Maya’s Unicorn Cake

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There is something odd about putting so much effort into a first birthday party but I can’t help but feel touched that so many people were excited to celebrate my big little girl!


The base of this cake is inspired by the Milk Bar birthday cake, devilishly tasty and very much worth the effort…yes, I know, there are about a million steps.

Funfetti Birthday Cake

Cake Base

  • 112 g butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
  • 120 g vegetable shortening (2/3 cup)
  • 480 g granulated sugar (2 1/2 cups)
  • 100 g light brown sugar (6 tablespoons, tightly packed)
  • 6 eggs
  • 220 g buttermilk (1 cup)
  • 130 g grapeseed oil (2/3 cup)
  • 15 g clear vanilla extract (4 teaspoons)
  • 500 g cake flour (4 cups)
  • 12 g baking powder (3 teaspoons)
  • 6 g kosher salt (1 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 100 g rainbow sprinkles (1/2 cup)
  •  25 g rainbow sprinkles (2 tablespoons), for sprinkling on top

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line the base of three 8-inch round pans with parchment. Prepare the batter in a large mixing bowl as this make a LOT of batter.

Combine the butter, shortening, and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides.

On low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous. Make sure the mixture is completely emulsified. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and the sprinkles. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spread the cake batter evenly between the three pans and sprinkle the remaining rainbow sprinkles on top of the batter.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.

Remove from oven and cool completely. You will only use 2 of the 3 cake bases. Cut two of the case bases in half horizontally for a 4 layer cake.


Makes about 4 cups of frosting

  • 230 g butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 100 g vegetable shortening (1/2 cup)
  • 110 g cream cheese (4 ounces)
  • 25 g glucose (2 tablespoon)
  • 35 g corn syrup (2 tablespoon)
  • 25 g clear vanilla extract (2 tablespoon)
  • 400 g confectioners’ sugar (2 1/2 cups)
  • 5 g kosher salt (1 teaspoon)
  • .25 g baking powder (pinch)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine the butter, shortening, and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

With the mixer on its lowest speed, stream in the glucose, corn syrup, and vanilla. Crank the mixer up to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is silky smooth and a glossy white. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid and mix on low speed just to incorporate them into the batter. Crank the speed back up to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a brilliant stark white, beautifully smooth frosting. it should look just like it came out of a plastic tub at the grocery store! Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Cake Soak

1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract

Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.


Makes about 2 1/4 cups crumbs

  • 100 g granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 25 g light brown sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons, tightly packed)
  • 90 g cake flour (3/4 cup)
  • 2 g baking powder (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 g kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 20 g rainbow sprinkles (2 tablespoons)
  • 40 g grapeseed oil (1/4 cup)
  • 12 g clear vanilla extract (1 tablespoon)

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well combined.

Add the oil and vanilla and paddle again to distribute. The wet ingredients will act as glue to help the dry ingredients form small clusters; continue paddling until that happens.

Distribute the crumbs on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or scarfing by the handful. Stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

I only ended up using about half the crumbs for the cake. I used up the rest of the crumbs for ice cream sundaes and for other cakes and cupcakes.

Buttercream for Exterior and for Decorating

  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4  cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Food coloring in pink, purple and blue
  • Silver or gold dragees, optional

Pour the egg whites and sugar into a bowl of a double boiler. Use a whisk to beat the mixture over the heat until the sugar has entirely dissolved. Remove from the heat and either transfer to a stand mixer or get out an electric hand mixer. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Slowly add the butter in tiny pieces. If the frosting starts to separate or curdle, keep beating! It should smooth out.

Divide the buttercream evenly across three bowls. Color each bowl of frosting starting with very little food coloring. Mix to combine. Place the three colors of frosting in 3 separate piping bags fitted with a large, medium and small star tip.

Horn, Ears and Eyelashes

  • White fondant
  • Black Fondant
  • Gold dust
  • 8-inch wooden skewer

Prepare this up to a week in advance and at least 3 days in advance.

Horn: Roll a ball of white fondant the size of 3 walnuts into a 12-inch rope. Work the dough such that it is thicker on one end than the other. Wrap the rope around the skewer to form a horn. Set aside overnight before painting with gold dust.

Ears: Roll a ball of white fondant the size of 2 walnuts into a 1/8-inch thick circle. Cut out two larger leaves and two smaller leaves. Using a bit of water adhere the smaller leaves onto the larger leaves. Curve slightly and set aside overnight before painting the inner leaves with gold dust.

Eyelashes: Using the black fondant, roll a small piece of fondant into a 2 1/2 inch long strand. Cut 1/2 inch off the end and attach 1/2 inch from one end. Curve the strand gently to form an eye with lashes. Repeat. Dry until ready to use.


Place the first of four cake layers on the serving plate. Brush liberally with the soak. Spread 1/6 of the frosting over this layer. Sprinkle liberally with the crumb mixture (about 1/2 a cup) followed by another 1/6 of the frosting. Repeat with the second layer and third layers. Fit the top with the final layer and press down gently to even out. Brush the top layer with the soak and using the rest of the frosting, ice the top and sides of the cake.

Using the prepared buttercream, frost the top and sides of cake evenly with a thin even layer. You should still about just over a cup of buttercream. Divide the rest of the cream in 3 separate containers and color with pink, blue and purple food coloring. Place the colored buttercream into 3 pastry bags fitted with different tips. Start with the largest tip and pipe a few rosettes to form the shape of a mane. Fill in with smaller rosettes and stars using the other colors. Sprinkle with a few dragees.

Right before serving. Place the horn, ears and eyelashes in place.


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