This is Jenny Crawford’s second Cole Tries guest post. She is the founder of LiterallyAlwaysHungry.com.
I’ve named baking as a hobby of mine for 7-ish years now, but I am far from winning cupcake wars. When I say “I like to bake,” I really mean “I like to make things from boxes that aren’t very difficult.” Thanks to impostor syndrome, I recently decided I was going to start making more things from scratch and learn how to decorate cakes like a professional.
After a couple weeks spent ordering what I thought was everything I needed off Amazon, I began making a magical unicorn cake for my boss’s birthday. It seemed simple enough: Make a smooth cake, top it with fondant ears and a horn, and decorate it with a flowery mane. As I found out over the course of 5+ hours, you need to do more than watch a YouTube video to make an extravagant cake. This post will be organized by problems and solutions, because I encountered many.
Everything was going flawlessly until I started frosting the cake. Turns out a good thing to do before you start frosting is to shave the edges of the cake so they are even. I was smart enough to shave the tops of them so they were level, but dropped the ball on the sides.
My roommate carved off the edges of the cake while I tried to hold it steady so the layers stayed aligned. It was not an easy task and we were both covered in frosting by the end, but the cake was (mostly) even all around.
I decided to make a cream cheese buttercream instead of a classic American buttercream because I thought it would taste better and I read it held up better in warmer temperatures. I forgot that cream cheese has a yellow tint to it, so my frosting was off white. My fondant, however, was bright white. Connecting the dots, this meant the ears and the horn of the unicorn would look like shit on the off-white cake…which was already frosted…
The insides of the ears were already lined with pink fondant, so I decided to dye the rest of my frosting pink and re-frost the cake to match the ears and horn. I had some help getting the cake smooth from a friend who works in a bakery; I am not yet a wizard with an angled spatula like she is.
Summer decided to hit LA the weekend I needed to make this cake, and it was HOT. Most people either don’t have AC or don’t usually turn it on, so trying to keep my frosting at the right temperature and consistency was nearly impossible. Try making pretty buttercream flowers with warm, melty frosting; I dare you.
The only logical solution to the heat was to keep throwing the frosting and the cake in the fridge/freezer and to move quickly. It didn’t end up being the perfect solution since you can’t really pipe frosting that’s too cold and you can’t make anything decent with frosting that’s too warm. Most of my decorations ended up being a little floppy, but I think considering the conditions they turned out okay.
I kinda went too big with the horn. Not only was it too tall for the cake and my friend had to saw the bottom of the dowel off with a knife, but it was also too tall for any box.
The cake travelled to and from multiple locations with absolutely no protection. The rainbow unicorn cake was on full display and vulnerable to being totally trashed right before the birthday party. By some miracle, it survived!
I spent about 6.5 hours total on the cake including baking and dying, making fondant and frosting, covering the cake and decorating it. There were probably 10 other small problems I encountered along the way, (like needing to run to Michaels to get supplies and to the grocery store 3 times for extra butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar), but for my first time decorating a cake, I think the end result was satisfying. I learned A LOT from this experience and can guarantee my next cake will be even better.
The finished product included:
- 2 boxes of Gluten Free yellow cake mix
- 6 eggs
- 2/3 cups Oil
- 36oz of cream cheese
- 5 pounds of powdered sugar
- 5 sticks of butter
- 1/2 package of fondant
- Pink, blue, yellow & purple food coloring
So, who wants cake?