Lemon Drizzle Unicorn Cake
It’s a wonderful comfort to know that for the foreseeable future, I’ll be able to make birthday cakes for those nearest and dearest to me like my children, hubby and so on. It may sound silly but honestly, what is a birthday without a cake? It makes me burst with pride to know that my sons will always have a cake made by their mummy (not to mention the money it’ll save me over the years - cakes aren’t cheap you know!)
This cake was made for my adorable God daughter who was turning 2. Her mummy left the design completely up to me (yes she trusts me that much... love you Lisa!). Being the girly girl she is, I knew a unicorn/pastel theme was just what was required for my golden little lady. Speaking of golden, let’s throw some gold details on the design too.
The flavour was going to be a lemon drizzle cake with lemon curd and lemon butter cream-I’d made this type of cake before for Lisa and she said it was the best lemon drizzle she’d ever tasted (I’m hoping she wasn’t being a biased friend, but hey, I’ll take that!).
Now if you’re going to embark on this project you need to prepare a few days in advance. It’s crucial to allow the fondant rainbow and unicorn to firm up; you don’t want a collapsing rainbow! Making the cake layers a day before decorating is also recommended to let the sponge settle. While you’re at it you can make the lemon curd in advance (up to one week). One more point to mention: this cake will need refrigeration particularly if it’s warm (lemon curd needs to be chilled). Don’t worry about fondant and fridges not being the best of friends, most cake decorators refrigerate their fondant cakes. Store the finished cake in a cake box in the fridge and the cake will be protected from moisture by the box. If some condensation appears on the cake when you remove it, simply leave it alone and it will evaporate on its own (trust me I’ve done my research and I had to refrigerate this cake overnight before serving it the next day). It was beautiful and it hadn’t dried out either – the lemon syrup keeps it wonderfully moist.
Needless to say, this is a great birthday cake for a little one, although I wouldn’t complain if someone made ME a unicorn cake. So what if I’m 32? Unicorns ROCK and they represent my belief that no one is EVER too old for fairy-tales. Besides, we could all do with a little magic!
So before you order that birthday cake, channel your inner fairy Godmother and give this a whirl... you can do it!
Prep time: 2 days+ (for the fondant unicorn and rainbow to harden up nicely)
Total time: 3 days
For the Fondant Rainbow:
50g pastel purple fondant
50g pastel blue fondant
50g pastel green fondant
50g pastel yellow fondant
50g pastel pink fondant
A little white fondant to make star cut outs
Edible gold paint
For the Fondant Unicorn:
130g White fondant
A couple of pea sized amounts of black, pastel yellow, pastel purple and pastel pink fondant
Edible gold paint
3-4 toothpicks, snapped in half
For the Gold Baroque & Plaque details:
150g White fondant
Baroque silicone mould (I got mine from ebay)
Plaque cutter (mine is from Wilton)
Edible gold paint
Thin cake decorators paint brush
For the Marbled Pastel Fondant:
150g pastel yellow fondant
150g pastel pink fondant
150g pastel purple fondant
150g pastel blue fondant
150g pastel green fondant
250g white fondant
For the Lemon Curd:
4 egg yolks
80ml lemon juice
Zest of 3 lemons
135g granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
85g butter cut into cubes
For the Lemon Cake:
450g unsalted butter
450g caster sugar
450g self raising flour
8 eggs (room temperature)
Zest of 5 lemons
For the Lemon Drizzle:
Juice of 4 lemons
150g caster sugar
For the Lemon Butter Cream:
300g unsalted butter, slightly softened
600g icing sugar, sifted
4 tsp Sicilian lemon extract
Make the fondant rainbow. Roll each colour of fondant into long sausages (using a cake smoother to help you achieve an even shape) and place over a round cutter, securing one colour on top of the other with a little edible glue/water using a thin brush. Once all the colours are done, level off the base of the rainbow using a sharp knife. Roll out some white fondant and cut out little stars. Attach onto the rainbow with some edible glue/water and paint the stars with edible gold paint. Insert 2 toothpicks in almost half way on either side of the rainbow’s base and place on foam or sponge to dry for AT LEAST 48 hours.
Make the fondant unicorn. Start by making the body and head. Shape 40g of white fondant for the head and 50g for the body. Insert a toothpick half way down the middle of the body and attach the head onto the exposed bit of toothpick. Now make the arms and legs. Take 20g of white fondant and divide in half (10g for each leg). Mould into little sausage shapes and insert half a toothpick into one end of the legs. Now take a fondant knife/needle tool or a sharp ended knife and make an outline for the hooves. Brush some edible glue onto the exposed toothpick and insert the legs into the sides of the body. Weigh out 15g of fondant for the arms and repeat the same process, securing the toothpicks with some edible glue. Make the ears. Shape some fondant into rough triangles and make an indentation into the middle of the ears using a fondant tool. Place the end of a toothpick into the sides of the head, brush with some glue and secure the ears. Now make the unicorn’s horn. Roll out a little fondant in a sausage shape but leaving the ends a tad thinner than the middle. Bring either side together to form a tear drop shape and begin twisting the fondant to form a horn. Push half a toothpick into the head, brush with a little edible glue and secure the horn onto the unicorn. For the nostrils, roll two tiny balls of white fondant and stick down using edible glue onto the middle of unicorns head, pressing down to flatten. Use a fondant tool to make a small hole in each nostril. Take the same amount of black fondant to make the eyes, roll the fondant flat and use a small round piping tip to cut out the circles. Secure onto the head, using a tiny bit of glue (too much will cause the eyes to leak black-not good!). Cut out tiny white circles for the irises and glue on to the eyes. Finally, make the hair and tail using the different pastel colours and attach onto the unicorn with edible glue- don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly neat, if anything it’ll make it cuter! To finish off, paint some edible gold paint onto the horn and hooves and allow the unicorn to dry and harden for a minimum of 48 hours.
Make the lemon curd. Pour a couple of inches of water into the bottom pot of a double boiler, bring to the boil and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. In the top part of the double boiler, add yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, pinch of salt and sugar. Whisk together and continue whisking (whisk, whisk, whisk-do not stop whisking!) until thickened, around 10 minutes. Do a ‘nappe’ test to see if the curd is done. Coat the back of a wooden spoon with the curd and run your finger across. Tilt the spoon and if the curd holds its shape and doesn’t run over the line- hooray you’ve done it! If not quite there, keep whisking over the simmering water for a few more minutes before retesting. Once done, take the lemon curd off the heat and stir in the butter, one cube at a time. Pour into a sterilised jar and refrigerate, where the curd will thicken further. This will keep for a week in the fridge.
Make the lemon drizzle. Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan and line four 7 or 8 inch sandwich tins with parchment paper (mine measure 7.5 inches in diameter). In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on a medium speed until pale and fluffy. Whilst the mixer is on, begin incorporating the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as you go and finishing off with the lemon zest. Gradually add in the flour and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake tins and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack. Liberally brush lemon syrup over the cakes whilst they are still warm. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating (if making the cake a day or two in advance) or freezing (up to 3 months). Personally, I bake mine the day before decorating and freeze the cakes overnight. Once defrosted, they’re in the same state they were once baked but now easier to handle and decorate!
Make the lemon buttercream. Cream butter in a stand mixer on a medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and CAREFULLY begin adding the icing sugar (no sugar storms please), scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Once all the sugar is added and absorbed, add in the lemon extract and mix for another couple of minutes on medium-high speed until creamy and fluffy.
Assemble the cake. Spread a little buttercream in the centre of a thin cake board (only slightly wider than the diameter of your cake-you want it about 1cm bigger in diameter, so once the crumb coat and fondant go on the board is not visible to the eye- I trimmed my cake board slightly after crumb coating). Place the first cake layer in the centre of the board and press down to stick the cake to the board. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with buttercream. Pipe a dam around the cake and fill the inside (half way up the dam) with more buttercream, smoothing down with an offset spatula. Dollop some lemon curd on top and smooth down. Place the second layer of cake directly on top and gently push down to stick. Repeat this process until you get to the final layer of cake, place on top and check the cake is sitting straight (a spirit leveller is a handy tool to ensure the top of the cake is even). Refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm everything up a little. Crumb coat the cake with the remaining buttercream, using a bench scraper to get it nice and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up nicely before applying the fondant.
Make the marbled fondant and apply to the cake. Roll each colour of fondant into long sausage shapes; making two of them white fondant. Now put half the colours with one white sausage and the remaining colours with the other white sausage. Press all the colours together to attach. Begin twisting the fondant and then fold in half. Twist again and roll into a rough ball. Sprinkle some corn flour on your work surface and begin rolling out the fondant, giving it a quarter turn after each roll till you have a large enough surface to cover the entire cake. I measure the sides and top of the cake, add another 2 inches to the total and roll out my fondant to that diameter. Lightly mist or brush the cake with some water, roll the fondant onto a rolling pin and place over the cake making sure you get an even over-hang all around. Smooth the top of the cake with a fondant smoother to get rid of any air bubbles and work your way around the cake, smoothing down and pulling out the fondant from the base as you go. Using a pizza cutter, trim the excess fondant and keep smoothing down till you achieve smooth sides and a fully covered base. Trim once more when you have completely smoothed down the cake. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect as the gold baroque fondant detail will hide the bottom of the cake- no one will know (mwahaha!). Now for the tricky bit. Using a cake lifter, carefully place the cake in the centre of a 10 inch fondant covered cake drum (it’s a heavy cake so it will need the support of a cake drum).
Make the gold baroque and plaque detail. Dust the inside of a silicone baroque mould with corn flour and push in white fondant, pressing down firmly with the palm of your hand to get into every nook and cranny. Cut away any excess fondant using a sharp knife and gently push the design out. Brush some edible glue onto the cake and attach, pressing down gently to secure. Repeat until the bottom of the cake is entirely covered. Carefully brush edible gold paint over the detail. Roll out some white fondant to about 4mm in thickness and cut out a plaque shape using a plaque cutter. Brush some edible glue onto the plaque and attach, making sure the edges are firmly glued on. Now cut out the required letters to spell out the name and attach them onto the plaque (double check the name will fit before gluing-mine was a close call!). Brush the name and outline of the plaque with gold paint.
Finish off the cake. Take your fondant rainbow (which by now should be rock solid) and push into the top of the cake – the toothpicks will keep it upright! Place the unicorn in front of the rainbow (I didn’t secure it into the cake with toothpicks, no need).
If necessary, go over the gold details with another coat of edible paint. Place in a cake box and refrigerate until a couple of hours before serving to bring it back to room temperature.
Show off your masterpiece but most of all, enjoy- it’s scrumptious!