Frog Cakes (Happy Australia Day!)

Homemade frog cake on eatlivetravelwrite.comHappy Australia Day! I know it’s nearly over back in Australia but it’s just starting here and what better way to celebrate than with a classic childhood treat – homemade frog cakes! Say what…? No, no, no, don’t worry – these don’t have anything to do with frogs, except a slight resemblance and, well, they are (sometimes) green. The Balfour’s Frog Cake is a South Australian institution – they even have their own Wikipedia page AND have been designated a South Australian Heritage Icon by the National Trust of South Australia.

When I was growing up in Adelaide, a frog cake used to be a big treat (it’s pretty big for a little kid – and oh-so-sweet!) when we would head into Rundle Mall to go shopping with mum at John Martin’s and David Jones (big department stores). If we were lucky we would pick up some frog cakes to take home – it was THE treat to get at Balfour’s bakery (which just happened, ironically, to be situated on the ground floor of our dentist building!).  Created in 1922 the frog cake was inspired by Gordon Balfour’s confectionery discoveries in his European travels – it consists of a sponge or genoise cake with a layer of jam topped with a dome of very sweet (butter)cream and covered in shiny fondant. The dome is then slashed open to make a “mouth” shape and two eyes are piped on so the cake looks like a frog. Actually, it looks nothing like a frog but hey…

I’ve written about (eating) frog cakes before but I’ve been wanting to try making these for a while since I saw the recipe in A World of Cake a few years ago. I was always put off by what I thought were too many complicated steps. Ahem. Seems I was right, though I struggled through a couple of days of a LOT of mess and fuss because once I start something, I don’t like to give up…

I started out making the genoise cake. Not too much hassle. I sandwiched it with jam (not the raspberry glaze the book calls for because, well, that’s one extra step and I am convinced the originals have just regular jam inside). I then cut the cake into 5cm cubes…

Frog cake construction on eatlivetravelwrite.comSo far so good…

I made a sturdy buttercream and topped the cake with domes using my 1.5 tablespoon cookie scoop

Frog cake construction with buttercream on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd let them sit in the fridge overnight as I pondered the fondant.

Frog cakes ready for icing on eatlivetravelwrite.comThe book calls for a vanilla icing to use as fondant which I wasn’t sure would produce the same effect I wanted (thin, glossy fondant) so I investigated other options. I came across this quick poured fondant that I thought would be perfect. Unfortunately I didn’t read the first line where it says “Cover cupcakes lightly with buttercream icing. Let set 15 minutes”. As I was struggling to pour the fondant over the cakes evenly with crumbs going everywhere, I remembered – crumb coating! According to my friend Stella, “Crumb coating means applying a thin layer of buttercream over the outside of a cake to lock the crumbs down and prevent them from polka dotting the finished cake. A crumb coat also smooths over holes in the surface of the cake (ever lose a chunk when the cake sticks to the pan?) and fills in the gaps between the layers to make an even surface. Most importantly, it gives the cake its initial shape.” Uh ok. I attempted to patch the cakes up with some fondant – making a fondant crumb coating. Not recommended. Next time I will totally use buttercream for this.

Frog cake fondant aftermath on it real here since 2009!)

I popped them back in the fridge and made another couple of batches of fondant and set about figuring out how on earth to coat the cakes evenly. They are not tiny but not too big either so to “pour” to fondant means the head gets a ton of coating and the sides not so much. I ended up using a piping bag with a tiny piping tip to slowly coat each cake one side at a time. Painstaking, to say the least. And none of my frogs looked perfect …

Frog cakes on eatlivetravelwrite.comSee, now, they’re a little bit lumpy but I told myself that if these were REAL frog cakes, they would be served in a patty pan (cupcake liner) which would hide the imperfections 😉

Three frog cakes on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd though the fondant does harden, it’s not recommended to pick the cakes up in any place you can see them since your fingers will leave marks. Sigh… Oh and though my cakes are only green, the original comes in pink and chocolate. As you can see, there was no way I was making multiple coloured fondants. Maybe next time….

I did take comfort in the fact that, dissected, my frogs looked perfect:

Homemade frog cake dissected on eatlivetravelwrite.comI read that these are now available in mini size too – I can’t even imagine the hassle factor involved there but I might try my hand because these look much more my size!

The frogs are currently hanging out in the freezer. After two days on and off working on then, I couldn’t bear the thought of eating them. Also, they are SUPER sweet. Need to be in the mood and perhaps eat 1/4 at a time!

So there you have it – an experiment I have been wanting to try for a long time. An experiment that took me a long time to complete. And one that I won’t re repeating for a very long time either!

Happy Australia Day! May your beer be cold and your frog cakes be from Balfour’s!


You might also like: Homemade lamingtons – my article on JamieOliver.Com


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11 thoughts on “Frog Cakes (Happy Australia Day!)”

  1. Y’know… we had something very similar to this in the German bakery near me when I was growing up. I have looked highost and low for a recipe which is hard to do when you don’the know what they are called. I remember that they were available for pretty much every holiday, so I will have to look into the origin of these frog cakes!

    • I also used to get these from a German bakery here in the USA in the 70’s and 80’s. They were so good and they also had them at different holidays.

  2. I admire your determination to get these cute little cakes made and I love your photos of the poured fondant all over the parchment paper (“keeping it real here since 2009!”). It IS hard to work with fondant, especially if you haven’t crumb coated with buttercream and even harder on a smaller surface. You stuck it out and good for you! Your frog cakes are very cute. Hope you enjoy them when you do feel the craving for something sweet.

    • How awesome I found your site. I grew up in Australia (Brisbane) and often travelled to the Gold Coast with my sister. We purchased frog cakes there too. I recall they had a pink filling which was very dense and distinctive – perhaps some almond paste in there? It was very dense, and below or above there was heavy sweet butter cream filling like your recipe. They were plumper and very frog like all the way down to the base (biscuity) and I also recall there being pig cakes. They definitely had some kind of pink marzipan mix filling, shaped like piglets and had royal icing curly tails, ears and little snouts. I believe I still have a picture of the frog cake from my Australia visit a few years back – I’ll posit it if it turns up amongst the zillions of pics I have that aren’t sorted yet. Hail Frog and Pig cakes!

  3. I love these! They are awesome!
    I still see them in the cake shops at St Kilda and I get excited every time!
    I used to eat them when I was little, but I think we had pink cream instead of white, maybe it’s a NSW thing?!
    Thanks for a trip down memory lane 🙂

    • I spent time in Bourke as a very young child and my friend Rebecca’s Mum would make these for afternoon tea using pink cream filling and green icing. She also made the mouth cuts on the side of the cakes and eyeballs on top. How fancy is that!? I was in absolute heaven whenever she made these.

  4. Im American and I have literally never seen these before in my entire life. Im going to make these later today thank you so much these are the cutest things ever

  5. Omg love these. When i was small we used to have a bakery across the road from my primary school in Dulwich in London. I loved them so much and wondered what they were called. Thanks so much for this trip down memory lane 😊


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