I used this Vanilla Cake Layer recipe (slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com) but you could also make this cake with two doctored-up white vanilla boxed cake mixes baked in a 15x10” pan. I’ve done this before using butter instead of oil, added extra vanilla, extra eggs, and used milk instead of water. You could also double your favorite vanilla cake layer recipe and get roughly the same result!
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pan – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
This is a great time to make your frosting!
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
(Save and add later: Americolor gel food colorings – I used blue, green, and added cocoa powder to make brown frosting!
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.
- Using a cardboard cake board is optional, but I found it the easiest way to move the cake for decorating and for transport!
- Small offset spatula
- Small piping bag & tip – this set has been one of my favorites, and I used the multi-hole grass tip, the notched/indented leaf tip, and the middle-sized rounded tips!
- Several small dinosaurs – I used this set of 12 3-inch dinosaurs from Amazon!
- Chocolate rocks
- 10-12 red & 2-3 orange candy melts – if you want to make a volcano!
- ¼ cup of graham cracker crumbs (if you just want to add some to the cake – you’ll need about another cup to decorate your cake board!)
Once your cake is baked and cooled/chilled, use a medium serrated knife to cut it into a 2-shape – I used a hand-sketched paper pattern to help me keep my cuts straight. (If you want to make a cake pop volcano, save the scraps!)
With an offset spatula a thin crumb coat of frosting over the cake – this keeps the cake from drying out and crumbs out of the colored frostings.
Split your remaining frosting into 3 parts, and color one blue, one green, and add cocoa powder and a tablespoon or two of milk if needed to the last part to make brown frosting. (Note: if you want to decorate your cake board, split the frosting into 4 parts and color the last one light brown with cocoa powder).
With your offset spatula, cover the bottom half of your number with brown frosting, and the top half with green. Add a small ‘river’ of blue frosting – I spread some down the side of the number and onto the cake board to make a waterfall.
Add a plastic coupler to a piping bag, and transfer your remaining green frosting to the bag. Pipe on grass with the multi-hole tip, and some leaves with the notched leaf tip. This is optional, but I also used a round tip to pipe brown rocks around the base of the brown part of the cake, and leaves around the base of the green part.
Add small plastic dinosaurs and chocolate rocks wherever they fit!
This is also optional, but if you want to decorate the cake board use some brown frosting to adhere graham cracker crumbs to the cake board around the cake. I added a few more chocolate rocks as well!
To make the cake pop ‘volcano,’ mash about a cup of cake scraps with a couple of tablespoons of frosting until the mix is pliable and no longer crumbly – add more frosting a half tablespoon at a time if needed. Mold the mix into a rough cone shape with an indent at the top, and position on the cake or cake board. Cover with brown frosting.
Melt down the red candy melts, and transfer to a piping bag (or a small zip-lock). Chop a couple of orange candy melts to sprinkle on top.
And you’re done! Congratulate yourself on your awesome-looking cake!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!