Our Undercover Baker talks you through the decorating process for a Unicorn cake. It’s about as close as you’re going to get to the real thing (plus it’s edible)….
‘Ello Amblers! You may have seen on our Twitter that one of the things I’ve been working on is a unicorn cake. Today I’m going to take you through the decorating process.
You can make the cake any flavour you like. I’ve previously had great results with carrot cake, but this time around I went for a rainbow sponge, lemon drizzle. Unfortunately this meant the cakes were a little shallower than I’d predicted; a lemon drizzle is generally shallower and denser than a typical layer cake.
I then had to scale down the horn and ears to match. It’s all trial and error in the baking world! The colours didn’t quite come out as expected; they were a little grey and dull, so a lot more paste is needed in future. I definitely think the more expensive colour pastes are worth the price. I recommend Sugarflair or Wilton food colour pastes, as they have a wide variety of intense colours and are available in most cook shops. Unfortunately there is no precise measurement for how a colour will turn out, as it varies greatly from cake mix to cake mix. I usually start with a toothpick drop and add a little at a time until I achieve the colour I’m looking for, then add a touch more than that, as you lose some vibrancy in baking.
To begin with, I spread a little buttercream (I flavoured mine with lemon zest) on the base to stick the first layer down – it’s important to trim the rounded tops off each layer to achieve a level cake and avoid wasting buttercream on filling in gaps. I then spread a layer of buttercream in between each layer of cake and cover the outside in a thin layer to form a crumbcoat. This chills in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour while I get started on the fondant.
I bought my fondant instead of making it, as it’s not an easy process and the shop-bought stuff is just as good. To make the horn, I start by rolling a tapered sausage of fondant roughly twice the length of my skewer. It should be very fat at one end (roughly 4-5cm diameter) and very narrow at the other (roughly 1cm) with a smooth gradient in between. Try not to handle it too much, as it’s almost impossible to work with once it heats up or gets wet.
To make the icing stick, carefully wet the skewer and, starting with the narrow end at the top, wrap the fondant around and around, pressing gently to adhere it. When you’ve reached the bottom of the fondant, or your desired length of horn (remember to leave a couple of inches of skewer at the bottom so it can be pushed into the cake) gently press all around and roll a little to get the desired shape. I used two stacked egg boxes to support the horn while it dried out, as lying it down creates a flat edge.
For the ears, I taped down a square of parchment to roll the fondant out on and rolled it to about 1/2cm thick. I didn’t have a teardrop cutter so I made myself some paper templates to cut around, one large and one small. When I’d cut out 2 of each I smoothed out the edges and wet the back of the smaller drops to stick them to the larger ones. I then laid them down over the rolling pin to create a curved ear shape and inserted a cocktail stick into the base of each, so they could be attached to the cake. These were then put to one side with the horn to dry out. It takes at least a few hours to dry out, but I left mine overnight.
I added another, thicker layer of buttercream to the outside of my cake and used a warm palette knife to achieve a smooth finish. Once this had firmed up in the fridge, it was time to start piping on my mane of roses. I used a closed star nozzle to achieve the roses and a French star for the kisses. To make the rose I started with a swirl but instead of moving outwards, I piped the outer edge of the swirl a little on top of the inner. I started with a large rose front and centre for the fringe of the mane with a few kisses and after that, swept it back over the head and in a curve down the side of the cake. There isn’t a precise method to piping the mane, more just a case of using your eye to create the shape with big blocks of colour from the roses and filling in the gaps with kisses of complimentary colour.
Once the horn and ears had dried out and firmed up, it was time to paint them. I used an edible gold glitter dust (Sugarflair Lustre Dust – Radiant Gold), which I emulsified with a little whiskey. You can use any alcohol for this or an alcohol based flavouring (good quality almond extract works well, as long as it isn’t oil based). The alcohol will allow the gold coating to be applied smoothly as a liquid, but will evaporate as it dries, leaving just the glittery coating behind.
Once the mane had firmed up slightly, the final touch was to add the eyes. I used melted dark chocolate instead of messing around trying to make a black icing, and it was quite effective. It also made removing them when they weren’t quite right a lot easier. Getting both eyes symmetrical is a task much easier said than done. I even attempted piping them onto baking paper, chilling them and then sticking them on, but they were fragile and melted at the touch, so I went back to piping straight onto the cake. After a few shaky handed attempts, I finally managed to achieve two symmetrical eyes that I was happy with. The final flourish was positioning the ears and horn, which were pushed gently into the top of the cake. I sprinkled a little edible glitter over the top too for extra unicorn sparkliness!