Halloween Treats: Nigel The Chocolate Orange Owl

Chocolate Orange Owl Halloween Novelty Cake

I think it is time for another cake, don’t you? Gradually over the years I’ve been adding all the recipes to this site you’d need to create the ultimate Halloween party – Bloody Axemans Snacks to start, followed by Slimy Pea Pesto Wholewheat Penne for the kids and Scallops with Squid Ink Spaghetti and Pistachio Pesto for the grownups, and then Miniature Jelly Pumpkins, Homemade Halloween Party Rings and Mummified Cocoa Pops Treats for the dessert table. Today I’m bringing you the centrepiece: a showstopper chocolate owl cake with a hidden orange buttercream centre. I’ve named him Nigel, and he’s much easier to make than he looks.

Chocolate Orange Owl Halloween Cake with Hidden Middle
Chocolate Orange Owl Halloween Cake

Happily, Nigel does not require any special equipment – his domed head comes from baking a portion of the cake mix in a Pyrex mixing bowl, nore any special decorating equipment – he’s built out of a classic buttercream with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Bournville and Milky Bar giant buttons, and chocolate flavoured fondant icing. The same chocolate decorating tube I used to draw the hands on my Chocolate, Cherry & Cognac New Year Cake is used to give Nigel eyes and to glue on his chocolate feathers.

How To Make A Chocolate Orange Owl Halloween Cake
How To Make A Chocolate Orange Owl Halloween Novelty

He serves a few more than my usual cakes (a massive 8-10 at least) and he can be on the sweet side, so a small slice should be enough to start you off. I’ve used dark chocolate cocoa powder here to make him a bit less sickly – it makes the most amazing flavoured chocolate buttercream, but it does change the texture somewhat making it much harder to work with and smooth over the cake. I’ll leave that up to you, but don’t skimp on using a mixture of Cadbury Dairy Milk and Bournville Giant Buttons for his feathers – not only does it make him look good, but the plain chocolate is also essential to brining down the over-the-top sweetness of this cake.

Chocolate Orange Owl Halloween Cake with Hidden Orange Frosting

Finally, whatever you do use natural food colourings for the orange middle. I started off using food gel trying to go as neon as possible in honour of Halloween, but the amount you need to get a good bold shade will make your buttercream, even with all that orange zest in it taste awful. A good mix of red and yellow should do it. I know the usual mantra is be cautious, you can always add more but you can’t take it away, but here only bother being cautious with the red which is harder to counterbalance – here, bolder is better and more is not necessarily less!

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Chocolate Orange Halloween Owl Cake

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 10-12 1x
  • Category: Baking
  • Cuisine: Halloween


This fun chocolate Halloween novelty cake with a hidden orange frosting middle is great for kids parties, but made with grown up flavours to suit all ages!



For the Chocolate Sponge

  • 340g (12 oz) Margarine
  • 340g (12 oz) Golden Caster Sugar
  • 6 Large Eggs
  • 300g (10.5 oz) Self Raising Flour (America? This is how you can mix your own!)
  • 35g (1.5 oz) Cocoa Powder
  • 23 tbsp Boiling Water

For the Decoration

  • 200g (7 oz)Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 375g (13 oz) Icing (Powdered) Sugar
  • Zest of 1 Small Orange
  • Natural Orange Food Colouring, or a mix of red and yellow (see note)
  • 2 tbsp Dark Cocoa Powder (see note)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 x 250g (9 oz) Block Chocolate Flavoured Fondant
  • 1 x Large Sharing Bag Cadbury’s Giant Buttons
  • 1 x Large Sharing Bag Cadbury’s Bournville Giant Buttons
  • 4 x Giant Milkybar Buttons
  • 1 x Chocolate Writing Pen (I use this brand from Tesco and Sainsbury’s)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (350 fahrenheit). Prepare three baking tins, and a roughly 0.5 litre Pyrex, oven proof mixing bowl to cook the sponges in. The mixing bowl will produce your curved owl head. You’ll want to use a set of three tins either the same diameter as the mixing bowl if you can find them (Lakeland are always good for this) or tins that are only just slightly wider (you can carve the sponge down to size later!) Grease and line the tins with baking parchment. Generously grease the bowl, then sprinkle in a little flour so that it sticks to all the butter (similar to when you prepare a ramekin for a soufflé!)
  2. To make the sponge mix, using an electric whisk beat together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one by one, then fold in the flour and cocoa powder. Sir in the boiling water to make a smooth batter.
  3. Fill the Pyrex bowl 2/3 full of batter and bake for roughly 1/2 hour until a cake tester or sharp knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. This should take 30-40 minutes Set aside on a wire rack to cool – don’t try to remove the sponge from the bowl until it is cool enough to touch!
  4. Divide the batter between the three tins and bake again until the sponge is springy and cooked through. It all depends on your tins, but I’d check it at 20 minutes, and they should be done by the 30 minute mark. I know it seems easier to cook all the sponges together, but because of the different cooking times opening and closing the oven all the time will mess with the sponge. There is a reason the Great British Bake Off tent is far from ideal for baking in!
  5. Once the bowl and tins are cool to the touch, turn out the sponges and allow them to cool completely while you make the decorations.
  6. To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar and butter until smooth. Transfer 200g of this buttercream into a separate bowl and beat in the orange zest, and enough food colouring to make a vibrant orange middle. Set aside. Beat the cocoa powder into the remaining frosting to make the chocolate buttercream.
  7. On a clean cutting board and using a sharp knife, halve the chocolate fondant block. Roll out one half and cut out two wing shapes – look closely at my pictures of Nigel for a better idea! Also, don’t worry about making them perfect, as they’ll get covered over with button feathers!
  8. Out of the remaining half of the chocolate fondant, shape two horn shaped ears (I used a cocktail stick to help me get more accurate detailing inside the ears), a beak and a pair of feet. Half two Milkybar buttons and slide them between the toes to create toenails. Use the chocolate writer to turn the two remaining Milkbar buttons into eyes.
  9. Now it is time to assemble Nigel. First, stack all the cakes on top of each other, with his domed head at the top. If they are all the same size, great! If not, carefully use a bread knife to carve the bottom sponges down to the size of his head.
  10. Fill a piping bag with chocolate buttercream, and pipe a thick line around the edge of the three round sponges. Fill another bag with the orange frosting, and fill in the middles, smoothing the buttercream with a palette knife.
  11. Stack the cakes on top of each other, hiding the orange frosting filling.
  12. Pipe the remaining chocolate frosting in vertical lines to cover the cake, smoothing it over with a clean palette knife. You should be left with a smooth, chocolate covered cake. Don’t worry if you get a few crumbs in your frosting – we’re not bothering to crumb here as almost the entire cake is about to be covered in feathers, but be sure to do a thicker, clean second layer where you want the face. Mark out the face area with a cocktail stick before you start the feathers to give a rough guide.
  13. Carefully stick the wings to each side.
  14. Now it is time to start the feathers. Starting from the bottom up, working all around the cake, over the wings and avoiding the face area, stick alternate, slightly overlapping milk and plain chocolate buttons all over the cake, using the chocolate writer on each one like glue.
  15. Using the chocolate writer again, stick on the ears, beak, eyes and feet. Using a cocktail stick, create a starburst effect in the chocolate frosting around the eyes.


While it may be tempting, use natural food colouring here rather than food gel. The amount you’ll want to use to get that nice Halloween orange will making it taste really artificial and drown out the orange flavour if you go down the gel colouring route.

I used dark chocolate cocoa powder for a deeper flavour but it will change the texture of your buttercream, making it harder to work with. Feel free to use regular cocoa powder instead if you’re nervous!