Unicorn Cake

"Unicorns I love them..."

As if unicorns weren't a rising trend before Agnes' adorable song in Despicable me.... now EVERYONE loves them! 

Unicorn cakes aren't exactly the brandest-newest trend on the block, but they're SO adorable and HUGE crowd-pleasers. Perfect for birthday parties or even just for fun! Recipe and instructions below! 

Unicorn Cake Layers:

Note - this is a slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!! 

3 1/4 c.  all purpose flour
3 c.  granulated sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t.  salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
5 eggs 
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

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.

Divide batter evenly between three bowls (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part), and color one purple, one pink, and one yellow.  Transfer the batter into your prepared cake pans.

Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.

This is a great time to make your frosting!

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting – 2x recipe for decorating
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened                / 16 oz (2 packages)
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened             / 32 T (4 sticks)
6-7 c powdered sugar                                                  / (12-13c)
2-4 Tablespoons milk                                                 / (1/4-1/2c)
1 T clear vanilla extract                                              / (2T)
1/4 t. salt                                                                     / (1/2 t)  
Save and add later -
2-4 drops pink, yellow, teal (or blue & green) and purple (or pink and blue) Americolor gel food coloring (and a bit of black if you want to pipe on the unicorn eyes).

Note: When I put this cake together, I used two recipes of frosting – one for filling and covering the cake and one for coloring and decorating. My mixer bowl’s not quite big enough to hold two recipes of this frosting recipe, so I made the 1x recipe twice. If you happen to have a larger mixing bowl, I’ve included the double amounts in the right column. 

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.



Additional Supplies/Equipment:
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- small / large piping bag & small / large tips – I used two small bags/tips and two large ones
- Rainbow, neon, or ‘unicorn blend’ sprinkle mix, if desired – I just used sprinkles to add a bit of color in between my cake layers
- large pearlized sprinkles – these added a fun fancy look to the cake, but could be left off if desired
- Unicorn horn, ears, and eyes – you can buy a packaged set (this is what I used since I had one gifted to me), but you can also make your own with marshmallow fondant (recipe below), lustre dust, and a bit of black icing! A several great tutorials (like this one) are available on YouTube!
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! 

Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting, and add some sprinkles on top if desired. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.

Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.

 

Noooow – onto the fun part!! Decorating!

If you want to make your own Unicorn horn, ears, and eyes, you can use fondant to do so –fondant can be purchased, but it’s also fairly easy and significantly cheaper to make your own!  I’ve tried a couple of different marshmallow fondant recipes, and Tastes Better From Scratch’s recipe is my current fave!

Marshmallow Fondant

-16 ounce package mini marshmallows
-2-5 Tablespoons water
-8 cups powdered sugar
-1/3 cup vegetable shortening

Place marshmallows and 2 tablespoons of water in a large microwave-safe bowl. 

Microwave for 30 seconds on high; stir until mixed well. Continue microwaving in 30 second intervals until they are melted and smooth. Stir in gel food color – you can add it later if you’d like, but it will involve a LOT more kneading to get the color even.
Place about 5 cups of the powdered sugar on top of the melted marshmallow mixture and gently fold it into the marshmallows.

Grease your hands and your counter-top generously with shortening. Turn marshmallow mixture onto counter and start kneading it like you would dough. Add more confectioners' sugar as needed and re-grease your hands the counter-top as needed.

If the marshmallow fondant is tearing easily, it is too dry; add water (about 1/2 tablespoon at a time) kneading until fondant forms a firm, smooth elastic ball that will stretch without tearing, about 8 minutes.

Whichever type of fondant you decide to use, soften it slightly in the microwave and then shape into a large unicorn horn and ears. Color a small amount of leftover frosting black, and use it to pipe on on eye lines and eyelashes.

 

If you’re using a pre-made decorating set, you can place the horn and ears into the cake now so you can pipe around them. I added the eyes later, after I’d done a lot of the piping, so that I could center them on the space left on the side of the cake after I’d added the unicorn ‘mane’ on the top and sides of the cake.

To pipe on the unicorn ‘mane,’ split a recipe of frosting into four parts, and color them purple, pink, yellow, and teal (or use different colors if you’d rather). I used Americolor food gel to get the bright colors that I wanted, but liquid food coloring would work as well, especially if you’d like a more pastel shade to your colors.

Transfer your colored frosting to each of four piping bags fitted with piping nozzles – I used a variety of mostly star-shaped tips, but you can use whatever shape you would like! I started with the larger piping bags and piped a large rosette onto the unicorn’s ‘forehead’, and worked my way backward from there. I love being able to see the mane when looking at the cake from the front, so my unicorn had a very wide mane of frosting decorations, but you can make it as wide or narrow as you choose.

Once you’ve piped on the colored frosting to make the unicorn mane, you can add some pearlized sprinkles to the frosting for a bit of extra shine. Add the unicorn eyes to the front of the cake.

Step back, give yourself a high-five, and admire your cake!

 

Make this recipe? Let me know  how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!

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