How to make an easy unicorn cake

The unicorn cake is a trendy party go-to as of late. It’s surprisingly easy to make if you know the right technique. Here’s how to get that Pinterest-worthy cake for your next party. 

While there are larger and more complex versions of this kind of cake out there, we wanted to create one that was doable and wouldn’t leave you stuck in the kitchen for hours on end. This design is easy to make at home and doesn’t require hard-to-find ingredients or super cake decorating skills.

To give you some decorating options, we made two different unicorn cakes — one with a buttercream exterior (the purple horn), the other covered with fondant (gold horn).

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To make this cake, we layered three round vanilla cake with a sweet buttercream frosting. Once the cake is frosted, we decorated with colorful fondant and sprinkles. To achieve the colorful horn, paint a waffle cone with frosting and roll in the sprinkles of your choice. We chose purple and gold for our two designs.

To make these affordable unicorn cakes, you can start with your favorite white cake recipe (we used Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Vanilla Naked Cake). Add food coloring (we used pink) to color the layers of cake. For the icing, we used Sally’s silky and sweet buttercream frosting.

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Make cake batter as directed

Make cake batter as directed

Add food coloring to turn the batter into your desired color

Add food coloring to create pink batter

Pour cake batter into baking pan lined with parchment paper on the bottom

Pour cake batter into baking pan lined with parchment paper

Spread batter smooth and bake

Spread batter smooth and bake

Begin buttercream frosting by adding butter to mixer

Begin buttercream frosting by adding room tempurature butter to mixer

Add confectioner’s sugar and other ingredients to frosting

Add confectioner's sugar and remaining ingreients to buttercream frosting

Mix buttercream to proper consistency for this unicorn cake

Mix buttercream to proper consistency for pink unicorn cake

Slice a thin layer off the top of each cake to create a flat surface

Slice thick layer off top of each cake layer to create flat surface

Remove the top layer of cake

Remove top layer of cake

Add a small amount of buttercream to parchment paper on cake stand

Add small amount of buttercream frosting to parchment paper on cakestand

Place first cake layer onto frosting on the cake stand

Place first cake layer onto frosting on cakestand

Spread frosting evenly on top of first cake layer of unicorn cake

Spread frosting evenly on top of first cake layer for pink unicorn cake

Place second cake layer on top and repeat frosting

Place second cake layer on top and repeat frosting

Spread frosting evenly on final cake layer

Spread frosting evenly on final cake layer

Apply buttercream frosting to sides of cake

Apply buttercream frosting to sides of cake

Smooth buttercream on all surfaces and begin decorating, OR…

Smooth out buttercream on all surfaces of cake

For a smoother look, place fondant over entire surface of cake

For a smoother look, place a layer of fondant over entire surface of cake

For this method, drape fondant over entire pink unicorn cake

Drape fondant over entire pink unicorn cake

Smooth the fondant down the sides of the cake

Smooth down sides

Use side of hands to press edges of fondant in at base of cake

Use side of hands to press edges of fondant in at base of cake

Cut excess fondant away from base of the unicorn cake

Cut excess fondant away from base of cake

Remove excess fondant

Remove excess fondant

Seal fondant at bottom of cake

Seal fondant at bottom of cake

Coat just the top of the cake with buttercream frosting

Coat the top with buttercream frosting

Roll out a small amount of white fondant for ears

Roll out white fondant with rolling pin for pink unicorn cake

Cut ear shapes out of fondant using cookie cutters

Cut shapes out of fondant using cookie cutters

Roll out pink fondant for smaller part of ears

Roll out pink fondant for ears

Cut ear shapes from pink fondant

Cut ear shapes from pink fondant

Remove cut out shapes for pink unicorn cake

Remove cut out shapes for pink unicorn cake

Apply buttercream frosting to cut out fondant shapes

Apply buttercream frosting to cut out fondant shapes

Stack pink fondant shape on top of white shape to create ears

Stack pink fondant shape on top of white shape to create ears

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For unicorn horn, apply frosting to ice cream cone

Apply buttercream frosting to outside of ice cream cone

Roll cone in sparkly sugar to create the unicorn horn

Roll ice cream cone in a plate of sparkly sugar to create unicorn horn

Make sure entire cone is covered thoroughly with sparkly sugar

Make sure entire cone is covered thoroughly with sparkly sugar

Place horn on cake, and cut slits for ears

Place horn on cake and cut slits for ears

Insert fondant ears into slits

Insert fondant ears into slits

Apply sprinkles to cake

Apply sprinkles to cake

Place candy sour straps on cake by pressing one end and twisting

Place candy sour straps on cake by pressing one end and twisting

Layer candy sour straps to create mane on pink unicorn cake

Layer sour candy strips

Apply sugar sprinkles or beads to base of cake

Apply sugar sprinkles or beads to base of cake

How adorable is this pink unicorn cake?!

How adorable is this pink unicorn cake?

So much gorgeous detail!

Polished and professional

Very customizable, this cake is stunning even without fondant added to this one!

Two different beautiful cakes

This pink unicorn cake will make any party a hit!

This pink unicorn cake is as delicious as it is pretty

An adorable pink unicorn cake with buttercream frosting!

More ideas on this theme — and the cake recipe!

If you want more unicorn-themed fun, check out these unicorn noodle spring rolls, some rainbow-colored pasta — plus a huge collection of 100 (free!) magical unicorn coloring pages you can print, and these 10 affordable unicorn crafts!

Pink unicorn cake with buttercream frosting

Yield 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3-3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, a tablespoon!)
  • 1-3/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 5 drops red food coloring

Vanilla buttercream:

  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 to 6 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Unicorn decorations:

  • 1 package fondant icing
  • Pink food coloring
  • Black food coloring
  • Edible sparkly sugar
  • Ice cream cone
  • Assorted sprinkles
  • Candy sour straps

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch cake pans.
  2. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
  4. On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
  5. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in three additions alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated.
  6. Add 5 drops red food coloring to turn batter pink.  Do not overmix this batter. It should be smooth, velvety and slightly thick.
  7. Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans. (Each layer will be about 2-2/3 cups.) For extra precision, use kitchen scale and weigh filled cake pans (about 1 pound 6 ounces each.)
  8. Bake for 25–26 minutes or until cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert toothpick into center of cake. If it comes out clean, it is done.
  9. Allow cakes to cool completely in pans set on wire rack. Cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  10. In large bowl, using handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on low, add 5-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, 5 tablespoons heavy cream, vanilla extract and salt.
  11. Once moistened, increase mixer to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin. Add 1 tablespoon cream if frosting is too thick. Add pinch more salt if frosting is too sweet. Yield: about 4-1/2 cups frosting.
  12. To assemble and decorate cake: Using large serrated knife or cake slicer, slice thin layer off tops of cakes to create flat surface. (Save these cake scraps to crumble over ice cream.)
  13. Place 1 cake layer on cake stand, turntable or serving plate. Spread 1-1/2 cups of frosting evenly on top.
  14. Top with another cake layer and evenly cover top with 1-1/2 cups of frosting.
  15. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting on top and all around sides using an icing spatula. For light layer of frosting, use bench scraper to smooth out frosting on sides of cake.
  16. Dust flat surface with powdered sugar. Knead small amount of white fondant until smooth. Using rolling pin, roll out fondant until 1/4-inch thick. Place 1 cookie cutter in shape of leaf (ear) on dough.  Press out two pieces. Set aside.
  17. Wearing gloves (to prevent staining on skin), color small amount of white fondant with pink food coloring.  Cut out two smaller sized leaves (ears) with cookie cutter, making two smaller pieces.
  18. Spread bottom of smaller leaf (ear) with a bit of reserved buttercream. Press in center of larger leaf.  Repeat process, turning other leaves in opposite direction to resemble unicorn ears.
  19. Add black food coloring to very small portion of fondant.  Roll out very thinly to create two lines, and four eyelashes.
  20. Dab frosting all over pointed ice-cream cone.  Place edible sparkly sugar on plate and roll ice cream cone in sugar.
  21.  Place cone on center of cake top as a horn.
  22.  Place ears next to horn, one on each side.
  23.  Add generous amount of assorted sprinkles (we used Fancy Sprinkles) to top of cake.
  24. Add candy sour straps to top and sides of cake, placing straps twisted and flowing from top to bottom of cake.  Form curly mane, pushing through buttercream frosting to secure.
  25. Place 1 line of black fondant on cake to make eye, then add two smaller pieces above eye to create eyelashes.
  26. Add generous amount of assorted sprinkles in various sizes around base of cake, extending up about 2 inches.
  27. Refrigerate cake for 2 to 3 hours or up to 1 day before slicing and serving. If chilling for more than a few hours, loosely cover with plastic wrap after 1 hour of refrigeration. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for 1 to 2 days or in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

Make ahead tip: You can store baked, cooled cake layers overnight at room temperature, tightly covered -- same with frosting. Assemble and frost cake next day when you are ready to serve. Frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day and frozen up to three months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Make your own buttermilk: You can substitute whole milk mixed with 1-1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice for buttermilk.

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An adorable pink unicorn cake with buttercream frosting!

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