My dad loves turtles. He had a slew of them as a kid, and when we were kids, he stopped the car to pick up a lovely box turtle that had found its way into the middle of a busy road somewhere near Lavalette, a popular place along the Jersey Shore. I only vaguely remember the incident as I couldn’t have been more than four or five. We named the turtle Mister T, and this was long before the A Team burst onto American television.
When we were a little older, from first through sixth grade, my sister and I participated with my dad in the YMCA’s Indian Guides and Indian Princesses program. My dad’s “Indian” name was Chief Walking Turtle. He was the head of not only our tribe, but was the head chief of the entire network of tribes participating in that particular YMCA’s program. When asked why he chose the name Chief Walking Turtle, he said it was because the turtle is a steady, deliberate animal that doesn’t rush off and make snap decisions; instead, he carefully chooses a path and follows it. That’s the kind of leader he wanted to be, he said. He sure was!
So, for Dad’s birthday this past weekend, I made a turtle-shaped cake. It is completely gluten free. Here’s how!
What You Need:
2 boxes Betty Crocker GF Yellow Cake Mix.
2 8-ounce tubs of Cool Whip (I used Light) or whipped cream
Bake one cake in a 7”x11” brownie baking pan and one cake in a 9” round cake pan
Liquid Food Color in green, blue and yellow (I used McCormick set of four colors)
11” X 15” or larger tray or baking sheet
Prepare Each Box of Cake Mix Separately As Follows:
2 egg whites plus two whole large eggs
½ cup pulp free orange juice
½ cup unsweetened natural apple sauce (I use Mott’s Natural)
4 tablespoons margarine (I use Smart Balance Light)
½ teaspoon orange extract
¼ teaspoon coriander (ground)
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges in light syrup or natural juice, drained and each orange cut in half or thirds
1 box cake mix
Cooking spray (I use Pam. Be sure the spray says gluten free on it and does not contain flour)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees if you use a nonstick pan or 350 if you use a shiny pan. Spray the cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the eggs, orange juice, margarine, applesauce, and orange extract in a medium size mixing bowl using a hand-held egg beater or electric beaters on medium until margarine is well-mixed. Stir in coriander and orange segments. Stir in cake mix using a spatula and mix until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-33 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched and/or cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely.
To Assemble Cakes:
2 8-ounce containers Cool Whip (yes, it is gluten free but it is not lactose free. I used “light”) or whipped cream divided into four portions. Color each portion as follows:
Medium Green: 4 drops green food color
Teal: 4 drops green and 2 drops blue food color
Yellow-Green: 4 drops green and 2 drops yellow food color
Light Turquoise: 3 drops green, 1 drop yellow, 1 drop blue food color
Place round cake in the center of a large tray or baking sheet. Cut ¼ strip of cake from the rectangular cake (along the short side and preferably not on the end so the tops will be fairly flat) and cut into four pieces. Place these pieces on the sides of the round cake to form the legs.
To make the head: Cut a four-inch long x 3” wide piece of cake from the rectangular cake. Cut the edges off the top two sides to create a slightly tapered snout of the head. Place this piece of cake at the “top” end of the round cake between the two front legs. Cut a tail using a 1” long x ¼” wide strip of cake. Put the tail lengthwise against the round cake between the two hind legs.
Frost the cake alternating the shades of green Cool Whip to create patterns or swirls of different greens. Be sure to “glue” the head and legs and tail to the body of the turtle using Cool Whip. Use two fresh blueberries as the eyes of the turtle.
Refrigerate at least one hour before serving and store leftovers in refrigerator. Mound fresh fruit around turtle. I used strawberries and blueberries, but you can use any kind you like.