How to make a 2 tier unicorn cake
Updated: Apr 16
There are many cakes that'll make a child's birthday even more special. When I was little, it was often a hedgehog made with chocolate buttons or a house made with chocolate fingers. It was also common to see a cake made in a pudding basin with a doll thrust through the middle (the cake being her skirt).
But times change and today it seems you can't move for unicorns. So if you'd like to make your own but are a little unsure how to go about it, here are (what I hope are) foolproof instructions.
Firstly, you'll need to decide how big the cake should be. If you're thinking about how many guests to feed (and they're little children) then a 6" round top tier that's 4 layers tall and an 8" bottom tier that's 2 layers tall will give you about 40 slices, which is enough for a whole class party and a few adults.
1. The naked cake assembled
Make sure you have levelled all your cakes so they're perfectly flat. Fill them with a thin layer of buttercream (too much may mean you get the layers showing through the fondant).
2. The crumb coat
Here you can see both cakes have had a scrape of firm buttercream around the top and sides. This seals in crumbs and makes sure the fondant has something to stick to when it's applied. You'll need to leave these in the fridge overnight to set firm.
3. The undercoat
Take the cakes out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. This may take a couple of hours, particularly in winter. Then spray the cakes with a small amount of water to give the fondant a reason to stick.
Cover your cake in fondant, taking care not to let air bubbles fester. Try a small prick with a cocktail stick followed by smoothing the fondant down. Because this is the undercoat, the look of the fondant doesn't matter too much.
4. The fondant top coat
This is the layer of fondant that matters. It's important to make it as look as good as possible so use two smoothers to achieve this. Here I'm going for rounded edges so I'm not fussed about the top of the cake having a sharp look. I've also coloured it with a tiny amount of pink food colouring.
5. The bottom cake
There are a few things about the bottom cake that are different from the top one.
Firstly, you'll need to put it on a large cake base (also known as a cake drum) which needs to be 1cm thick.
Secondly, the top coat will need to go over the cake drum and not just the cake. Make sure you allow for this when you roll out your fondant. If you have cornflour left on the fondant from rolling it out, use a piece of damp kitchen towel and take off the excess. The shiny look will dry out, I promise!
6. Sweet Stamps
There are many ways you can choose to do lettering in fondant. My favourite at the moment is using Sweet Stamps where you can press your message into the fondant and then paint the letters to make them stand out.
7. Dowelling your bottom tier
I like to make sure there are enough dowels in a base cake so the one above can't possibly go through it. This means putting in a central dowel and then 8 more (on an 8" cake). Each dowel should be the same height and 1mm shorter than the height of the cake as they have a tendency to move up overnight (and I've no idea why - do let me know the answer if you can!).
8. Preparing the cakes to be stacked
You'll need to have the cakes side by side for this. Apply a sticky gumpaste to the bottom tier (I like Sainsbury's flower modelling paste, which is gluten-free & vegan) and then slip a knife underneath the top tier, taking care not to touch the sides. Place the top cake quickly on top, fully covering the circle you have drawn on top for guidance.
9. Finishing the cake for delivery
I added a hand-cut image of a horse, drew in the eyelashes with an edible black pen and rolled a set of different coloured fondants for the mane (which I made using white fondant mixed with a ready-coloured fondant to make pastel colours). I fixed ribbon around each cake with a trace of water and then put a trail of fondant pearls on top (made using a pearl mould, cornflour and tylo). I painted the letters with a gold lustre dust (mixed with Culpitt dipping solution) and added a ribbon to the cake base with double-sided tape.
To make the horn and ear, take the flower modelling paste I mentioned earlier and cut out 2 heart shapes in white and pink, which you can stick together with water. Turn upside down (with the point in the air), pinch the bottom and your ear is formed!
The horn takes a bit of practising. You'll need to colour the paste gold (I like Honey Gold by Sugarflair) and then twist two pieces together. Insert a small dowel in the centre (about 2 inches shorter than the horn). When set, you can paint the horn with the same colour used for the lettering. Leave the horn to dry (I used a big lump of fondant to stand it in) and take it separately to the party venue.
10. The final cake!
So here it is: the cake in situ at the birthday party. The horn is simply pushed into place with one confident motion. Then it's time to let your guests admire your handiwork!
This blog post is for people who've already learned how to crumb coat cakes and/or are able to watch a YouTube video to get some tips. But if there's something further you'd like to know, please ask below!