I celebrated my birthday this past Sunday. I turned 29. Again. My grandma made it very clear when I was little that the women of our family never aged past 29 years old. I didn’t believe her until the year after I turned 29, and lo and behold! I turned 29 again! Aren’t I lucky? 😉
I was inspired to make myself a narwhal birthday cake this year after spending a week at Walt Disney World with my husband and our three nephews. This was our nephew’s first trip to Disney, and it was so amazing to be able to take them.
When my oldest nephew started talking, he could only say “Aunt Darla” as “Aunt Darwha.” Soon, I had two more awesome nephews who could only pronounce my name as “Darwha.” My brother-in-law remarked once that it sounded like they were saying “narwhal,” and before you know it, I became “Aunt Narwhal.” And I adored it. I still do, and I’ve wanted a narwhal cake for a few years now. This year, I finally had it, and it was the best!
My design was inspired by all of those unicorn cakes that are going viral right now. I absolutely adore them, and I’d love to make one for my sister, who has loved unicorns since she was itty bitty, but for me, it was a narwhal or nothing. 🙂
I’ve never made a domed cake before, so this was a learning experience for me. I considered using rolled fondant to cover the cake, so I would have a nice smooth finish, but I really wanted to make this with as much buttercream as possible, since it’s my favorite.
I made my cake 6-inches around, so I made four 6-inch round layers and one 6-inch dome layer. I leveled each cake once it was cooled, then frosted and stacked the layers. Next, I frosted the entire cake, and smoothed it down to a crumb-coat. I chilled the cake for about 30 minutes, then I frosted the whole cake in pink frosting before smoothing it down as best as I could. I honestly didn’t worry about making the cake perfectly smooth, because I knew I’d be covering it with lots of fun sea stars and frosting barnacles. I did want it a little smoother, though, so I used a damp paper towel to press down some of the more obvious lumps and bumps.
As you can see in the photo above, the paper towel will leave an impression in the frosting. Some people don’t mind it, and honestly, it kind of works nicely with the whole sea creature theme, but I’m not terribly fond of it, so once the frosting dried a bit, I pressed most of the paper towel impressions out with clean fingers.
To create the waves breaking around the base of my cake, I used a small offset spatula to smear bits of white buttercream all the way around the cake. Next, I repeated the process with a pretty turquoise buttercream.
Finally, I filled in the base of the cake with more turquoise frosting. The best part about creating buttercream water is that it definitely doesn’t need to be smooth, so it’s incredibly fun and easy to make.
For my narwhal’s horn, I really wanted to create something that wasn’t too heavy or difficult, and steered clear of looking mildly obscene, so I used an ice cream cone as a base. Narwhal’s have very long, very thin horns in nature, but I was going for more of a cute, squishy Kawaii look, so the short and stout shape of the cone, was perfect.
I stuffed the cone full of marshmallows before using a chopstick in the center as my anchor for putting the cone on the cake. You could also use a skewer or dowel, or you could even skip the anchor, since the horn won’t be very tall. I decided to use it, because I knew I’d be adding decorations to it, and I didn’t want to risk it falling over.
Once the cone was ready, I wrapped it in rolled fondant and pressed a spiral into it to create the horn look. I experimented with using a long rope of fondant wrapped around the cone, but it became very heavy, fat, and unwieldy. Using a flat sheet of rolled fondant and pressing the spiral into it was far easier, and gave me a much cleaner look.
Before placing the horn on the cake, I painted it a rose gold color using gold and copper luster dust and a small amount of pink powder food coloring. When mixing your colors, start with almost all gold luster dust and only the smallest amount of copper luster dust and pink powdered food coloring. You can always add more to create the desired color. I mixed the powders with clear almond extract, but you can also use clear vanilla extract or vodka. I painted the horn thoroughly and let it dry before adding a second coat. Since the extracts and vodka are mostly alcohol, the horn will dry relatively quickly.
After centering the horn on my cake, I began adding cute starfish and frosting “barnacles”. I created my starfish by shaping them with fondant and then painting them with buttercream frosting. I used an actual paintbrush to paint the frosting on and create a rough texture. I also made some simple ribbon roses out of the fondant…just because. 🙂
I also used some of the rolled out fondant, tinted pink, to create the flippers for my narwhal.
For the barnacles all over the cake, I use a trio of pink, yellow, and light turquoise frostings.
I drew my narwhal’s face on using Ateco #4 tip and black frosting.
I can’t express how happy this cake made me on my birthday! It was such a great reminder of my nephews, while being so very cheery.
I had a ton of fun making this cake, and since it’s mostly frosting, it was also super easy. I hope you will give this happy narwhal cake a try. Have a great weekend!!
Perfect Vanilla Buttercream (double batch)
Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes (double batch, made four 6-inch round layers and one 6-inch dome)
Marshmallow Fondant (for the horn, flippers, and starfish)