In 2023, The Australian Women’s Weekly turned 90, so we decided to celebrate in the best way possible. With cake! And not just any cake but one of your cakes. We held a Best Birthday Baker competition, asking readers to create and share their own iconic birthday cake.
After more than 1300 amazing competition entries, and much deliberation and debate at The Weekly’s headquarters, there was one stand-out winner, and that was Elizabeth Kelly’s Cockatoo cake. Inspired by the Rubber Ducky, Elizabeth’s winning cake is a delicious butter cake covered in lashings of fluffy buttercream and decorated with classic banana lollies to create the cockatoo’s crest, blackcurrant pastilles for the eyes and Mars Pods for the beak.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease 2 small loaf pans (11cm x 20cm) and a 20cm square cake pan. Line bases with baking paper. Make all three cake mixes in one large batch according to packet directions; pour half the mixture between loaf pans, pour remaining mixture into square cake pan. Bake loaf cakes for 30 minutes and square cake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Stand for 10 minutes, turn out on a wire rack to cool. Freeze for 2 hours to firm, to make cutting easier.
BUTTERCREAM Meanwhile, place butter in a large bowl of an electric mixer and beat until as white as possible – this can take up to 3 minutes. Add half the icing sugar; continue to beat while gradually adding milk. Then add remaining icing sugar; beat until well combined. Add more milk, if necessary, to achieve desired consistency.
For the body, cut the square cake in half vertically. Stand the two pieces side by side, with the cut sides down and bases together. Cut off the four corners, cutting more from one end than from the other, as shown.
For the cockatoo’s back, cut a wedge-shaped piece from the end of the cake with the bigger corners to form a sloping back, as shown. Using a small, serrated knife, shape the back carefully to give a slightly curved effect.
For the head, take one of the loaf cakes and cut a 4.5cm piece from each end to make a large piece for the head, as shown. Cut off the four corners.
Trim one corner to form a sloping chin, and trim the diagonally opposite corner to form a sloping back of the head, as shown.
For the back of the neck and tail pieces, cut two wedges from the remaining loaf cake: one small wedge from one end, starting from the edge and cutting downwards on an angle; cut a longer, thinner wedge from the middle of the cake to the back base edge, as shown. Reserve the small edge for the back of the neck and the remaining two pieces for the tail.
Place cockatoo body on prepared board. Place the head on the body standing up, with one long corner sloping down towards the back, as shown. Secure head with two bamboo skewers right through the body. Trim skewers with scissors. Place reserved small wedge cut side up behind the head. Place the two tail pieces at the end of cake, the bigger piece just resting against the curve of the back and the thin wedge resting against this piece to make the tail.
Using a palette knife, cover head and body with two-thirds of the buttercream, filling in the gaps, to make a base coat. Spread remaining buttercream in long strokes along the body for long feathers. Make short strokes on the head, neck and chest for little feathers.
Put a toothpick in the end of each banana lolly. Place two banana lollies facing forward in the middle of the head and place remaining banana lollies facing backwards down the back of the head for the crest. Halve the blackcurrant pastille horizontally. Place pastilles cut side out for the eyes, and for a beak position 2 Mars Pods, slightly separated, filling side facing each other.
Make the cakes up to 3 days ahead, store wrapped in plastic wrap in an airtight container or alternatively freeze for up to a month in advance.
We used a lightweight timber board to decorate the cake on. You could also use a tray, large platter or clean chopping board covered in decorative paper.Test Kitchen tip
More from our Children's Birthday Cake book
Meet the winner of our Best Birthday Baker competition and creator of the Cockatoo Cake“I created this cheeky cockatoo twist on the original Rubber Ducky cake for my daughter’s second birthday as she loves birds. She also saw the Bluey episode with the original duck cake and requested it. The key difference with my cockatoo cake is in the shape of the tail, which I cut to slant downwards rather than upwards. I also shaped the head to be more pointy than round. When it came to the crest, banana lollies were the perfect choice. I actually used my mum’s original Children’s Birthday Cake Book from when I was little to make this cake.”