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Polar Bear Cake

This week I’m making a polar bear cake to continue my animal cake series!

I got a lot of requests for this cake, and with the frigid temperatures we’ve had lately, it felt appropriate.

This polar bear cake is made with tender vanilla cake layers and loads of piped vanilla buttercream fur!

image of an adorable polar bear cake made for a birthday party

Making the Face for this Little Polar Bear

While I’m always team buttercream, sometimes using a bit of fondant just makes sense.

We’ve already put so much energy into making the cake layers and buttercream from scratch, a tiny but of fondant never hurt anyone.

image of a fondant face and ears cut out to make a polar bear cake

I used a little bit of black, pink and white fondant to make the little face and ears for this polar bear.

Small circle cutters help you to get the shape of the eyes and ears just right, and I love the adorable expression they give this cake.

Shaping this Polar Bear Cake with Rice Krispie Treats

A batch of cake decorating-friendly rice krispies makes this challenging cake shape so much more manageable.

image of cake decorating rice krispies that have been shaped into arms and legs to make a polar bear cake

By omitting the butter that is in most rice krispie treats, my cake decorating rice krispies set quite firmly once they’ve cooled.

This makes it so much easier to make sculpted cakes. I used the same technique to make my Patrick Star cake, and I highly recommend if for shaped cakes like this.

I also suggest greasing your hands with cooking spray before shaping the warm rice krispie mixture. It makes them so much easier to handle!

As you shape your legs and arms, hold them up next to your cake to make sure they are proportionate and shaped properly.

image of cake decorating rice krispie legs being added to a polar bear cake

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Cake Layers

This polar bear birthday cake uses quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have them all on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

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

image of fluffy vanilla cake layers being trimmed down to make a polar bear shaped cake
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt! You can also use vegan butter in its place.
  • 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.
  • Egg Whites – If you can’t find egg whites in a carton or want to use whole eggs, use 4 whole eggs instead. Or if you have an egg allergy you can use an egg replacer like this.
  • Self-Rising Cake Flour – To make your own self-rising cake flour, measure out 3 cups of cake flour, then add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 Tbsp baking powder. You can also use all-purpose flour or a gluten free flour blend in this formula if needed.
  • Sour Cream – You can use full fat yogurt, buttermilk, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Vegetable Oil – Any flavorless oil would work great in this recipe, like canola or sunflower.
image of cake layers being stacked and frosted to make a polar bear cake

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. 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 too.
  • Vanilla Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract.

Tips for Making the Best Polar Bear Cake:

  • 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. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Trim your cake layers before stacking and frosting them! It makes it so much easier to get the shape of this polar bear just right.
  • Use a small grass piping tip to give this polar bear a perfectly fuzzy layer of “fur.”
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. This makes it easier to stack and frost.
  • Make a vegan or dairy free polar bear cake 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.
  • Be patient and give yourself lots of time! Sculpted cakes like this can be challenging. Take your time piping the frosting and adding on the details to this cake.
  • If your hands run hot, wrap a paper towel, or thin kitchen towel around your piping bag to prevent the transfer of heat from your hands into the frosting.
  • Take breaks as you pipe on the buttercream fur to prevent hand cramps and keep your sanity!
image of polar bear cake being covered in buttercream fur using a small grass tip

Making this Polar Bear Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes 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 store it in the freezer for up to 3 months! Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week. 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. It can be stored in the fridge like this for up to a week.

image of an adorable polar bear cake made for a birthday party

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make this polar bear cake, I’d love to hear how it goes! Let me know by leaving a comment and rating below.

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

image of chelsey white of chelsweets putting a party hat on her polar bear cake, which was made as part of her animal cake series

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Polar Bear Cake

image of an adorable polar bear cake made for a birthday party

This polar bear cake is just as adorable as it is delicious! It's made with tender vanilla cake layers and homemade buttercream frosting.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 33 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 48 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake Layers

  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (226g)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600g)
  • 1 cup pasteurized egg whites from a carton or about 7 egg whites, room temperature (235g)
  • 3 cups self-rising cake flour (360g)
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat sour cream, room temperature (382g)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (56g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)

White Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (678g)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12g)
  • 1 tsp salt (6g)
  • 11 cups powdered sugar (1375g)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (120g)

Rice Krispie Treats - Polar Bear Arms and Legs

  • 3 cups mini marshmallows (150g)
  • 4 1/2 cups puffed rice cereal (70g)

Polar Bear Cake Decoration

Instructions

Step 1: Make the Vanilla Cake Layers

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Grease and line six 6-inch cake pans, and one 4-inch cake pan and set aside.
  2. Add 1 cup of unsalted butter and 3 cups of granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on a high speed with a whisk attachment for a couple minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. The mixture will become lighter in color as air is whipped into it.
  3. Add 1 cup of egg whites and mix at a medium-high speed until the mixture looks fluffy and increases in volume.
  4. Slowly mix in 1 1/2 cups of self-rising cake flour on a low speed until just incorporated.
  5. Add 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix on a medium speed until combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  6. Mix in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of self-rising cake flour on a low speed.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-33 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Rotate pans halfway through to help them bake evenly.
  8. Let the layers cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then flip them onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  9. Once the cake layers have finished cooling, use a serrated knife to level the tops and trim the layers to look like a polar bears body and head (see photos above). Set the cake layers aside.
  10. If you make these cake layers in advance, wrap and freeze them like this. When you're ready to assemble the cake, unwrap the frozen layers and let them thaw for about 20 minutes before you assemble the cake.

Step 2: Make the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 3 cups of butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until smooth.
  3. Add in 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and 1 tsp of salt and mix on a low speed.
  4. Slowly mix in 11 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream halfway through to make it easier to mix.
  5. Once the ingredients are fully combined and the frosting has reached the desired consistency, beat on low until for a couple extra minutes to make the frosting super smooth and push any extra air out of the frosting.
  6. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tablespoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time).
  7. Cover the buttercream with plastic wrap to prevent crusting, then set aside.

Step 3: Assemble the Polar Bear Cake

  1. Before you start to make the cake, use the black, white, and pink fondant to create the polar bears eyes, nose, ears and foot pads. Make the pink fondant ears about 1/2 inch thick to allow you to press 2 toothpicks into each ear to make them easier to add to the cake.
  2. Place the fondant pieces on a wire rack or piece of parchment paper to dry and firm up while you assemble the cake.
  3. Stack and frost cake layers on a 10-inch greaseproof cake board or cake drum using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  4. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula and stack them in the following order: 6-inch, 6-inch, 6-inch, 4-inch, 6- inch, 6-inch, 6-inch. If desired, add rainbow sprinkles on top of the frosting like I did in my video!
  5. Insert either a thick plastic straw (like a bubble tea straw) or a wooden dowel through the center of the cake layers to help stabilize them.
  6. Spread a thin coat of frosting around the cake to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using an acetate sheet then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.

Step 4: Make the Arms & Legs with Rice Krispie Treats

  1. Place 3 cups of mini marshmallows in a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave for 45-60 seconds at full power. They should be melted at this point and easy to stir. If not, heat in additional 15 second intervals until melted.
  2. Pour in 4 1/2 cups of rice krispies or puffed rice cereal and stir until the cereal is fully coated in melted marshmallows.
  3. Grease your hands with cooking spray then shape two thin front legs and two thick hind legs with the rice krispie mixture. Shape a small round ball for the polar bear's tail.
  4. Place the arms, legs and tail next to your cake as you shape them to make sure they're proportionate and shaped properly.

Step 5: Decorate the Polar Bear Cake

  1. Press the rice krispie arms, legs, and tail into place on the chilled cake. If they aren't staying in place, use a little buttercream help them stay put.
  2. Next, place the ears, eyes, nose, and foot pads into place on the cake with small dabs of buttercream to help them stick.
  3. Spread a thin, even layer of white buttercream over the rice krispies, then use a small grass piping tip to pipe buttercream fur all over the cake. Be sure to carefully pipe around the fondant features and the muzzle.
  4. Then enjoy! If you make this cake in advance, store the frosted cake in the fridge and let the cake sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours before serving to make it easier to cut.

Notes

Tips for Making The Best Polar Bear Cake

  • 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. 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 fluffy.
  • 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 polar bear 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.
  • Insert a thick bubble tea straw or wooden dowel through the layers once they're stacked to help keep the cake stable as you decorate it.
  • Shape the fondant ears before you start assembling the cake. This will give them a chance to firm up before you have to add them to your cake.
  • If your hands run hot, wrap a paper towel or thin kitchen towel around your piping bag to prevent the transfer of heat from your hands into the frosting.
  • Take breaks as you pipe on the buttercream fur to prevent hand cramps and keep your sanity!

Making this Polar Bear Cake in Advance

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes 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

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 754Total Fat 38gSaturated Fat 22gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 97mgSodium 153mgCarbohydrates 101gFiber 0gSugar 80gProtein 5g

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Denise K

Monday 19th of July 2021

I just made this gorgeous cake and it has turned out amazing !

Melinda R

Sunday 14th of March 2021

Hi! This is so adorable! I’m considering trying it for my niece’s 10th bday next month but making it look a bit more like her beloved teddy “Bear” (that’s his actual name.) Unless you also have a teddy bear cake that I just didn’t look far enough back in the archives for. Anyway, I was curious...how does one go about cutting and serving a sculpted cake such as this without completely hacking it to pieces in a completely uncivilized manner? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated as I know I will be asked since I’m the one with the baking degree. ? Thanks!

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