With 6 layers of vanilla cake and a mane of buttercream frosting, this Unicorn Cake is perfect for birthday parties, baby showers, and any other unicorn-themed event. It’s a beautiful and fun cake that’s easier to make than you may expect!
Layered Unicorn Cake with Buttercream Frosting
Unicorn desserts have become a popular trend over the past few years and this Unicorn Cake with a mane of buttercream rosettes is perhaps one of the most famous. It seems every little girl has wanted this colorful cake for their birthday party lately!
While this layer cake may look difficult, with its six layers of cake and all of the decorations, it’s actually quite easy – even if you’re making it from scratch like I am. This isn’t the first unicorn cake I’ve made but it is the first completely from scratch and with so many layers. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much more work than a 3 layer cake with boxed cake mix and the end result is just so beautiful.
Even as an adult, I think I’ll be looking for every excuse to make this cake again. Birthday parties, baby showers, kindergarten graduation…this cake is really perfect for any special celebration!
What You’ll Need
While this cake may look fancy, it’s made with pretty basic ingredients. You likely have everything you’ll need already in the kitchen if you’ve done any baking lately – though you may need to buy some extra butter since this cake uses a lot of buttercream!
Scroll down to the recipe card for exact measurements and details.
For the Cake
- Butter – Softened, for easier whipping. I always use unsalted butter in baked goods.
- Granulated sugar
- Cake flour – I do recommend substituting all-purpose flour here, as I have not tested the exact amount needed.
- Baking powder – Helps the layers rise.
- Whole milk – 2% should work fine but I do not recommend skim as it has a much thinner consistency.
- Vanilla extract – Look for a colorless pure vanilla extract to keep the layers white.
Buttercream Frosting for Icing & Decorating the Cake
- Butter – Always use unsalted for frosting. It should be at room temperature but not too soft.
- Powdered sugar – Sift the powdered sugar to avoid any lumps in the frosting.
- Pure vanilla extract – Use pure vanilla, not imitation for the best flavor. Look for colorless to preserve the white frosting color.
- Whole milk – Add the least amount first, then slowly add more to get your desired consistency.
- Food coloring – For decorating the mane. I used purple, pink, dark purple, blue, and black.
From the number of layers to the colors, there are many ways to customize this unicorn layer cake.
- Make a rainbow unicorn cake. Simply add food coloring to each cake layer before baking, using the colors of the rainbow. Even if you don’t want all the colors of the rainbow, you can experiment with adding color, even doing a tie-dye pattern as I did in my Valentine’s Day Unicorn Cake.
- Can I do 3 layers instead of six? Yes, if you would like a shorter cake you can do 3 or 4 layers instead of 6, as I did in my Easter Unicorn Cake. Keep in mind that each layer will be thicker so the bake time will need to be adjusted and you may end up with leftover batter, as this recipe is written for 6 layers.
- Can I use boxed cake mix? Yes, you can use box cake mix for your unicorn cake. In fact, that’s what I used for the two cakes linked above. It’s a great solution in a pinch! Just note that you’ll need 3 boxes of cake mix.
- Change up the colors. I kept to the traditional “unicorn colors” for this cake but really, you can decorate it with any colors you want. I’ve seen beautiful cakes done in shades of pink for a girl’s birthday party or using bright colors of the rainbow.
- Want to make unicorn cupcakes? I actually have a unicorn cupcakes recipe you can try!
How to Make Unicorn Cake
Making this layer cake may take quite a bit of time but the good part is that all of the steps are quite easy. See below for suggestions on how to prep certain parts in advance.
Make the Cake Layers
- Prepare the cake pans. Grease the sides of the pans with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Beat the butter and sugar. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy.
- Add the other ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the eggs, milk, and vanilla in another. Alternate adding them to the creamed butter, being sure to scrape the scapes as you mix.
- Bake. Pour 1/6 of the batter into each cake pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Freeze. Cool for 10 minutes then wrap each layer in plastic wrap and freeze.
Make the Buttercream for the Cake Layers
- Cream the butter. Beat the butter for 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar. Add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating to combine.
- Add the milk. Add the vanilla extract and milk, beating on high until fully combined.
Prepare the Buttercream for Decorating the Cake
- Make the frosting. Prepare the frosting the same as the frosting for the cake layers.
- Add the color. Divide evenly into 5 bowls and a 6th bowl with just 3 tablespoons. Add different colors to each bowl, with black food coloring in the smallest one.
- Transfer to piping bags. Add the buttercream to piping bags with a rosette tip.
Decorate the Cake
- Stack the layers. Add a dollop of buttercream on a revolving cake pan then place a frozen cake layer in the center. Evenly spread a cup of buttercream frosting on top. Add the second layer. Repeat until all of the layers are stacked. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Add the crumb coat. Spread a thin layer of buttercream frosting on the outside of the cake. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
- Frost the outside. Add a thick layer of buttercream frosting to the entire outside of the cake.
- Add the mane. Pipe the colored frosting using a rosette tip to create the man. Use the black icing to make the eyes.
Tips for Success
Here are a few helpful hints for making the best unicorn theme cake.
- Freeze the layer cakes. Frozen cake layers are much easier to decorate. Do not put unfrosted cake layers in the fridge (they’ll dry out). If there’s no room in the freezer, you can just wrap them and set them on the counter. But the freezer really is best!
- Only add as much milk as needed. When adding the milk to the buttercream, start with the least amount stated and slowly add more as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
- Do not overbake the cakes. Since the cakes are smaller and thinner, they need to bake only for 30 to 35 minutes. If a toothpick inserted comes out clean, they’re done.
- Chill between steps. Even though it takes extra time, it is 100% worth it to pop the cake in the fridge after adding the layers and again after the crumb layer. It helps the layers set and makes decorating 100000% times easier.
Where Can I Find The Unicorn Horn and Ears Topper?
You may be able to find the unicorn topper at a craft store or even Walmart in the baking section but I just bought mine on Amazon for under $10.
Make Ahead Suggestions
While this is a pretty easy unicorn cake and none of the steps are particularly complicated or difficult, making it can be a full-day process. Since so much of the time is for cooling and freezing, you can easily prepare some parts in advance.
The easiest thing to do is to bake the cake layers ahead of time. Since they need to be frozen anyway, it doesn’t matter if they are baked a day or two in advance. Just pop them in the freezer and pull them out when you begin to assemble the cake.
You can also layer the cake and add the crumb layer and then refrigerate overnight to add the decorations the next day before serving, if desired.
Storage & Freezing
This unicorn cake will last in the fridge for about 3 days. I recommend keeping it in a tall cake carrier as that’s the easiest way to keep it covered.
As far as freezing, you can freeze the individual layers as I mentioned above or you can freeze individual leftover slices. Just wrap them tightly in plastic and foil, then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge and enjoy! I do recommend doing this with the slices that don’t have a ton of frosting, as it’s hard to freeze without messing up the beautiful frosting colors.
More Unicorn Recipes:
For the Cake
Buttercream Frosting for Icing the Cake
Make the Cake Layers
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease sides of 8 inch round cake pans with butter and then line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
- Add flour and egg mixture alternately to butter mixture. Mix on low speed and scrape sides of the bowl as needed until thoroughly combined.
- Pour 1/6 of the batter into each cake pan.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let it cool for 10 minutes. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap and freeze.
Make the Buttercream for the Cake Layers
- In a stand mixer, add the butter and beat for 5 minutes.
- Gradually add the sugar 1/2 cup in batches beating between each addition.
- Slowly add vanilla extract and milk. Beat on high for 3 minutes, until fully combined.
Make the Buttercream for Decorating the Cake
- Mix frosting ingredients as listed above.
- Divide buttercream evenly into 5 bowls and another small bowl with 3 tablespoons. Add different colors to each mixing bowl. Add black food coloring into a small bowl.
- With a large spoon, add buttercream into a large piping bags.
Decorate the Cake
- Using a revolving cake stand, put a dollop of buttercream on the bottom (this will prevent the cake from sliding).
- Place 1 frozen cake layer in the center. Spoon 1 cup of buttercream frosting on top and spread evenly with a cake spatula.
- Place the second frozen cake layer upside down on top of the first layer. Repeat the process till all layers are stacked.
- Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Crumb coat the outside of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream frosting and spread evenly. Place the cake back into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Take out of the fridge and frost with a thicker layer of buttercream icing.
- Pipe different color rosettes to create a mane. Pipe on the eyes with black icing.