My middle son has a thing for narwhals.
If you’re not familiar with them, they’re often called the “unicorn of the sea”. To me, they look kind of like a cross between a whale and a unicorn. A long time ago, he did a science project on narwhals, and ever since they’ve been his favorite animal.
In his room he has several stuffed narwhals, a narwhal “N” in the name blocks I painted for him, and a gorgeous narwhal watercolor painting (that I also painted). At Christmastime, I even found an adorable outdoor light up narwhal I just had to get for him!
Don’t worry, I didn’t pay the $200+ it’s going for on Amazon – ???? – it was around twenty bucks.
So when his twelfth birthday came around, I knew the perfect thing to make for him. A narwhal cake! Today I’ll talk a bit about the financials of making birthday cakes, share my hatred of fondant, and not only give you the recipe – but also share a video of the detailed how-to.
Be sure to watch it to the end to see a bunch of hungry people eat a narwhal! (cake).
Financials Of Making Birthday Cakes
I’ve talked about the economics of homemade birthday cake making, and explored whether it could be a good side hustle, when I posed about making an amazing Minecraft birthday cake for my middle son a few years back.
If you want to see how much making your own fondant-covered creation costs, or learn more about how I got started making these cakes (it’s not why you think), be sure to stop by the post.
Bottom line – I can say for sure that you don’t save money by making your own elaborate cakes. But you know what? It’s a fun hobby that doesn’t cost very much, helps me learn new skills, and brings a lot of joy to my family.
It’s one of those productive hobbies I’ve talked about in the past. Developing productive hobbies that increase your skills, help you save money, or help you earn money can be a great hack to reaching financial freedom. Hobbies where you do nothing but consume, cost you money, or don’t develop skills can still be fun pastimes – but if you can cultivate productive hobbies, it will help you more in the long run.
This is something I do for fun in the evenings and on weekends – and we get what would probably be a $100 cake for about $15.
So far I haven’t had a desire to turn it into a business, because that would take a fun hobby and make it into work. But if you’d like me to give it a whirl for you, I’m happy to be paid for my efforts!
In the start of my research process, I always look around Google, Pinterest and YouTube for inspiration.
And with narwhal cakes, it was easy to find adorable cakes…coated in fondant.
If you like the taste of fondant, I’m happy for you. In my family, the one time we did it for the Minecraft cake, no one ate the stuff. The fondant I got at the store is more of a “style over substance” item – at quite an expensive cost. I have seen that you can make fondant out of marshmallows, which I would like to try sometime because at least that sounds tasty.
But ordinary, buy from the store fondant ends up in the garbage in my house. For that Minecraft cake linked above, about half the cost was fondant! That’s a lot of money to pay for something that goes into the trash. Not to mention, it feels very wasteful to me to just toss perfectly good food in the garbage just because you used it for decoration.
So I was on a mission to make a fondant-less narwhal cake. But it appeared I would be on that mission on my own.
Making and Assembling the Cake
I used my tried and true devils food chocolate cake recipe, and simple buttercream, to make the cake. Luckily I already have all the food coloring I could ever need, and I have an ancient ball-shaped cake mold my mother used for my thirty-six year old brother back when he was in elementary school.
Hey, cake molds don’t go bad! Thirty year old molds work just as well today as they did back then. But if you don’t happen to have an old ball cake mold handed down from your mother, don’t worry, they still sell those.
I sketched out my idea first on paper, confirmed the colors with my son, and got to work. An ice cream cone would be the tusk, and he would be totally cake and icing.
From there it was simple – make the cake in the ball mold, carve it into a narwhal, then ice the whole thing.
Ta da! Narwhal cake.
OK I probably made what was hours of work sound a bit too simple there. The key to a really smooth icing without fondant takes time and patience. There’s a lot of smoothing out buttercream with a warm, wet paring knife until either (1) you have the perfect look you’re going for or (2) you get tired of it and decide it’s “good enough”.
Check Out The Video!
Here’s the full, fun new video showing you step by step how I made (and how we ate) the narwhal cake. If you’re looking for the supplies and recipe list, just scroll down a bit!
Here’s a list of all the supplies I used to make this awesome cake (affiliate links):
- Multi-pack of food coloring – lasts forever and a little bit goes a long way)
- Chocolate rocks – for fun, totally optional. I only used them because they were leftover from the crocodile cake I made the little guy on his fourth birthday
- Ball cake mold – thirty years old, or new, doesn’t matter
- Offset spatula
- Serrated knife
- Ice cream cones
- A large sheet pan to put the cake on
The Recipes – Chocolate Cake and Simple Buttercream
You’ve seen this recipe around my site before – it’s the same one I used in that Minecraft cake and the Owl cake I made last year. Honestly I found it because it worked well with egg substitutes and soymilk when my oldest had allergies, and today it works well without substitutes.
Delicious Devils Food Chocolate Cake Ingredients:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed for five minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and add vanilla.
Alternate mixing dry ingredients and buttermilk slowly until they’re both incorporated. Scrape down the bowl periodically. Beat one minute and pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 26 – 30 minutes or until toothpick/knife inserted into cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack five minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely before frosting.
- 1 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 8 or 9 tablespoons milk
- 7 1/2 cups (one package) powdered sugar
Mix butter and vanilla until creamy. Add eight tablespoons milk and powdered sugar. Mix slowly until sugar is incorporated, then on high. Add more milk as needed until it looks like frosting.
Let Me Know What You Think!
I’d love to hear from you – have you ever tried your hand at something like this? Do you also like narwhals? Have a name for my friend – or a cake you would have wanted for your twelfth birthday? Let me know in the comments!
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