So, last weekend I was working hard to make sure a little girl would have her dream unicorn cake at her birthday party and this was the result! A unicorn cake with a pink chocolate ganache drip, a lovely colourful mane and a golden horn! I had been wanting to make one of these for quite a while now, always seeing them pop up on my Pinterest and Youtube feeds, but never really had a suitable occasion. So when one of my husband’s work colleagues asked me to make a unicorn cake for his daughter’s birthday, I was rather excited 😊
Unicorn cakes look absolutely stunning and usually feature a colourful mane, a gold horn, some ears and sleepy/happy eyes. In this case I also added a pink chocolate ganache drip and a shell border around the bottom to neaten it up. I chose to make this a buttercream cake, rather than cover it in fondant. If you cover it in fondant it will of course be a bright white, rather than the more creamy colour of buttercream. So if that’s what you’re looking for, go with fondant! However I have read comments from people having problems making the buttercream stick to the fondant, and have some problems in the past myself with buttercream sliding off fondant. So I thought this was a much safer option, and I think the creamy white looks just as good! 🙂
The horn and ears can and should be made in advance, so they have time to harden for a while. You can even make them a couple of weeks in advance and leave them to fully harden and then keep them in a container until you need them. This takes away from the stress a little while making the cake, so I always try and make everything I can in advance. The horn is made using white modelling paste and is then painted with gold lustre dust. To make a paint out of the lustre dust it is mixed with a high percentage alcohol – this can be specific cake decorating alcohol, or even just vodka which is what I used. Don’t worry about the alcohol content, as a lot of it will evaporate off when the paint dries. Also, nobody will actually eat the horn, so there’s definitely no problem with it 😉 But if you still don’t want to use alcohol, you could try lemon juice instead. It will not dry as fast and may stay sticky even after letting it dry for a few days. I have not tried it yet myself, as I prefer using vodka, but know others use lemon juice instead.
The steps to making this cake, aren’t actually all that many: Cover the cake, add on the drip, add on the eyes and shell border, pipe on the mane and add the horn and ears (made in advance). Doesn’t sound so scary when broken down like that, does it? 😉 For the mane, you can of course choose whichever colour you would like. I’ve gone for pink, two shades of purple and turquoise, but feel free to mix this up. The same goes for the piping tips – if you have all the different tips, I would definitely use them. They create more texture in the mane and therefore add more interest, but if you only have one star tip, then just use that and maybe a piping bag with the tip snipped off to get plain blobs.
You will need
250g modelling paste
Pink food colouring
Gold lustre dust
Tall 20cm cake of your choice
2 batches Italian meringue buttercream
1 batch white chocolate ganache
50g black fondant
Purple food colouring
Sky blue/turquoise food colouring
Blue food colouring
Edible glue (optional)
Round cookie cutters
Scalpel or sharp knife
Piping tips (open/closed star, French, 1cm & 3mm round)
A few of days before you need the cake, make the unicorn horn and the ears, so they all have time to dry and harden. Take about ¾ of the modelling paste and divide into two even pieces. Roll into kind of carrot shapes, press together (glue with a little edible glue or water if they don’t stick) and start twisting them from the bottom, working your way up to the tip. Carefully insert a skewer into the bottom, going as far up the horn as you can to give it stability. Stick into a polystyrene block or a heavy glass to harden. Mix the gold lustre dust with a little bit of high percentage alcohol and paint all over the horn with a little brush.
For the ears, roll out the remaining modelling paste and cut out two circles of the size you want your ears to be (mine was about 8cm). Then use the same cutter to cut off some extras on either side, to make it into a pointed oval shape. Colour the remaining modelling paste a light pink and repeat the same thing with a smaller cutter (mine was about 5cm) for the inside of the ears. Stick the inside to the outside using a little edible glue or water. Pinch the bottom together and insert a cocktail stick into each ear and stick them next to your unicorn horn to harden.
Cover the entire cake in a thin layer of buttercream as your crumb coat, smooth out and chill for 30 minutes. Then add a thick layer of buttercream all around the cake using your palette knife. Smooth the top, but don’t worry too much about this, as it will be covered in a drip and the mane later on. Smooth the buttercream on the sides of the cake using the side scraper, taking off a lot of the butter cream you put on to leave an even coat. Patch up any uneven bits and keep smoothing until the cake has a nice even covering of buttercream. Put in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Colour the white chocolate ganache a light pink, using the pink food colouring. Pour the ganache onto the middle on top of your chilled cake and smooth out the sides and nudge over the edge with you palette knife. I go into this in more detail in my Pink drip cake post, if you want to read more about how to create a great drip! Alternatively, you can put the ganache into a piping bag, snip of a small tip and pipe the drips onto the top edge of the cake and then fill in the middle. I found this worked better with the white chocolate ganache, because it did set up really quite quickly and was difficult to spread over the edge with the palette knife. Leave the drip to set in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, roll out the black fondant and cut out two eyes with a scalpel or sharp knife. This is easiest if you make yourself a template on paper first, cut that out and then cut around that on the fondant. It means you get your eyes as even as possible and to the same size. Place the eyes onto the cake about 2/3 of the way up and stick firmly onto the buttercream.
For the shell border around the bottom, fill a little buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a small round piping tip (about 4mm). Pipe little dots of buttercream right onto the bottom edge, then drag the piping bag to the side, smearing some of the buttercream. Add your next dot right onto the smear from the last dot. Go all the way around the cake like this.
Divide the remaining buttercream into four and colour each of them using the food colourings, making a pale pink, pale purple, dark purple and turquoise. For the dark purple add a little bit of blue colouring with the purple to get a slightly different shade. Fill the purple into a piping bag with an open or closed star tip and pipe rosettes over the top and down one side of the cake, leaving space in between for the other colours. Do the same with about 2/3 of the pink buttercream. Then fill the remaining pink buttercream into a piping bag with a French tip and pipe blobs all over the top and side of the cake. Repeat this with the darker purple. Lastly, fill the turquoise buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a round tip and pipe blobs, filling in all the remaining spaces in the mane. Put in the fridge to chill again for 15 minutes.
Stick the horn and ears into the top of the cake and serve. Will keep in the fridge for about 4-5 days.