dinosaurs from ebay (actually, I was pretty happy with them despite how fragile they are. They mostly survived the post and last a long while (weeks), and taste better than anything rice paper-ish).

-Dino sprinkles around the edge of the water (SO not necessary… AND mixed with other sprinkles… but TJ was rather taken with the idea of dino sprinkles).

-Strawberry topping carefully applied around the edges of the volcanoes for lava (it was important that none of the topping got inside the volcanoes).

-Mini plastic dinos (tube of 20 or so for $4 from Kmart and I dropped some in each party bag afterwards), and two wind-up dinos ($3 each at Kmart).

-Dino cupcake toppers for the sides of the cake (stuck on with “edible glue” from Woolies), and Tim Tams.

As you can see, the aesthetic I was going for was: I bought a whole lotta vaguely cake-related stuff and I aim to use it ALL.



So there it is in all its glory.

Now let’s talk volcanoes.

I dug two holes in the cake, and inserted small empty (clean) coke bottles (I experimented with other shapes and the mini soft drink bottle worked best). Then I broke a hole in the pointy end of two waffle cones and placed them over the top.

I was careful to make the bottle hole and cone hole match up as well as possible. You can see one of the bottles in the top of this pic:


The cones did shatter a fair bit, but they fundamentally worked.

Bring a SEALED bottle of DIET red (the colour doesn’t matter; a lot of people use Coke because the dark colour is more dramatic but obviously red was better here).

At the last moment, fill both bottles. Then drop two MINT MENTOS into each one.

NB: The red diet drink I used uses stevia (considered a more ‘natural’ sweetener than the old chemical ones that have a number and/or a multisyllabic name). A LESS natural drink is likely to cause a greater explosion.


My daughter and her friend held the wind-up dinosaurs and let them go when I said, “Now!” and dropped the mentos into the volcanoes.

I lit the candles before pouring the diet soft drink into the bottles.


Yes, books have trailers now.

Yes—as is utterly obvious even on first viewing—I make my own trailers. It would actually be cheaper for me to hire someone else to do it. You can get a professional-looking trailer for around $5 if you know where to look. This trailer cost considerably more than that (I paid for music, actors, and three video clips).

The thing is, although I can barely navigate iMovie (or anything more complicated than a text document with a few hashtags and such for coding interactive fiction), I just adore putting together book trailers. For me they’re a great way to draw people quickly into the mood of the tale. And although I’m overwhelmingly not a visual artist, I admire it when I see it, and I like to dabble.

So without further ado, here is the first trailer for The Monster Apprentice:


NB: I accidentally deleted the rest of the credits on the Monster Apprentice trailer, which will eventually read:

With thanks to




This trailer kicks off a new series, for a new audience (children/tweens rather than adults/young adult) and is certainly has a different feeling and style to my other trailers. I’ve played it about a dozen times for my kids (and of course, roughly a million times for myself).

Here’s my other two (so far) trailers:

Antipodean Queen 1: Heart of Brass


Antipodean Queen 2: Silver and Stone

I will be doing two more this year! One for Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday (that’ll be interesting—the trailer will need to explain how it all works), and one for Antipodean Queen 3: Iron Lights.

Horrible things that didn’t happen

Here are some of the common pregnancy side effects that I managed not to have:

-very painful feet and ankles

-massive weight gain

-varicose veins

-huge numbers of moles (the skin kind, not the rodent)

-gestational diabetes

-dental problems or other bone issues due to calcium going out of mum into the baby

-high blood pressure

-complications at the birth

-ugly baby

-colicky baby

So THAT’s nice.

In a shocking break from recent tradition, I will NOT be talking about Louisette tomorrow, or posting another photo. I’ll actually be writing a good old-fashioned “Daily Awesomeness” entry. Then on Wednesday I’ll post all about breastfeeding (including the results of getting Louisette’s tongue tie fixed, which is happening tomorrow and will probably have instant results) and my mental state.

To tide you over, here is a near-fatal dose of cuteness that will have to last you until Wednesday (unless I snap and post something tomorrow after all). Regular readers will recognise Louisette’s cousin. Louisette is honestly getting prettier every single day.

Plot Device Film, and Ten Untranslatable Words

Here is a movie and an article that are sashaying around the writerly blogosphere at the moment.

Yes, it’s a long film for youtube. But it’s way shorter than a movie, and just as good. Say hi to the zombies for me.


And this is an article by someone who has picked ten words that have been adopted from English into other languages due to their precise meanings.

An Australian, an American and a British girl walk into a Chinese recording studio. . .

This video was recorded by a British girl and features an Australian man and an American woman recording a dialogue intended to assist Chinese students learning English. It singlehandedly explains all the Chinglish you’ve ever seen. As you watch, keep in mind that they were not allowed to alter the script in any way. Enjoy the increasing insanity as the Australian man starts playing multiple parts. Don’t forget to listen carefully to exactly what they say.

The fake glasses are Korean.

And here are some random photos from January last year when CJ and I went to Beijing.

I blogged about China here and here, and about the Great Wall here.

#308: Skyfire

Skyfire means two things:

1. Fireworks set to music.

2. Canberra’s annual rush hour – with drunkenness and Canberrans (unnaccustomed to serious traffic) in the mix.

Oh, and jet fighters.

People gather all around Lake Burley Griffin for hours before any kind of show begins. Around six o’clock, stuff starts happening. Jet fighters, helicopters, Jessica Mauboy, radio people (it’s run by 104.7FM), and so on.

The barges above are where all the explosives are. The helicopter is either part of the entertainment or standing by in case of drunken accidents. Beside it is the Carillion, which lights up at night (you can see it in most of the photos below).

It was very cold, and even rained.

And then it began!

Here’s a video to show you what “fireworks set to music” actually means.

The final song was “Firework” by Katy Perry.

The instant it was finished (as captured above) we elbowed children and drunks out of the way willy-nilly in order to get out of the crush before it fully congealed.

As always, totally worth it.

Tomorrow is the FINAL DAY of the Year of Daily Awesomeness.

There’ll be a greatest hits video.

S#79: Karaoke

Too embarrassed to write much. Suffice to say:

1) Yes, I prepared by drinking.

2) No, I don’t know the guardian angel beside me (although her mother was also there, and they both sang).

3) I’m so, so sorry.

4) It could have been worse. So screw #3: I’m not sorry at all.

I will admit it was strangely enjoyable.

PS For those following the twittertales, “Minion Number Two” begins on March 4. It’s a tale of intrigue, ambition, and how to train your kangaroo to infiltrate an evil lair.

#221: Diet Coke and Mentos Rocket (PG for naughty language)

1.25L Diet Coke: $1.40

Mint Mentos: $1.70

Friends: $2 each (ie 1 chocolate bar)

Accidentally making a deadly rocket out of harmless party food:


To this day, I don’t know exactly what happened. Here’s a shorter version of the rocket part:

We ran inside, babbling and near-hysterical – terrified our cameras had missed the whole thing. Out of the frantic hand-drawn pictures that ensued, this section was the most coherent:



The bottle was thrown down base-first from a height of 3.8m. It flew onto the roof of a 2-storey building 5.2m high. I think it rotated in the air and impacted on the lid, rupturing it and sending the bottle flying with maximum pressure.

The mentos-delivery system was that we laboriously strung four mentos together after putting pins through the middles (really not easy – and I accidentally* fed Ben the broken tip of a pin inside one of our reject mentos). CJ drilled through a spare lid so we could attach the mentos string, and then we put the loaded lid back on the bottle after pouring out some of the coke.

We attempted twice to replicate the rocket thing (from a far greater distance, I assure you!) but without success. Attempt # 3 was actually one of those – which is why it’s at a different location (one without people, cars, pets, or glass).

It takes just 7 pounds of pressure to break a bone, and 3 pounds to get a 1.25L bottle just 1cm off the ground. I don’t know how much force was generated in the moment of impact (however many pounds it takes to life a 1.25L bottle 5 metres in the air), but I’m confident it was enough to smash a human throat.

Playing along at home is perfectly safe on the ground, but if you throw mentos and coke onto a hard surface, make sure everyone and everything is a safe distance away – I recommend 4 metres (or twenty feet). It could definitely still hit you (coke and mentos can fly 14 metres along the ground), but it shouldn’t kill you.

And your last steampunk picture (since we’re about to seamlessly move into pirate territory for November’s twittertale “The Captain’s Daughter”):

That pic is from (this is a great writing-agent blog; the beagle is her secretary)

*Yes, really. Luckily Ben is paranoid, and his natural suspicion saved him.