Just follow some comprehensive video instructions. I mean how hard could it be?
Sometimes when people commit to something that is way beyond their capabilities, they are saluted as brave or congratulated for having a red hot go. Like a kid at a sporting sport thing. Or a man going for a job above his qualifications. Or someone making a speech when they shouldn’t (“you did so well!”). But this does not apply when you’re making your daughter’s birthday cake.
Trigger warning: culinary murder.
Last year for her third birthday my daughter asked for a “pink pig cake”, which was easy, because it involved making a packet mix, some accidentally too runny pink icing and using smarties to make a pig shape. She was stoked.
This year, being a precocious genius, she upped the ante and asked for a unicorn cake.
“Sure!” I absentmindedly replied.
“How do you make a unicorn cake?” she asked me.
“I think you could, ahh… make a horn with an ice cream cone,” I said.
She seemed satisfied with this answer, and I pushed it to the back of my mind. But as we neared her birthday, the matter arose again. And again. And again. And having committed to it and wanting to fight her as little as possible, I kept up the pretence. One of those yogic things, perhaps – if you think it, it’ll come true. If you think you can make a unicorn cake, you can! After all, all you need to do is follow some instructions, right?
I knew from previous baking *experiences* (lolllll) that I needed to aim pretty low. So, amongst the fondant covered masterpieces of google, I came across this video recipe for an “easy unicorn cake” by Vijaya Selvaraju.
Look at those careless swirls and that thick, fluffy, white icing on Vijaya’s cake. What could go wrong?
I thought through this a million times before the big day. I borrowed a neighbour’s cake pans, and I even went and bought a surplus box of food colouring and heaps of other stuff I didn’t need.
Step one: Give up on the multicoloured cake idea. Just give up. Who the hell do you think you’re fooling? Even I know this woman is not actually making the perfect cake herself has made this cake a thousand times. Once I tried to make Rasta coloured cupcakes for my little boy’s first birthday and they just kinda turned out brownish. Stick to one colour. I’m rapidly losing patience with life so I gave in to patriarchy and gendered rubbish and made the mixture pink.
Step two: follow baking instructions on back of packet. This is always a big mistake. I’m not sure what you’re meant to do instead, but following the instructions on the packet resulted in two bulging cakes. Wonderful.
Step three: spend a decent amount of time staring at them, wondering how you’re meant to layer these things. Seriously. Come on. Do they… kinda… balance? I dunno. Then google it- people suggest shaving the bulging top off. Sounds heaps easy… 🙃 There’s even a method of taking it out before it’s cooked, rubbing some magical tea towel magic on it and something something, I dunno, I only had two cakes and I wasn’t going to stuff them up even more. One trusty website suggested that all one need to is put the bottom side up when layering. Why didn’t Vijaya have bulging cakes?
Step four: remove cakes from cake pans. Oh jaysus, you forgot to grease the tins! What the hell! Why! It even says it on the box! Ah! Consult google again. Carefully run the knife around the edge of the tins. Turn cake tins upside down while they’re warm and leave them for a bit. Eventually they’ll come out on their own. And they do.
Step five: Try to press on them a bit with the magical tea towel – nope, they’re bouncy as hell. That bulge is staying, baby.
Step six: make the icing. It’s “buttercream”, which is a bit confusing for me, because the recipe says six cups of icing sugar and forty million pounds one cup of butter. Six?! In Vijaya we trust. Go for it.
In they go. Icing sugar. Butter. And the vanilla extract. Ah, the bottle’s almost finished, so just chuck the rest of that in there. No such thing as icing that’s “too vanillery” when there’s that much sugar in there. And cream. Cream?! Shit. Isn’t cream what they say for milk when they’re serving coffee? Just put some milk in. Jeez that’s thick icing. Maybe at just a little bit more milk. Shhhhit.
Step seven: frost the cake…s. Just plonk that icing on there. Shit that’s runny. I immediately regret putting milk in. Should have googled further. Damn it. Put icing in the middle. Then then top cake upside down as per Vijaya’s instructions. Nope, that ain’t gonna happen. You can’t rest bulge against bulge. Even if my milkymilk buttercream icing wasn’t this runny that wouldn’t work. Put the top layer the right way up. And frost the top.
Step eight: Yah that’s not gonna work. Separate them now and cut your losses. So now just decorate a single layer unicorn cake. No one will ever know. Use your extensive arty cake viewing decorating skills to improvise a rainbow sprinkle mane.
There, aren’t you glad you spent all that money on random cake shit at Coles? Now just draw the unicorn’s head, which is basically just a horse with an ice cream cone on top and woaaaaah, what the fuck?
Step nine: It’s pretty late. Have an internal debate about what to do next. Do you really want the impressively impeccable preschool mums saying “oh wow, did the birthday girl decorate her own cake?”
Step ten: Yeah scrape that off and stick it in a plastic bag ‘bin’ you’ve got arranged on the bench. Jeez it really is getting late. Now cut your losses and lower your expectations once again. No shame in a normal bloody cake with writing and sprinkles. I don’t even need you Vijaya! Try your best to write neatly.
Mind that broken bag with the discarded icing inside…
Tell yourself there’s no such thing as too many sprinkles as you decorate the second cake.
Step thirteen: Plonk your “just in case” unicorn candle on top. Congratulations, you have made a “unicorn cake”!