Winter has finally fallen upon my home in CNY. I’m quite used to harsh winters here, but this year, it has taken Old-Man Winter a bit longer than usual to bestow his frozen wrath upon us. Well, the snow has finally hit us and the cold has settled in. At last, it feels like winter. Weather like this always brings to mind thoughts of frozen tundras, igloos, Antarctica, and the penguins who live in Antarctica. I decided I needed to recreate this wintery fantasy in an edible form, and so this Igloo Penguin Cake was born.
I love cake. I love penguins. Is there anything better than having them both in one place? This cake is absolutely adorable, almost too cute to eat. I say “almost” because the cake itself is too good to not eat. I could’ve used a boxed mix to make life a bit easier, but I am a scratch-baker, so I went for homemade. This Best Yellow Cake recipe is absolutely perfect. I never intended on stumbling upon the ideal yellow cake when I set out to build this igloo; I was merely looking for a base to build upon. However, what I found was an incredibly moist, fluffy, and delicious cake. The texture is perfect; the flavor is ideal. I will never bake another vanilla cake again.
Naturally, I employed my favorite Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream to cover this edible igloo. It’s smooth, easily spreadable, and undeniably delicious. I think it is truly the best frosting I’ve ever tried. So, between the delicious cake and the luscious buttercream, this winter wonderland confection is not only impressive to look at; it is heaven to eat as well.
This little Igloo Cake is the epitome of winter. It depicts an enchanted snow-covered scene on a chilly winter’s day, but the cute little penguins don’t seem to mind the cold at all. Although time-consuming to make, it’s not actually as difficult as it seems. The results are well-worth the time you put into this sweet, whimsical igloo.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- You can make the fondant homemade, but I find it saves a lot of time to buy it from a store like Michael’s.
- If you’ve never had fondant before, it’s more for aesthetic purposes than taste. You can eat it, of course; I just prefer to take it off my slice before digging in.
- You can make a boxed cake mix if you want to save yourself time. (But this is one DELICIOUS cake & frosting recipe, so I highly recommend it! Even if you don’t use it for this, use it for a regular cake!)
- You can basically make any flavor cake you want. I chose to keep it simple with classic vanilla, but chocolate, red velvet, or confetti would be delicious too.
- You should, however, stick to vanilla frosting so that you can dye it blue. I highly, highly recommend my frosting recipe below. It is the perfect texture, spreads easily, and it tastes like HEAVEN.
- You could space this out and make the cake the day before then decorate it the next day.
- If you’re not a penguin fan, you could make fondant polar bears instead!
- I had some issues getting the bowl cake to bake evenly since it is so deep. The top browned a bit more than I would’ve liked, but the good news is, that part gets carved off anyway.
Igloo Penguin Cake
By The Smart Cookie Cook
For the Igloo:
- 1 Best Yellow Cake (recipe follows), baked in a 9-in round cake pan and a 1.5-quart oven-proof bowl
- Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream (recipe follows)
- Neon blue food dye
- 1 plain donut
- White fondant
- Optional: white luster dust and chopped coconut flakes, for decoration
- Special Equipment: Cake knife (for carving), parchment paper, 1.5-quart oven-proof bowl (like Pyrex), pizza cutter (for cutting the fondant bricks for the igloo)
For the penguins:
- Black fondant
- White fondant
- Red & yellow food dye
- Optional: Hershey Kisses for “hats” on the penguins
- Special Equipment: kitchen sheers or a small knife (for cutting the fondant)
- Make the cake (see recipe below). Let cool completely before continuing.
- Invert the circle cake onto your working surface. Chisel off the round top of the cake so that you have a flat surface. Carefully flip the cake over (this will give you the cleaner side facing up so you’ll have a smoother surface for frosting and less chance of getting crumbs in the frosting).
- Stick pieces of parchment paper under the cake, around the edges. This will allow for easy clean up when you make a mess with the frosting.
- Make the frosting (see recipe below). Add 2-3 drops of neon blue food coloring (or however much necessary to reach your desired color) and mix it in just until color is evenly distributed.
- Spread about 1/3 of the frosting on top of the cake and spread just to the edges. Take the bowl cake and trim off the round top so that it is flat. Invert the bowl cake on top of the iced round cake. The round cake will have a larger radius than the bowl cake. Use a cake knife to carve off the excess edges of the bottom cake so that both layers of cake are the same size.
- Take the donut and cut off the bottom third. Spread frosting onto one side of the larger half of the donut. Use the frosting as a glue to attach the donut to the front of the igloo cake.
- Spread the remaining frosting onto the cake. Evenly spread across the cake’s entire surface, including the donut, so it is smooth. It doesn’t have to be perfect; you’re covering it with fondant.
- When you’re done frosting, carefully remove the pieces of parchment paper from underneath the cake and discard.
- Roll out the fondant as thin as you can without it being so thin that it tears (use some muscle!). Use the pizza cutter to cut vertical strips about 1 1/4 inch in width (doesn’t need to be exact; cut it however wide or thin you like). Then cut the strips horizontally, creating rectangles.
- One by one, stick the fondant bricks onto the cake. Work in layers, making a line of bricks around the cake, one on top of the other (just as you would build an actual igloo), until the entire cake is covered. Cut down bricks as necessary to make their sizes match better. Cover the donut tunnel in fondant bricks as well.
- Sprinkle chopped coconut flakes around the cake like snow. Use either a small pastry brush or your fingers to spread the luster dust onto the bricks of the igloo. I sprinkled some luster dust onto the coconut too.
- Make the penguins: Break off a hunk of black fondant and roll into a ball (about 1 1/4 inch in diameter). Shape the ball into a narrow egg shape.
- Using leftover white fondant from the bricks, cut out a small oval shape to represent the penguin’s belly and stick it onto the front of the penguin. You may need to wet the oval very slightly to get it to stick. Make two tiny white ovals to represent eyes and stick those above the white belly. Attach tiny black circles to the white eyes as pupils.
- Take another piece of white fondant. Squeeze two drops of yellow food dye and one drop of red food dye directly onto the fondant. Knead the fondant with your fingers until the orange color is evenly distributed. Add more food dye if necessary.
- Roll the orange fondant out. Cut out a small triangle, about half the size of the eyes. Place centered between the eyes and above the belly.
- Roll out a piece of black fondant. Cut out two black triangles to represent the wings, about the size of the white belly. Attach one wing to each side of the penguin. He’s done! Place a Hershey kiss on the penguin’s head to represent a hat, if you wish.
- Repeat with however many more penguins you would like. You can also vary the sizes. I made two large “parent penguins” and one little “baby penguin.” Note: I made my penguins on the chubbier side because I’ think they’re cute. You can make them however tall, short, fat, or skinny you want.
- Place the penguins by the igloo however you like. Make a cute, wintery scene!
Best Yellow Cake
Cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen
- 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and a 1.5-quart oven-proof bowl.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
Pour batter evenly between the round cake pan and the bowl, then rap pan and bowl on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 45 minutes for the cake pan and 40-50 minutes for the bowl. Cool completely before removing from pans.
Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Food Network
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add vanilla, almond extract, and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream or powdered sugar if necessary to reach desired consistency.
A happy family of penguins and their cozy igloo home in a frozen, snowy tundra.
…Now grab a fork and dig in!