The Tab’s definitive ranking of Cambridge’s caterpillar cakes
Forget Colin vs Cuthbert. This is Colin vs Carl vs Clyde vs Curly vs Charlie vs Wiggles
(Don’t) let them eat cake?
As you likely already know, a few weeks ago, M&S waged a war (*enacted a lawsuit*) against Aldi for their Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake. The M&S team claimed that Cuthbert was a copy of their famous Colin the Caterpillar.
Aldi took this news in very good humour. Seriously, someone in Aldi’s marketing department deserves a promotion. For the past few weeks they’ve been churning out some great content on their Twitter, ranging from asking Judge Rinder’s availability, to straight up calling M&S snitches.
Marks & Snitches more like. #FreeCuthbert
— Aldi Stores UK (@AldiUK) April 16, 2021
In a rather wholesome move, Aldi attempted to unite with M&S to raise money for their respective charities, Teenage Cancer Trust and Macmillan, in a campaign Aldi are calling #caterpillarsforcancer.
M&S weren’t a fan of this idea, responding (rather sassily, if I may add) that they wanted Aldi to use their own character. It seems poor taste to deny a charity extra money. It is only a caterpillar.
Hey @AldiUK we love a charity idea (Colin's been a BIG fundraiser for years). We just want you to use your own character. How about #kevinthecarrotcake ? That idea's on us… and we promise we won't do Keith 😉
— M&S (@marksandspencer) April 20, 2021
Anyway, after the war being waged over Twitter, many people across the country wondered why M&S were targeting Aldi, when all other large supermarket chains in the UK have their own versions of the chocolate caterpillar cake.
Enter: Me, a second-year university student who will do anything to procrastinate when it comes to her upcoming exams and really loves chocolate cake.
With a caterpillar cake at every major supermarket, I couldn’t resist finding out which is my favourite, and documenting it for The Tab let me feel less guilty for eating five chocolate cakes. So read on for a ranking of the caterpillar cakes from each of Cambridge’s supermarkets, blind taste-tested by me and some very grateful friends.
Just a little preamble that due to Morrisons being too far away: Morris the Caterpillar is unfortunately missed off this list. The same goes for Cecil the Caterpillar, Waitrose’s version who was sadly out of stock at the Little Waitrose by Grafton Centre – meaning yes, I did trek out there for nothing.
I also enjoyed discovering the side of Cambridge beyond Parker’s Piece where there was without a doubt the biggest Tesco I had seen in my life. My friends and I used the Voi electric scooters to get there and – despite the £10 charge – had a lot of fun speeding along the main roads. Actually, that’s a lie. I was beyond terrified when we got to a roundabout, but the rest of it was quite a fun journey.
Co-op’s Charlie the Caterpillar was eventually acquired (after much searching) by Zac Copeland-Greene who is now my “Girton Correspondent” for this very official and serious business, but you’ll hear more from him later.
The votes have been counted and verified and I can confirm the following ranking (from worst to best):
5. Asda – Clyde the Caterpillar (£5.92)
Firstly, Clyde obviously lost points for not having a chocolate face. We all know that when someone whips out a caterpillar cake, you’re looking forward to fighting over the solid white chocolate face. However, to not even have chocolate feet! ASDA, what were you thinking?
Clyde had little orange boots made out of fondant icing and paired with the lurid green face it made for quite the unappetising look. I also didn’t appreciate the odd boils that you can see along the spine (do caterpillars have a spine? Can I say that a cake has a spine?). These little lumps were filled with buttercream icing which was generally just pretty sickly.
The chocolate coating was a bit flimsy; I wanted more of a bite. I was disappointed that the cake itself tasted a bit too synthetically chocolate-y and was far too sugary for my liking. I did, on the other hand, enjoy the chewy sweets on the outside. However, the decoration, in general, was a little lacklustre – and now that I look at it, unsatisfyingly wonky.
I asked one of the friends tasting the cakes with me to summarise each cake with a quote and for Clyde we got “I didn’t enjoy the foot,” and “I thought the leg wasn’t that good.”
So unfortunately for ASDA, the verdict is in and Clyde is not the winner. Maybe consider some chocolate feet and that might boost him up the rankings.
4. Tesco – Vegan Carl the Caterpillar (£6)
Carl was the only vegan caterpillar I could find in all the supermarkets, and I believe he was also gluten-free. So points to TESCO for considering dietary needs. However, Carl just fell a bit flat. The cake itself genuinely wasn’t too bad (I was expecting worse from a free-from sponge), but the refusal to make it a swiss roll like the others upset me – and my vegan friend.
In the words of the vegan correspondent, “they know it’s your only option so they don’t make an effort.” A rather fitting summary for the disappointingly fondant covered cake. The obvious lack of smarties and a hard chocolate shell makes Carl pretty lacklustre, plus the loaf shape lacked authenticity.
My non-vegan critic commented that “it was not as bad as I expected”, which was the general consensus. Overall, Carl’s sponge was on a par with the others, and actually got finished in the following days before ASDAs Clyde.
3. Marks & Spencer’s – Colin the Caterpillar (£7)
The verdict on the “OG” was just pretty measly. Of course, Colin gets extra points for a solid chocolate face and feet, but he was also the only one to have a solid white chocolate tail! Go M&S for not skimping out on the realism.
In terms of other decoration, I enjoyed having the classic smarties – but my friends and I were certain that they used to be more multi-coloured. Green and yellow was just a tad bland to be honest.
The fondant to cake ratio was unsettling, with only one full spiral throughout. The icing was far too thick in places, so it tasted much sweeter and more sickly than the others. The sponge was average but I was shocked that the chocolate shell was so flimsy.
I blind taste-tested these and in all honesty thought that Colin would be the best. However, in tasting it, I genuinely thought this was one of the cheaper ones. I expected better quality from the original caterpillar.
My co-taster clearly thought otherwise (although he was not blindfolded at the time so bias may have affected judgement), as Colin “wiped the floor” for him.
2. Sainsbury’s – Wiggles the Caterpillar (£6)
Sainsbury’s have gone bold in their outright copy of Colin – maybe they’re the next victim after Cuthbert? I admire their boldness and the fact that it had a chocolate face. Plus I think the coloured smarties actually look better than Colin’s green and yellow ones. The sprinkles are a bit unnecessary and messy, though.
A thicker chocolate shell scored Wiggles a fair few points (which he then lost for having a non-alliterative name). The sponge seemed more substantial and the icing to cake ratio was much improved.
It did, however, have some weird lumps full of icing along the top – I’m guessing this is a tactic to make it look vaguely like a real-life caterpillar, but I’m not a massive fan of buttercream, so a mouthful is a bit off-putting.
You can get Wiggles at Mainsbury’s though, so if you’re not willing to commit to the Tesco trek, I reckon he’s your next best bet.
My friend was definitely a fan and had clearly got into his critic role by this point as he commented that “the buttercream is perfect and oozes flavour”.
And the winner is…
1. Tesco – Curly the Caterpillar (£6)
Curly was undoubtedly the victor for me. What I had considered flaws in the other cakes (fondant face, weird lumps of icing) could be forgiven on Curly.
The chocolate shell was perfectly thick and the cake to icing ratio just perfect. Curly was actually the last of the cakes I tried, so I was feeling pretty sick of sugary chocolate cake, but I was more than happy to eat my slice.
The buttercream tasted less like flavoured butter and sugar, and more like melted chocolate, making it a lot less sickly than the others. Plus I love the artsy white chocolate drizzle that really brings some originality to Tesco’s version.
My friend didn’t quite agree. His verdict was that Curly was “solid, but not spectacular”. And I just have to say that in this case, he was wrong.
Curly will 100 per cent be my go-to for any future celebrations or cake needs – it is genuinely worth the 20 minute electric scooter journey.
And now onto my Girton correspondent for the Co-op commentary…
Co-op – Charlie the Caterpillar (£7)
A quick Google search tells me that there are in fact multiple Co-op stores in the centre of Cambridge, though I’ve never seen any of them. And apparently, Matilda didn’t see any of them either on The Tab’s hunt for the best caterpillar cake in Cambridge.
However, when it comes to the quaint village of Girton, it is an entirely different story. The short walk across the A14 bridge to Girton Road Co-op is a staple of the Girtonian lifestyle. I made my way there Tuesday morning on my hunt for Charlie the Caterpillar.
It is indeed a very small shop and so my quest didn’t last very long. I would have paused for a selfie with my find, but the aisles are very thin and a lady was waiting to get past me while I fawned over the cake selection.
When I returned Charlie the Caterpillar back to college, my friend was shocked by how “ugly and disturbing” his face looked. Unfortunately, the taste didn’t make up for appearance when I did separate it from the rest of his body.
On the whole, Charlie turned out to be a little sweetie pie – the layer of icing, though thin, combined with the chocolate inside the sponge was a little too sickly for some people’s taste buds. I for one was reaching for a glass of water pretty soon after trying him.
Decoration-wise (facial appearance notwithstanding) Charlie was quaint with an uneven scattering of mini-smarties and some rather strangely patterned white chocolate. Although, as serious food critiques, my college wife and I found much to critique in the Co-op Caterpillar Cake, the rest of our household were very happy to finish up after us. They had no complaints about free cake!
After all those caterpillars I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.
Yes, that was a shocking joke I apologise.
So it’s fair to say that I (Matilda) don’t want to see a caterpillar cake for at least a few weeks. Not only did I have to eat five lots at once, but I also survived off of all five for the following week and a half in the name of ensuring no food went to waste.
Curly was the first one to be finished, but we unfortunately still have some Clyde hanging around, whom I’m letting my flatmates finish as I didn’t much enjoy it when it was at least vaguely fresh.
Now I’ve finished this experiment for the sake of you wonderful Tab readers, I should probably get on with some revision, buuut TikTok is calling my name…
Feature Image Credit: Matilda Head