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This reindeer cake tutorial is easy to follow! Use your favorite cake recipe, follow the video, and you’ll have a beautiful Christmas cake to share.
Darlings, this reindeer cake is almost too cute to eat. Almost. You’d never guess it’s a pretty straightforward cake to decorate. The tools are pretty simple, and you can customize the design to fit your style. It’s a fun spin on the popular unicorn cake trend, and perfect for your next holiday party. Or to impress everyone at the office. Tis the season to be a little extra and as my kind of people, I support you. Food people are fabulous.
You’ll want to watch the full video to get all the decorating details. But if you can’t get to the video right now, keep reading and you’ll get a summary as well as all the helpful links I refer to in the video.
Think of it as one of my in-person cake decorating classes condensed into a little phone or computer sized package. So read the post to see what you need, gather all your materials, then prop your phone or laptop on your work space and let’s decorate a reindeer cake together!
What kind of cake should I use?
Use your favorite cake recipe. I use my perfect chocolate cake from scratch almost every time I make this cake because I think it fits well. And who doesn’t love chocolate? Please feel free to use whatever cake recipe you’d like in whatever flavor. Since a chocolate buttercream frosting works best with this cake though, I’d recommend a cake flavor that pairs well with chocolate icing.
You also want to be sure it’s a cake you can stack to create height. I will either bake an 8 inch cake in 3 separate layers. Alternatively I will bake 2 layers and cut each layer in half horizontally to make 4 thin layers. This is what I did for the reindeer cake in the pictures. The height helps balance the antlers and keep the cake aesthetically pleasing.
For the frosting, I’d recommend making a homemade frosting because it’s a little easier to work with than the canned stuff you find in the grocery stores. I use a double batch of my decadent chocolate buttercream frosting.
The other frosting I use is the piping consistency chocolate ganache. This is a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to heavy cream. I mix this before I start leveling and layering the cake, and in about an hour and a half or so when the cake has been completely layered, crumb coated and chilled, the ganache is ready to use.
What materials do I need to decorate the reindeer cake?
All the materials you need to decorate this cake can be found easily at your local craft store. Items like a turntable and cake leveler are helpful, but not required. You can work around that with a little ingenuity. I do feel that a turntable is a great little investment for anyone who wants to decorate cakes. A basic one will do just fine, promise!
For the piping tips I recommend a small round tip, then an assortment of open and closed star tips. I explain the difference in the video. The star tips provide the nicest swirls. And if you’d like to layer your reindeer mane so it sits a bit taller, these also layer the nicest in my opinion.
As for the candies and extra embellishments, get creative! I stuck to chocolate candies because I wanted to keep the cake a very rich chocolate. I wish you could have smelled it! But any other small candy will do. If you want to get really creative, some mini cut out decorated sugar cookies might work too! Anything that fits your vision and is small enough to not overpower the rest of the cake is perfect.
What are your tips for making chocolate antlers for the reindeer cake?
First of all, unless you’re interested in tempering chocolate, just use candy coating! Candy coating, also known as compound chocolate, works perfectly in this scenario. You just melt, place on wax paper taped over a board with your template, and let it set!
If you’d prefer to freehand your antlers, go for it. There is no fixed “correct” design. If – like me – your artistic skills are a little rusty and you need a guide, DOWNLOAD THE REINDEER CAKE ANTLER TEMPLATE HERE.
In the video I give you a few extra tips, so make sure to give that a watch. What I love about making the antlers is that all the decorations on the cake are completely edible! And the people who end up with an antler at the time of cake cutting feel special. Isn’t that why most of us bake anyway? It’s our love language. <3
Tips for making a reindeer cake in advance…
Before I leave you with the video and the how-to, I’d like to give you a few tips on decorating this particular cake in advance. The holidays get super busy, and if you’re making this for a party, you don’t have to stress yourself out and try to do everything the same day!
First of all, you know I’m a huge fan of baking cake a day or two in advance, wrapping while still warm, and refrigerating. If I’m waiting longer than 2 days, I freeze, then thaw overnight.
You can crumb coat and frost your chilled cake the day before your event. I wouldn’t recommend earlier since the candy can “weep” in the refrigerator and transfer color.
Decorate your cake the day before the event, but don’t add the antlers! You can make the antlers and leave them at room temperature overnight. Decorate the cake, using a toothpick to mark where you plan to insert the antlers. But add the mane and everything. Refrigerate that in a cake carrier or box if your kitchen is too warm to leave out. If you use the chocolate cake recipe and frosting recipe I used, you can leave this cake covered on the counter overnight safely.
The day of your celebration, take the cake out of the refrigerator (if refrigerated) for 30 minutes or so, then insert the antlers. You don’t want the cake to be fridge cold when you insert the antlers or they may break going through the hard frosting. The cold frosting may also show cracks – which you also don’t want. So wait a bit to let the frosting come to temperature and then add the antlers. Place on your dessert table and wait for the compliments!
If you are driving the cake somewhere else, wait to add the antlers until you arrive if possible. I drove this cake 15 minutes to my daughter’s preschool and every bump was nerve wracking! You don’t need that this holiday season, darlings. Assemble upon arrival. 😉
And now… the tutorial!
Happy decorating darlings!
- Weigh your chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave 1 minute at 50% power. Allow to sit 30 seconds, then stir. Add additional 30 second intervals as needed until your ganache is smooth. Set aside to firm up.
- Use tape to attach your template to your cutting board or other even work surface. Tape a layer of wax paper over the template. Melt your candy coating following the package instructions. Place into a piping bag and pipe your design over the template. Use a spoon or your offset spatula to smooth the coating. Make sure the template is well covered. If the coating is too thin, it will break. Set aside to set for 30-60 minutes, or refrigerate 15-20.
- Fill, crumb coat, and frost your cake. Use the bench scraper to help you create smooth sides as demonstrated in the video.
- Fit a piping bag with one of your star tips and fill with the chocolate ganache. Fit a second bag with another tip and fill with some of your leftover frosting. Use black cocoa powder or black gel coloring to darken the rest of the frosting. Fit a third piping bag with the small round tip and add a little of your black frosting. Fit the fourth piping bag with a star tip and the rest of the black frosting (for piping the collar).
- Using a toothpick or scribe tool, draw the eye lines on your cake. Use the black frosting bag fitted with the small round tip to trace the lines and add the eyes to your cake.
- Take your red gumball and place between the eyes to make your reindeer nose.
- Carefully peel your antlers off the wax paper. Insert the antlers into the cake. If you are making the cake in advance or transporting it, see the post for notes regarding this step.
- Use the ganache piping bag and extra frosting piping bag to pipe swirls on top your cake and down the back to make your reindeer "mane".
- Add candy embellishments and sprinkles as desired.
- Use the black frosting bag fitted with the star tip to pipe a collar around the base of your cake. Add additional embellishments to the collar if desired.
- Snap a photo, and enjoy your cake!