Is there anything more delightful than unicorn cake? Unicorn cakes are a great project for intermediate bakers, especially for those who love decorating with multiple colors.
If you’re a new baker, prepare yourself for the amount of work that goes into this cake—this one is not for the faint of heart. Of course, the amount of effort won’t go to waste, and you’re very likely to end with a cake that is both impressive and tasty.
How can you make a unicorn cake? Are there ways to simplify this unicorn-themed treat? We’ll dive into all that and more. But first, what exactly is a unicorn cake, and why is it so popular?
What is a Unicorn Cake?
Cake trends come and go, but trends exist for a reason. Unicorn cakes combine two things that most little girls (and little girls at heart) love: unicorns and cake. Like its name implies, this treat exemplifies a beloved magical creature for an extra splash of fun into any event (or personal indulgence).
The year 2018 had already seen a lot of unicorn-themed deserts. But the popularity of the unicorn cake may be attributed to YouTuber Rosanna Pansino of Nerdy Nummies. Rosanna is known for developing deserts that are based off of pop culture references, like her Pirates of the Caribbean Chicken Pot Pie, her Bioshock Salty Potato Chips, and of course, her trendsetting Unicorn Cake.
There are some variations on the original recipes, but at its core, the unicorn cake is cute, fun, and colorful. Unicorns are a popular décor for many things, and they come with other images, like rainbows, glitters, and pastel colors. These are often included in some unicorn cake variations.
When constructing your own unicorn cake, remember that it can take a great number of steps. As Family Spice notes, this is one of the recipes that look deceptively easy to make. However, you are free to skip and simplify certain steps, or even opt to make one of the alternatives we have listed below.
If you do choose to make a unicorn cake, there are four main elements. Namely, these are the horns, eyes, ears, and the mane. Here are some methods to go about creating these four elements. Feel free to mix and match these to develop a cake you’ll be proud of.
How to Make a Unicorn Cake
Before we launch into the alternatives, let’s first take a look at the one of the most popular recipes out there. This recipe from Rosanna Pansino is made with a funfetti cake, covered in a buttercream vanilla icing, and decorated with a fondant horn and ears. This is a great basis for other unicorn cake alternatives and can easily be modified to suit your needs.
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour.
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
- ⅛ teaspoon of salt.
- 1 stick of salted butter at room temperature.
- ¼ cup of solid vegetable shortening.
- 1 ½ cups of sugar.
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
- ¼ teaspoon of almond extract.
- 5 large egg whites.
- ¾ cup of whole milk.
- ¼ cup of rainbow sprinkles.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line three six-inch, round cake pans.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter, shortening, and sugar using an electric mixer. Keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add in one egg white at a time. Beat thoroughly after adding each egg white. Once the egg whites are beaten in, mix in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Add the flour mixture and the milk to the butter mixture, with the mixer set to a low speed. Alternate between the flour and milk, making sure that the mixture is beaten thoroughly before adding more. Be sure to start and end with the flour mixture.
- Once mixed, fold in the sprinkles.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake the cakes for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Let the cakes cool completely. Level the top with a knife or cake leveler.
- Stack the cakes on a cake board. Add a dot of frosting to stick the first layer to the cake board, then stack the cakes with a layer of buttercream between each. When you reach the last cake, stack it upside-down. This will ensure the crumbs of the levelled top are trapped inside the frosting layer. Otherwise, the crumbs may get in the way when you begin frosting the top.
- Frost the entire cake with a layer of frosting, smoothing out the icing layer.
How to Make a Fondant Unicorn Horn
Unlike the main cake, there is little variation to how the fondant unicorn horn is usually created – although there can still be small tweaks. Here are the steps for making a fondant unicorn horn for cake decorating.
- For the horn, dust a surface with powdered sugar. Take about ½ cup of fondant and roll it out to about 15 inches long. Make sure that it is tapered from one end to another.
- Take your lollipop stick or wooden skewer and paint the surface with water (this will help your fondant stick.)
- Take the thinner end of your fondant and attach it to the tip of your stick or skewer. Twirl it around the stick. Leave at least four inches of the skewer free to stick it into your cake later.
- Let the fondant harden for about fifteen minutes.
- Once it has hardened, mix a few drops of almond extract with some edible gold dust. Brush the entire horn until it’s gold.
- Fondant is the most common material used, with white being the most common color. This recipe uses caramel colored fondant (but is still painted with edible gold.)
- The most common glitter used is gold, although you can try out other colors, like silver or even rainbow variations.
- Sugar Geek Show first places the skewer on the cake before twisting the fondant around the skewer. This is great for placing horns at an angle, although it can make your cake harder to store in the fridge.
How to Make the Ears
This set of directions uses modeling paste, although the concept remains the same no matter the ingredients you pick.
- Roll out some white and pink modeling paste to about ½-centimeter-thick.
- Cut out the outer ears from the white modeling paste.
- Cut out the inner ears from the pink modeling paste. They should be slightly smaller than the outer ears.
- Put the inner ear on top of the larger cut-out.
- Let the ears dry on a rounded surface, like a rolling pin. Let them harden overnight.
- Attach the ears to the cake using edible glue.
- Nerdy Nummies creates the ears with a teardrop cutter for crisper edges. She uses the same colored fondant and paints the inner ear with the same paint used in the unicorn horn.
- Nerdy Nummies also uses toothpicks to attach the ears to the cake.
- This recipe from Bluprint uses a veining tool to pinch the tips of the ears, and then sets them on top of a cardboard egg crate. This creates ears with a more realistic shape.
How to Make the Eyes and Mane
The eyes and mane are the last elements you need for a unicorn cake. The eyes are usually created by piping black buttercream frosting. Simply create two small arches with gentle flicks upwards for the lashes.
For the mane, pipe rosettes using different colors of pastel buttercream frosting. Cover the base of the horn with the rosettes, and have the rosettes cascade down to the side of the cake. Feel free to mix and match your frosting colors. You can also top the mane with candy, edible glitter, cookies, or any other goodies you have on hand.
- For the eyes, you can gain more control over their shape by drawing the eyes on paper, placing parchment paper on top of the drawing, and tracing the drawing with frosting. Once the frosting has dried, transfer it to the cake.
- Alternatively, you can also print out the eyes as edible images. Check out this template from Sugar Geek Show.
- With the original method, you’ll only be piping a very small amount of black buttercream, and you’ll inevitably waste frosting. Instead, try using black fondant like this recipe from Bluprint.
- Alternatively, you can add the extra black fondant into the mane if you want to go for a daring contrast.
- An easier version of the mane is made using strands of colored fondant. It’s a less impressive result than rosette frosting, but it sure gets the job done.
Unicorn Cake Alternatives
Unicorn cakes look fun and tasty, but you can’t deny: they take a lot of work. For those who would like unicorn-themed desert with a lower level of commitment, there are many alternative unicorn cake ideas that you can try.
Here are some types that have been simplified, so that you won’t have to take more than a day to create your own unicorn cake.
- This cake from Whipped Bake Shop uses a single cake covered in white fondant for the base of their unicorn design. Fondant is used for a large pink nose, small round eyes, and adorable hooves. It’s a cake that’s easy on the eyes, but the effect is still as adorable as ever. Plus, who doesn’t like a more full-bodied design?
- This unicorn cake from com uses a plain sheet cake—no need to bake and stack three different cakes. Just add a horn, ears, eyes and a mane, and you have yourself a unicorn cake. It’s not as three-dimensional, but it’s just as cute.
- This recipe from Sugar Geek Show uses a rounded top and is covered with ganache, for a unicorn cake that truly breaks that mold.
Of course, if you’re pressed for time, or if you’re feeding more people than a single cake can handle, why not try cupcakes? These unicorn cupcakes will scratch that unicorn desert itch, and you don’t even have to bother making a full cake. These cupcakes can be just as adorable —and tasty — as the original.
Fondant Unicorn Cupcakes
These fondant unicorn cupcakes are straightforward, precious, and easy. Because of their fondant-covered top, they look sophisticated and elegant, all while still being incredibly simple. To save up on time, you can use store-bought cupcakes and decorate them, although you can bake your own cupcakes with whatever recipe you like. This recipe covers twelve cupcakes.
- White fondant.
- Light pink frosting.
- Edible black pen.
- Edible gold stars.
- Gold luster dust.
- Circle cookie cutter.
- Small paint brush.
- Roll out your white fondant and cut out twelve circles, big enough to cover the top of each cupcake.
- Shape 24 ears; they should be about a half-inch tall. Make sure they’re thicker than what you’d put on a cake. Paint the front of the ears with gold dust.
- For the horns, create 12 strips of white fondant. They should be about two inches long, with edges thinner than the middle. Fold the fondant strips in half and twist the two halves together. Paint the horns with gold dust.
- Place the fondant on top of the cupcakes and attach the horn and ears to the fondant.
- Using the edible black pen, draw the eyes and eyelashes.
- Using your light pink frosting, make a line across the unicorn just below the horn.
- Create dots on top of the line to create a flower crown.
- Sprinkle the top with edible gold stars – the more, the merrier!
Unicorn cakes are a fun addition to any party – or just to spice up your own day. Whether you’re whipping up cakes or cupcakes, you are sure to bring the magic and fun of unicorns to any event with these fun unicorn-themed deserts.