Lemon Cake Layers:
Note - this is a halved and modified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
1 ½ cups + 2 T all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter (or 1 stick) room temperature
1 t. lemon extract
¾ cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two six-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured 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 the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 30-35 minutes (or until a toothpick 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 30-45 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.
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 -
2-4 drops pink, yellow, teal (or blue & green) and purple (or pinkand blue) Americolor gel food coloring (and a bit of black if you want to pipe on the unicorn eyes).
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. (Note – you may not end up needing ALL of this frosting, but I made a full batch to make sure I’d have plenty extra to pipe the unicorn mane!)
- 1 7- or 8-inch cardboard cake circle
- 2 small piping bags & tips (this set has been one of my favorites!) + 2 large piping bags & tips (I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!)
- Gold sugar pearl 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 for stability for transport and storage) but you can also make your own with fondant, lustre dust, and a bit of black icing! A several great tutorials (like this one) are available on YouTube!
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)
- Optional - 1/4 raspberry jam + 1/4 frosting to fill the cake (I used a layer of jam mixed with buttercream and a thin layer of jam over the top)
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. I mixed raspberry jam with a bit of buttercream for the filling, but this step is optional! If using a colored filling, be sure to pipe a small dam of white frosting to keep your filling inside!
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 coats have set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layers of frosting and smooth. I like to use a large offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
To pipe on the unicorn ‘mane,’ split the remainder of your 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, admire your cake, and find someone to give you a high-five! (Shoot me a DM on Instagram if you can’t find anyone right away!)
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Pinterest or on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!