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Cow Cake

I’m continuing my animal cake series with this adorable cow cake!

It’s made with moist, 6-inch marble cake layers and delicious vanilla buttercream. It’s just as cute as it is tasty!

image of an adorable buttercream cow birthday cake made with marbled chocolate and vanilla cake layers

Making this Cow Cake: Step by Step Tutorial

Let’s walk through each step of this cake together to make sure it turns out as amazing as possible!

Step 1: Bake and Trim Your Cake Layers

Line three 6-inch round cake pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick baking spray or homemade cake release.

Alternate spoonfuls of chocolate and vanilla cake batter into the prepared cake pans, filling them roughly one inch high with batter.

Bake for 33-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let them cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Flip the cake layers onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Level the cake layers with a serrated knife once they’re fully cooled. I also chose to torte each cake layer to turn my 3, thicker cake layers in 6 thinner cake layers, but this is totally optional!

image of a vanilla and chocolate marble cake layer that's been made for a cow themed birthday cake

Step #2: Make the Buttercream Frosting

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting. You can use either an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer.

If your frosting seems too thick after mixing together all your ingredients, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). Or if the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time).

If you’re unsure how thick your frosting should be, you can learn what consistency you’re looking for in my frosting consistency post.

Once you’ve finished making the frosting, you will have a large bowl of vanilla buttercream, and two small piping bags filled with pink and black buttercream.

image of vanilla american buttercream in bowl that's been stirred with a spatula to make it super smooth

Step 3: Assemble and Frost the Cake Layers

Next it’s time to assemble the cake! I recommend freezing your cake layers for about 20 minutes before stacking them. It will make them was easier to handle and frost.

Stack and frost the cake layers on an 8-inch greaseproof cake board. I recommend using a dab of frosting to help stick the bottom cake layer to the board.

Spread an even layer of frosting between each cake layer with an offset spatula. Add a thin coat of frosting (crumb coat) around the cake to fully cover the cake layers.

Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.

Cover the cake in a thicker layer of the vanilla buttercream and smooth using a bench scraper. Chill the cake again until the frosting is firm to the touch. This will make it much easier to add on the cow’s spots and snout!

image a 6-inch layer cake that has perfectly smooth buttercream frosting

Step 4: Making this Little Cow’s Face

While the cake chills, color 1/4 cup of white fondant an ivory color using a small drop of brown gel food coloring. Knead the fondant until it is evenly colored. I like to do this in a plastic bag so that I don’t dye my hands. Shape two horns using the ivory colored fondant and set aside.

Color 1 Tbsp of white fondant the same shade of pink as your buttercream using a small drop of pink gel food coloring. Cut out two small rings to be the cow’s nostrils and cut out two-1 inch circles to be the inside of the cow’s ears.

Roll out the remaining white fondant and use a 1 1/2-inch circle cutter to cut the ears. Place the pink circles on top of the white fondant. Pinch together the bottom of the circles to give them a bit more shape, then insert toothpicks into the base of each ear to make them easier to add to the cake.

Roll out the black fondant and use a circle cutter or bottle cap to cut out two 1-inch circles to make the eyes, and three thin arches to make the cow’s eye brows and mouth.

I recommend using small circle cutters to get the shape of the ears and eyes just right.

image of a fondant face that's been made for a cow cake

Step 5: Add the Finishing Touches

The final step is to cover the cake is spots and add on its facial features!

Remove the cake from the freezer or fridge. Use the pink buttercream to pipe and smooth a large, oblong, semi-circle onto the cake to make the cow’s snout.

Next add the fondant eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears and horns. Use the black buttercream to pipe spots around the cake, and smooth them with a small offset spatula.

image of an adorable buttercream cow birthday cake made with marbled chocolate and vanilla cake layers

Cow Cake Substitutions and Swaps

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this marble cake recipe.

  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar, as it will change the texture of the cake layers.
  • Buttermilk – You can also use full fat yogurt, sour cream, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Eggs – If you don’t have eggs on hand or you have an egg allergy you can use a flaxseed egg in its place or 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe, so canola or even sunflower oil would work great!
  • Vanilla Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract like coconut extract or hazelnut extract.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter in this recipe. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.

Tips for Making the Best Cow Cake:

  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better, so be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cake layers are tender and soft.
  • Use a bench scraper to help you get your final coat of frosting super smooth.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. This makes it easier to stack and frost.
  • Make this cow cake vegan or dairy free if needed! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the buttermilk and heavy cream, and use vegan butter sticks in place of the butter. For the eggs I recommend using an egg replacer like this.
image of an adorable cow birthday cake made with marbled chocolate and vanilla cake layers

Making this Cow Cake in Advance & Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make this cow birthday cake, I’d love to hear what think of it! Let me know by leaving a rating below.

If you plan to share on social media, you can tag me @chelsweets! Also use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media.

Yield: 20 servings

Cow Cake

image of an adorable cow birthday cake made with marbled chocolate and vanilla cake layers

This adorable cow cake is made with moist marble cake layers and delicious vanilla buttercream. It's just as cute as it is tasty!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 34 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 34 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake Recipe*

  • 2 cup all-purpose flour (260g)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 2/3 cup or 1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (150g)
  • 2/3 cup or 5 large egg whites, room temperature (155g)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (240g)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil (20g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • *additional ingredients for the chocolate cake are listed below

Additional Ingredients: (to be added after the vanilla cake batter is made, to change it into chocolate batter)

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa (20g)
  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar (38g)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (1g)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (56g)
  • 3 Tbsp buttermilk (40g)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434g; 1 lb box)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (907g; 2 lb bag)
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (45g)
  • 2 Tbsp of baking cocoa - added later (10g)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled (45g) - added later
  • Black gel food coloring - added later

Decorations

  • 2 small piping tips
  • 1/2 cup white fondant
  • 2 Tbsp black fondant
  • Pink, orange, and brown gel food coloring
  • 2 toothpicks

Suggested Equipment

Instructions

Marble Cake Layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 6-inch round cake pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick baking spray or homemade cake release.
  2. Begin by making the vanilla cake batter. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until fully combined.
  3. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture looks like sand.
  4. Mix in the egg whites on a low speed until incorporated, then mix in the buttermilk on a low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  5. Add in oil and vanilla and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  6. Pour half of the batter into a separate bowl (roughly 625 grams) and set aside.
  7. Now it's time to transform our other bowl of vanilla batter into chocolate cake batter. Mix the additional 1/4 cup baking cocoa, 3 Tbsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp baking powder into the remaining batter.
  8. Add in the additional egg and 3 Tbsp buttermilk. Mix on a low speed until smooth.
  9. Alternate spoonfuls of chocolate and vanilla cake batter into the prepared cake pans, filling them roughly one inch high with batter (I like to use a digital kitchen scale to make sure each pan has the same amount of batter).
  10. Bake for 33-35 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs).
  11. Let the layers cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Flip the cake layers onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  12. Level the cake layers with a serrated knife once they're fully cooled. I also chose to torte (cut horizontally) each cake layer to turn my 3, thicker cake layers in 6 thinner cake layers but this is totally optional!

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  1. Beat 2 cups of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds until smooth with a paddle attachment / stand mixer or a hand mixer.
  2. Mix in 1 Tbsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt on a low speed.
  3. Slowly add in 7 cups of powdered sugar. Half way through add in 3 Tbsp of heavy cream or milk to make it easier to mix. I like to place a kitchen towel over my mixer to contain any powdered sugar clouds.
  4. Mix on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached. 
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  6. Place 1 cup of buttercream into a separate bowl and mix in 2 Tbsp of baking cocoa, 1/4 cup melted and cooled chocolate, and a squirt of black gel food coloring in to the frosting. This will be used to make the cow's black spots. Place in a small piping bag fit with a small piping tip and set aside.
  7. Place 1/2 cup of buttercream in another bowl, and color it a warm shade of pink using a squirt of pink gel food coloring and a tiny drop of orange gel food coloring. Place in a small piping bag fit with a small piping tip and set aside.
  8. Cover the remaining uncolored frosting with plastic wrap to prevent crusting and set aside.

Assembling this Cow Cake

  1. Stack the cake layers on a greaseproof cardboard cake round or flat plate.
  2. Spread a thin dab of buttercream on the center of the board, to help your cake layer stay in place.
  3. Next, center the first cake layer the cake board.
  4. Spread an even layer of white buttercream on top of the cake layer with a large offset spatula. Repeat with remaining cake layers.
  5. Place the top cake layer upside down to make it easier to frost.
  6. Cover the cake in a thin layer of white buttercream and smooth using a bench scraper.
  7. Chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  8. Cover the cake in a thicker layer of the vanilla buttercream and smooth using a bench scraper. Chill the cake again in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch. This will make it much easier to add on the cow's spots and snout!

Decorating this Cow Cake

  1. While the cake chills, color 1/4 cup of white fondant an ivory color using a small drop of brown gel food coloring. Knead the fondant until it is evenly colored. I like to do this in a plastic bag so that I don't dye my hands. Shape two horns using the ivory colored fondant and set aside.
  2. Color 1 Tbsp of white fondant the same shade of pink as your buttercream using a small drop of pink gel food coloring. Knead the fondant until it is evenly colored. Cut out two small rings to be the cow's nostrils, and cut out two-1 inch circles to be the inside of the cow's ears.
  3. Roll out the remaining white fondant and use a 1 1/2-inch circle cutter to cut the ears. Place the pink circles on top of the white fondant, and pinch together the bottom of the circles to give them a bit more shape, and insert toothpicks into the base of each ear to make them easier to add to the cake.
  4. Roll out the black fondant and use a circle cutter or bottle cap to cut out two 1-inch circles to make the eyes, and three thin arches to make the cow's eye brows and mouth.
  5. Remove the cake from the freezer or fridge and use the pink buttercream to pipe and smooth a large, oblong, semi-circle onto the cake to make the cow's snout. Pipe two small circles at the top of the semi-circle to make the cow's nostrils.
  6. Add the fondant eyes, mouth, ears and horns. Use the black buttercream to pipe spots around the cake, and smooth them with a small offset spatula.

Notes

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.

Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

20

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 622Total Fat 30gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 86mgSodium 256mgCarbohydrates 86gFiber 1gSugar 72gProtein 4g

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