When you're the darling of Cincinnati, a simple sheet cake just won't do. Fiona the hippo turns four on Sunday and will celebrate with a tiered confection combining all her favorite treats.
It's a similar cake she enjoyed on her third birthday - a time when, just like the good girl she is, Fiona ate her veggies before her sweets. In this case, Romaine lettuce, one of her favorites, which served as a "plate" for her "cake" made of fruits and other veggies. "...(It) has to be one of her favorite foods on the planet," Head Africa Keeper Wendy Rice told WVXU at the time.
That year's cake wasn't quite as ornate as 2019's, which featured unicorns and rainbows. That's because mom Bibi, who Fiona shared her cake with, is on a diet.
"We use different cake trays and we freeze the produce into layers to make it look pretty and decorative," Rice explains. "Mostly we're just sticking to foods that are part of (Fiona's) usual repertoire, but she'll get more of them and all of her favorite ones all at once."
Fiona, queen that she may be, is no dainty eater, Rice told WVXU prior to the hippo's big 2020 event. "It will be sloppy and messy and I'm sure there will be drool all over the place, but that's part of the fun of hippos; they're kind of gross and we love that about them."
But in the end, the scene was more cute than gross. After indulging, Fiona joined mom Bibi in one of the windows of her enclosure, which the zoo had decorated for her birthday.
Zoo animals, of course, don't care what their food looks like, nor do they likely have any concept of a birthday, but Rice says keepers still track birthdays and make sure each animal gets something special on their big day. If an animal's birth date isn't known, she says, one is assigned so the animal doesn't miss out.
"I doubt Fiona cares if the cantaloupe is cut into the shape of a star or a unicorn but we sure get a kick out of it. The care team certainly feels like her surrogate mom, so just like any parent on their child's birthday, we like to do it up big and celebrate.
"It's a fun way for us as a team to work on a silly project together, and also share with the community that so clearly loves and adores her and is still following her story to this day."
Want to give Fiona's favorite cake a go yourself? The zoo shared the recipe with us below:
- Bamboo leaves
- Timothy Hay grass and apple and oat horse treats
- Frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
- Beet pulp
- Apple juice and apple slices
- Yellow squash and zucchini
- Cantaloupe, cut into fun shapes using cookie cutters
- Grapes, strawberries, kiwi and plums
Combine each ingredient in a layer and freeze in cake pans. Stack the frozen layers. Garnish with the decorative cantaloupe shapes. Serve on a bed of fresh Romaine lettuce leaves. Serves two. Weight: approximately 10 pounds. Enjoy!
This article was first published Jan. 23, 2020 and has been updated.