How To: Unicorn Cake (with homemade “funfetti” and natural dyes)

My daughter will turn eleven this month, and she finally made herself the unicorn cake of her dreams (that she’s been talking about for months)! I could not believe the response we got when I posted her creation on Instagram—my most popular IG post of all time, by far!—so I decided to share all the details here on the blog for those not on social media, and also so I could link to all the supplies and recipes she used to make it.

How To Unicorn Cake on 100 Days of Real Food

Trying to make it “REAL”

When my daughter first came to me about this cake she was requesting some supplies that A) sounded difficult to acquire/make and B) did not sound like “real” food! The last thing I wanted to do was track down marshmallow fondant, gold dust, or something equally unusual that I would not even want anyone to eat! So I told her if we were going to do this we were going to make a food-coloring/dye-free unicorn cake that was as close to real as possible.

She wanted it to be a multi-layer round cake to include homemade “funfetti” (i.e. yellow or vanilla cake with sprinkles mixed in). So we modified one of my cake recipes to make that happen, and let me tell you what … the outcome was just as tasty as it looks! The finished product is of course not 100% REAL, because of the refined sugar and white flour, but it was completely made from scratch using only natural food dyes (and even some whole-wheat flour). And I am okay with bending the rules a little when we’re celebrating one of our birthdays!

slice of homemade Unicorn Cake

Supplies and Recipes for a Natural Unicorn Cake

Here’s how she did it…

  • Unicorn Ears/Horn
    Homemade unicorn horns look super hard to make for non-professional bakers like us and use ingredients I would not want to eat. So why waste the time and money? Thanks to a tip from our neighbor, we perused Amazon for foam toppers and ended up choosing this unicorn birthday cake topper set, which worked out perfectly.photo of unicorn foam topper for unicorn birthday cake
  • Homemade Funfetti (for the yellow cake layer)
    As I mentioned, my daughter wanted “funfetti” cake, which is normally a highly processed boxed cake mix full of artificially dyed sprinkles. No, thank you! So we ordered a big bottle of dye-free sprinkles and combined it with my yellow cake recipe that’s on the blog for a DIY version. She didn’t put them all in the batter so she could save some to sprinkle on top.photo of India Tree dye-free sprinkles for unicorn cake
  • Natural Food Dyes (for the frosting)
    I recently discovered—and have been loving—the new natural food dyes by McCormick (not a sponsor, just like this product). It’s much better, in my opinion, than the India Tree ones, which come in little squeeze bottles and are rather pale. The McCormick ones are little packets of powder and work great without changing the flavor of the icing. She made pink, blue and purple by starting with my frosting recipe on the blog (without the optional beet juice). She made three batches of the frosting – two for the 3-layer cake, and one for the flowers. To color the flowers she divided it into three bowls and mixed the berry color into one, the sky blue color into another, and then both the berry & sky blue (for the purple) into the third bowl.
    photo of McCormick natural food dyes for unicorn cake
  • Chocolate Layer and Cake Pans
    I have two 9″ cake pans so she first made the yellow cake recipe mentioned above in the two pans (she even remembered to trace and cut out pieces of parchment for the bottom of the pans to make it easy to get out). And then she made a half recipe of my yummy chocolate cake recipe on the blog in just one of the pans for the middle layer.
    photo of two 9" cake pans used to make unicorn cake
  • Cake Platter
    A cake platter is always a nice touch for any homemade baked good! We use ours all the time, and here’s a similar cake platter I found online.
    photo of white cake platter for displaying unicorn cake
  • Frosting Bags/Tips (for the flowers)
    We own an inexpensive set of piping tips and disposable piping bags, and while we don’t use them often, there’s really no other way to decorate a cake with flowers and such! One trick we’ve learned is to put the tip into the bag (after cutting off the corner), lower it into a drinking glass, and fold the top edges of the bag over the glass before dropping in the frosting. Easiest and least messy way to do it for sure! To make the flowers themselves just takes a bit of practice.
    photo of frosting tips and disposable bags for unicorn cake
  • Turntable (to help with frosting)
    She actually did something I’ve never thought to do before. She cleared off a little turntable we have with condiments on it in our pantry and put her cake platter on top to aid her with the frosting. It did look like it made things easier to just spin it around as she went! Smart girl :)
    photo of turntable for unicorn cake

And here is my sweet girl hard at work cake decorating. I am so proud of her for making this, even though I don’t think she’s ever even baked a cake by herself before! She helps me a lot in the kitchen and makes dinner on occasion, but I’d say she did pretty darn good for her first solo birthday cake experience. The best part was seeing how happy it made her to have the cake of her dreams. :)

photo's of Lisa's daughter making her Unicorn Cake

Has anyone else attempted a unicorn cake at their house? It clearly is all the rage right now (if you have daughters)!

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22 thoughts on “How To: Unicorn Cake (with homemade “funfetti” and natural dyes)”

  1. I love this beautiful cake! I am so impressed your 11 year old made it! Thank you for sharing healthier ways to make a cake!

  2. cakes are always a good idea, no matter what season it is.
    What an amazing accomplishment..he must feel so relieved and you must be so proud! This cake is awesome! I can see it becoming a staple in my house, especially with the yummy dressing! Made this tonight, basically immediately after reading this post. Sooo good!

  3. This master piece cake look so beautiful and hope this will defiantly very taste. but when i made Funfetti are mixed with other part of cake. how i recover it. and thanks for sharing awesome article. hope this time i surprised my family member.

  4. It looks so wonderful and tasty, well i was thinking to make something special during the weekend but now I am sure what to make in the weekend to make it special. thanks to you i was able to learn this awesome recipe

  5. Hi….I am Dev from India. I love cakes. Cakes are made from many colors, creams and jams. It looks very beautiful and delicious. This recipes are very good. Thanks…………Keep sharing this type blog.

  6. Very impressive! Those dye sounds are so much more vivid then the tree of India dyes. Good to know one can now achieve colors other then pink (strawberry purée) and white. I can’t wait to try that lazy susan trick. I have contemplated professional cake decorating turn styles, but didn’t know how to transfer the decorated cakes to my glass cake stand without using cardboard rounds. This solve the problem.

  7. Wow. Just wow. Happy belated birthday and awesome job to your daughter! I’m making a mental note for my kiddos’ birthdays. Thanks!

  8. Lisa, kudos to your daughter for her ambition. I am very proud of her. She should watch martha stewart on pbs, to learn more. She is so smart. Her cake looks fantastic. I know you are proud of your girls. Keep her cooking. Lol

  9. Looks nice, unfortunately for my children with their special needs they cannot even use those sprinkles. But I make my own frosting and color it with purée strawberries, raspberries and such. After straining it I add it a little at a time. Not as bright as others but they love it.
    Glad to see she’s willing to do her own cake.

  10. Kudos to your daughter!! Love that she tackled a big, complex project and totally got it done! Can’t wait to show this post to my boys!

  11. You’re daughter has a real talent! I hope she is able to do more and share with everyone. :)
    Job well done!

  12. SO sad that this post didn’t come our before my daughter’s birthday!! I will definitely be planning a unicorn birthday for her next year… I cannot believe how cute this is! Oooor…. MY birthday is in two short months… I could make this for myself! ;)

  13. Love this! One question..how do you get the chocolate cake so dark. I have made it a few times and it comes out brown. can you share the brand of sugar and cocoa powder you are using?

  14. She did SUCH an awesome job, and I just love that she made it herself! Happy birthday to her, and kudos on a job well done!

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