Here are a few tips, tricks and recipes to make this adorable elephant cake. I made this for a baby shower with an elephant theme. I’ll walk you through the process step by step. The design is very simple. Let’s get going!
- 10″, 8″ and 6″ round cake pans
- 2 Recipes of fondant (Wilton recipe-below)
- 3 Recipes of cake icing (Mrs. Mayo’s recipe-below)
- 5 Recipes of cake mix (recipes below–except vanilla)
- Gel food color: Wilton lemon yellow, black, sky blue, pink (for elephant ears and cheeks)
- Small amount gold paper shreds
- 1 Recipe simple syrup
- Ribbon to place around cake board, amount and width of ribbon will vary
- Sugar pearls or small round candies for board decoration (I purchased mine at my local grocery store)
- Chevron pattern mold (like this)
- Fondant ribbon cutting tool (like this)
- Fondant smoothers (like these)
- Heart fondant plunger-style cutters (like these)
- Cake supports (like these)
- Miscellaneous tools:fondant smoothers, knife, ruler, cornstarch, toothpicks, measuring tape, small paint brush
1)Make fondant. I used Wilton’s recipe for marshmallow fondant. It’s very inexpensive and tastes great. See (this post for the recipe.)
It helps to make fondant ahead for time purposes, also many recipes call for letting the fondant rest overnight. I have used homemade fondant right away without a problem but it is helpful to have it done. Sprinkle cornstarch on work surface for rolling out fondant.
Color fondant with gel food coloring. How much fondant of each color? I didn’t measure the amount but I also hate to run out where you might have to make more in the EXACT same color. My method is very unscientific. I pulled out a glob that looked to be the correct size of a baby elephant, then estimated how much for the other aqua decorations. Then I pulled out a little more for good measure. Roll into a smooth ball. Since Wilton gel coloring is readily available, that is what I use to color fondant. To make the aqua color, I used a toothpick to scoop some sky blue onto my fondant ball and worked it in until evenly distributed. Don’t use too much if you want a pale color. Color will deepen as it rests. The sky blue is a beautiful color, but I needed it a tad more green so I used a tiny amount of lemon yellow and swiped it on as before. Work in thoroughly. Use the same method to color the gray by using a small amount of black food coloring. Color a very tiny amount black, dark gray and dark aqua.
2)It’s a good idea to make the topper early to give it time to dry a little. I didn’t have much time to make the topper and made it strictly out of fondant. I could have used modeling chocolate for ease of, well, modeling. I didn’t have the ingredients for that option so fondant was my material. It worked fine but it was a challenge to keep it pliable enough to finish before it started drying out. I didn’t do step by step instructions for the topper. If you wish to see a more detailed how-to on the elephants, please leave a comment and I will see if I can do that for you. If sculpting seems a bit much for you, use a stuffed animal or toy. It will still be cute!
Sculpt the elephants and anchor on a small piece of cardboard with cake icing, melted chocolate or royal icing. I used cake icing because that’s what I had on hand and the cake was being eaten within a matter of hours. Set aside.
3) Let’s bake! I found a delicious chocolate cake recipe from Duff Goldman. This is the first time I’ve tried coffee in a chocolate recipe. I’ve always heard about using coffee in combination with chocolate but I’ve never given it a try. I’m just not a fan of coffee and thought the taste would come through in more of a mocha-type flavor. I was wrong! You can’t taste the coffee and it serves to enhance the chocolate. It’s delicious!
For the cake pictured, I used 2 recipes of chocolate cake (10″), 2 recipes of vanilla cake (8″) and one recipe strawberry (6″). The chocolate and strawberry recipes will be below. A homemade cake is denser than a store bought mix and is much easier to stack. It’s worth the extra effort and tastes much better too! I wasn’t happy with the vanilla cake recipe I tried, but I will keep working on that and let you know when I find a good one.
Bake cakes-2 (10″) chocolate, 2 (8″) vanilla and 2 (6″) strawberry. Cool. Level. (See this post for more on leveling cakes.)
Sprinkle with plain simple syrup. I’d actually say it’s more of a light dousing of syrup; just don’t get the cake too wet. I used plain syrup for the chocolate cake, vanilla flavored syrup for the vanilla cake and strawberry flavored syrup for the strawberry cake. Recipes are below.
4)Make icing (recipes below). Fill cakes with respective flavored icings. I filled the strawberry cake with the strawberry buttercream as filling. The icing was Mrs. Mayo’s. The Chocolate cake was filled with chocolate buttercream and iced with Mrs. Mayo’s. The vanilla cake was filled and iced with Mrs. Mayo’s. Crumb coat to seal in crumbs. Chill till firm, about half an hour. Frost cakes with final icing. Chill.
5)Roll out gray fondant to cover the outside edge of your cake board. After you are certain of placement, fondant will stick to the board by sprinkling board lightly with water. Using rulers, indent fondant at 1 inch intervals. Using the same method, indent in the opposite direction causing a diamond effect to show on the fondant.
I found it was necessary to put the sugar pearls on the fondant line intersections immediately to help them stick. Some will be misplaced when you put the cake on the board, but the pearls will stick better if pressed in the fondant while it’s still pliable. If some fall away later, use a SMALL amount of water and press them back in. If you use too much water, they will melt.
6)Cover all cakes with white fondant. Smooth top and then sides, pulling gently outward to avoid wrinkles. Smooth down sides with hands first, then as you finish, smooth with fondant smoothers for a flawless finish. Trim excess at bottom. Use one smoother on top and one going around side to form a crisp edge at the top. Place 10″ cake on the prepared cake board.
7)For bottom cake, cut 1″ strips of gray fondant. With a toothpick, mark 2″ intervals around the top edge of cake. Place the strips of gray fondant onto the cake with a small amount of water (use a clean , small paint brush). Trim excess at top, remembering the 8″ cake will be placed on top of this cake. Cut aqua fondant into 1/2″ strips and place in between gray strips in the same manner. You are done with the bottom cake!
8)To decorate the middle cake: Cut a 2 1/2″ wide strip of gray fondant. Apply to cake horizontally using a brush and water. Lightly dust chevron mold with cornstarch and press aqua fondant into mold. trim away excess to make a flat strip. Do this as many times as needed to go around cake. Using brush and a small amount of water, apply chevron strips onto gray 2 1/2″ stripe horizontally around cake. You are done with second cake! Don’t place cake onto top of bottom cake just yet. You must use anchors to hold up the weight of the cakes. Also, if you are transporting the cake to a different location, it’s best to wait to stack the cakes.
9)To decorate the top cake: Roll out gray and aqua fondant and cut out large aqua hearts and smaller gray hearts using plunger-style cutter. “Glue” onto cake using brush and water as seen in the photo. You are done with the top cake!
10)To support cakes: I have seen many famous cake decorators use wooden dowels to support cakes. I have had trouble two times (as in fallen cakes!!) with dowels and so have become a little gun-shy to use them anymore. I tend to use plastic columns cut down to the height of my cake. They are readily available at hobby stores and are originally intended to be used as cake separators. I hope they continue to make these as I haven’t had any issues with cakes falling since I’ve started using them and they are reusable.
11)Stack cakes as seen in the picture, placing support columns into bottom and middle cakes, trimming columns as necessary. Place paper shreds on top tier. Place elephant sculpture on top.
The cake was a big hit and was delicious too! The recipes I used are below.
Equal parts sugar and water. For these 3 cakes, use about 1 cup of sugar and water. Heat to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. Take off heat. Let cool. The 10″ chocolate cake needed approximately 1/3 cup plain simple syrup.
VANILLA SIMPLE SYRUP
For the 8″ vanilla cake, take about 1/4 cup of plain simple syrup and add 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. Stir together.
STRAWBERRY SIMPLE SYRUP
For the 6″ strawberry cake, take about 1/4 cup of plain simple syrup and add 1 tsp strawberry extract. Stir together.
The recipe is written exactly as I found it online. I have just a few notes at the bottom that applied to our elephant cake.
DUFF GOLDMAN’S CHOCOLATE CAKE [makes 2 (9″) cakes]
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brewed coffee
- 1/2 c. water
- 1/3 c. unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 3 extra large eggs
- 1/2 c. buttermilk
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9″ cake pans.
2.In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
3.In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in coffee, cocoa powder and 1/2 c. water and heat for one minute, stirring constantly. Pour the melted butter mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until well-combined.
4.In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Add it to the batter and mix until smooth. [Batter will be very runny.]
5.Divide the batter between the two cake pans, scraping all the batter from the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the enter comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pans and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
A few notes: Use TWO recipes for the two (10″) cake pans. One recipe is used in each pan. Baking time is longer: approximately 50-55 minutes, but keep watching the cake carefully. Also, the way I prepare the pans is to spray with baking spray, then line bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Works every time for a clean cake removal.
FRESH STRAWBERRY CAKE (recipe by thebakerupstairs)
- 1 1/2 c. cake flour
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 c. sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 c. butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 c. milk
- 3/4 c. strawberry puree (from about 1 1/2 c.strawberries)
- 2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8″ pans. In a large bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat in the eggs one at a time. In a measuring cup, combine milk, strawberry puree and vanilla. Add half the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix to combine. Add the other half of the milk mixture and mix until smooth. Divide between two 8″cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
FRESH STRAWBERRY BUTTERCREAM (recipe by thebakerupstairs)
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- pinch of salt
- 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 TBL strawberry puree (from about 1/2 c. strawberries)
- Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the salt, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix to combine. Add the strawberry puree and beat until light and fluffy.
MRS. MAYO’S BUTTERCREAM ICING
- 1/2 c. plus 2 TBL vegetable shortening
- 3 3/4 c. powdered sugar
- 1/8 c. French vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. water
- 1 tsp. clear vanilla (it doesn’t have to be clear if you are covering with fondant)
- 2 drops butter flavoring
Mix together until smooth and creamy.
CHOCOLATE FILLING/ICING (recipe by ideastimestwo.com)
- 1/2 c. butter, softened
- 1/4 c. unsweetened baking cocoa
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 3 3/4 c. powdered sugar
- About 4-6 TBL milk
Mix together until creamy, adding milk to reach desired consistency. I make it a little thicker for filling and a bit thinner for icing.
Leave comment if you wish to see a elephant sculpting tutorial. Enjoy!