One of my favorite little critters (besides dogs, and rabbits, and turtles, and… okay, so I like animals!) is the hedgehog. I think they are so cute with their spikey little backs and tiny hands and feet.
A few weeks ago, I shared a photo of this whimsical hedgehog cake on my Instagram. It received such great feedback that I wanted to drop a quick tutorial here so you can make it for yourself!
As my first time attempting any sort of carved character cake, I wasn’t sure how this culinary “experiment” would turn out. However, it is MUCH easier than I had ever thought! No crazy pan shapes, tricky methods, nor professional baking skills required!
All you need to do is gather the common kitchen items listed below, and follow along with this simple-to-follow, step-by-step tutorial. Feel free to substitute the cake and frosting recipes in this post for your own favorites!
I included my video tutorial of assembly, as well, under the subheading “hedgehog cake assembly tutorial”, so skip down to that if you’re just here for the creative reference!
Then, you, too, can impress all of your friends with an adorable hedgehog cake!
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Baking Tools for a Hedgehog Cake
These are all of the materials I used to bake and carve my hedgehog cake:
- I used this six-inch cake pan, three times (be sure to utilize a pan that is three inches tall instead of two; it offers a bit more rising room for your cake, which will give your finished hedgehog the proper height)
- Six-inch round cake board (you can find a pack here)
- Off-set spatula (I have multiple sizes, and used the smaller of the two for the majority of this cake)
- A cake knife; if you don’t have one, a thin, serrated knife will also do the trick on this moist cake.
- Food coloring gel (I only use these AmeriColor Gels)
- Food processor (I have this mini chopper for small jobs, like the nuts on this cake)
- Food-safe paint brushes, like these
- Piping bags
- Wilton-brand grass piping tip (which you can find here)
- White fondant (a 4 oz package like this is plenty)
- Saute pan or small skillet
- Double-boiler pot (like this one)
- Wax paper
- Kitchen towel
- Spatula (almost every kitchen has a spatula, but I HAD to link these ones anyway because they are ADORABLE)
- Stand-mixer (for anyone in the market, I LOVE my KitchenAid. A hand mixer can work too, as long as you are patient!)
- Oven… haha, I hope you have this if you’re looking at a baking tutorial 😉
Cake and Frosting Recipes
Feel free to utilize your favorite cake and frosting flavors to create your hedgehog. You will need three, six-inch layers of cake that are each a little under three inches tall. A typical buttercream recipe for an average sized cake will give you enough with which to decorate.
For my hedgehog, I used a moist chocolate cake recipe I found online and adapted to what I had in the kitchen, with layers of chocolate hazelnut swiss meringue buttercream, and crunchy caramelized hazelnuts. YUM! If you like Nutella, this is the recipe for you.
Moist Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups of sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup milk, minus two tbsp
- 1 cup piping hot, strong brewed coffee (Keurig or drip-brewed is fine as long as it is HOT)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, butter and flour your cake pan(s) and set aside.
- Pour your lemon juice into your milk, give it a small stir, and set aside. (This should sit and curdle for about ten minutes before being added to the steps below.) You could substitute this for one cup of buttermilk if you have it on hand.
- Combine all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Next, add the milk/lemon juice mixture, oil, eggs, and vanilla to the flour mixture and combine on medium until everything is mixed thoroughly.
- Finally, reduce the mixer speed (to avoid splashing), and add your hot coffee. The liquid must be hot in order to bloom the cocoa powder and add a richer, intense chocolate flavor to the cake.
- Pour your batter into the prepared pan(s), filling between half- and two-thirds of the way full. If you only have one pan, you will have to keep your batter in the refrigerator and re-use your cake pan until each of your cakes is baked.
- Set your timer for 28 minutes and, when it sounds, check the cake with a toothpick to see if the batter is still wet. If it needs further baking, don't fear: add a few minutes to the timer, check again, and repeat until cake is done. For reference, mine took about 32 minutes each.
- Let the cake rest in the pan on a wire rack for ten minutes, and then carefully flip the cake onto the rack to finish cooling. (Don't begin to carve or frost the cakes until they are fully cooled.) If necessary, repeat the baking and cooling process until all of your batter is baked.
Chocolate Hazelnut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 5 room temperature egg whites
- 2 cups room temperature butter
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup Nutella hazelnut spread
- Set out your egg whites and butter to warm up to room temperature. Before using the butter, it needs to be extremely soft.
- Place your egg whites, sugar, and salt in a Bain-Marie (double boiler) over simmering water. Whish the mixture until the sugar has dissolved (it shouldn't feel grainy when rubbed between your fingers) and the temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Then, transfer the meringue to the bowl of your mixer and whisk on high until it has cooled to room temperature and creates high peaks.
- Next, reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Before adding in the next tablespoon, be sure that the prior has fully combined. Don't be alarmed if your buttercream begins to appear soupy or chunky halfway through; keep adding the butter, slowly, and the frosting will pull itself back together!
- Once all the butter is combined, set aside a little more than a cup of the buttercream in a separate bowl. You want to save some bright buttercream for the white details on the hedgehog because the hazelnut flavoring will slightly color the remaining frosting.
- Finally, add in the Nutella. Mix and taste test, adding a bit more if you prefer a stronger hazelnut flavor.
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp butter
- Warm a kitchen towel in the microwave or clothing dryer. Wrap the hazelnuts in the warm towel, and let them sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Then, rub the towel vigorously against the nuts to remove the shells.
- Place the naked hazelnuts in your food processor and roughly chop them into smaller pieces.
- Next, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saute pan. Add in the sugar and nuts, stirring for 5-10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the nuts are shiny and sticky.
- Spread the hazelnuts over wax paper, making sure they aren't overlapping too much until they are cooled.
Hedgehog Cake Assembly Tutorial
Now that you have all of your cake components finished, it is time for the fun part: assembling your hedgehog! Check out the two-minute video below, and then peruse the written instructions below for more details!
Place a clean cake board on your work surface, and add a small amount of frosting to the center. This will act as a “glue” to keep your cake in place.
Trim off the domed top of two layers of cake, if necessary. You’ll notice in my video that these cakes were quite flat on top, which worked out great.
Place the first cake layer on the cake board, and spread a good amount of frosting on top. It doesn’t have to be very neat, so you can just use a spatula. Try to make it even, though, so your hedgehog doesn’t lean!
TASTY TIP: If you’d like, you can place some caramelized nuts on top of the frosting, in between each layer, to add a yummy, crunchy element in the cake. (I’m not a big nut fan, so I just added mine as a garnish, later on.)
Then, repeat this process again, layering the second cake on top of the first, and adding frosting (and nuts, if you so choose.) Place the third cake layer on top.
Use your knife to shave away the sharp edge of the top layer of cake, creating a smoothly curved dome shape. This will become the rounded head of the hedgehog.
HELPFUL TIP: Feel free to keep these cake scraps for snacking… or for nosey hubbies venturing into the kitchen, hoping they can get a piece of what smells “sooo good.” 🙂
Next, use your offset spatula and the plain white frosting to create a thin layer of what will become the face and “belly” area of the hedgehog. Think of a rounded doorway or an upside down “U” shape to get you started.
Initially, the frosting does not have to be perfect; this first layer will “crumb coat” (or “dirty ice”) your cake, which helps lock in the crumbs and create a canvas for a smooth, final layer of icing. So, if you have cake peeking through this first buttercream layer, don’t worry!
Use the same spatula to crumb coat the rest of the hedgehog with the slightly browned, Nutella buttercream. Again, it doesn’t have to look perfect, and don’t worry about the color at this point – it will all be covered with more frosting in the next step.
Once the cake is fully crumb coated, place it in the freezer for ten minutes (or the refrigerator for twenty, depending on where you have room – LOL) to chill. This allows the buttercream to harden just a bit and hold it’s shape, keeping the crumbs inside for the next layer of icing.
Remove your cake, and apply a second layer of white icing to the front of the hedgehog.
FROSTING METHOD TIP: Scrape off the spatula often when smoothing out the frosting to create a flawless finish.
If you didn’t use nuts in between the layers, now is the time where you can add some in. I placed a thin layer just on top of the “head” of the hedgehog; I wouldn’t recommend going any farther down the sides, though, as the frosting-spikes won’t stick as easily.
Next, scoop about three-quarters of the remaining Nutella frosting into a separate mixing bowl, and add a few drops of food coloring gel to create your ideal hedgehog color. I used a blend of red, yellow, and a tiny bit of black to create a darker brown/gray. You don’t have to mix the color completely, as a slightly marbled color adds a touch of artistic realism to the project.
IMPORTANT COLORING TIP: Only apply a drop or two of color at a time; you can always add more later, but it’s very hard to fix frosting with too much color. If you need an even smaller amount than a drop, dip a toothpick in the gel and swirl it into the frosting.
Next, insert the grass piping tip into your piping bag (or fasten into the coupler, if you use one) and snip off the tip of the bag. Use a food-safe paintbrush and a bit of black food coloring gel to draw two or three stripes on the inside of the bag. This little step adds streaks of color as your icing is piped out, creating a very realistic color gradation on the hedgehog spikes.
Then, place a bit of your colored buttercream and a bit of the lighter Nutella-only buttercream into the striped bag and begin piping short spikes onto the hedgehog’s head, sides, and back (leave the white frosting plain for the face and arms.) It helps to apply quick, yet forceful bursts of pressure to the piping bag, and pull away quickly to really give the “spikey” appearance. If you are nervous to start, try piping onto a plate or napkin a few times, first.
As you pipe, notice how the buttercream color may begin to change periodically. Use this how you like, to go back and add more color variation to certain places you may feel need it.
DESIGN TIP: I chose to curve the edge of the spiked area in just a bit towards the bottom of the white, to give the appearance of a less-rigid, more cartoon-like hedgehog.
Finally, once you finish piping all of the spikes, review your work, and fill in any spots that are a little bare or were smudged while you worked.
Next, we will begin to create the peachy face, arms, and feet of your hedgehog – now he is really going to get cute!
First, tear off about half of your fondant, and use a toothpick to add some yellow and a bit of red food gel coloring to it. Roll the fondant around to mix the color, and adjust if necessary.
Pinch off two small pieces of the same size to create the feet, and roll each into an ovular, egg shape. Then, place them at the bottom of the hedgehog, pressing the fondant into the frosting a bit. Using a toothpick, make two small “dents” into each foot, to give the appearance of little toes.
Next, roll out two longer shapes to create little arms for your hedgehog. I created mine to angle towards the center to hold a flowerpot. However, you can just let them hang to the sides, connect so he “hold hands”, or whatever you imagine!
Finally, use a rolling pin (or a muddler, or even a cup) to flatten the remaining tan fondant. Grab a butter knife (a spoon could also work) and carve out the hedgehog’s face. I wanted him to have HUGE eyes, so I shaped two large circles and a smaller, curved triangle (pointing downwards) for his mouth area. Place it gently on the hedgehog.
Use some more white fondant, this time colored with a tiny bit of black, to roll out a small sphere for the hedgehog’s nose, and two larger circles for the outside layer of his eyes. Then, use the paintbrush to apply the black gel coloring straight to the fondant. This gives that nice, cartoon-like shine and saturation.
Next, shape the following details out of fresh fondant:
- Two larger white egg shapes, flattened slightly on each edge, to create ears.
- Four light pink spheres, flattened fully, to create the inside of the ears and the “blushed” cheeks.
- Two smaller white spheres, flattened fully, to create the main “reflection” in the eyes.
- Four smallest white spheres, flattened fully, to create the tinier “reflection” in the eyes.
- One orange trapezoid (start with a rectangle) with the wider end doubled over, to create the flower pot.
- One green thin shape, bent at the end to create a stem and leaf.
- Six tiny spheres (five orange, one yellow), pressed together to create petals of the flower.
Finally, your hedgehog is just about finished! Spoon some of the remaining toasted hazelnuts around the bottom of the cake to replicate dirt. After all, hedgehogs are little woodland creatures!
And, with that, your hedgehog cake is finished!
Make sure to take A LOT of photos, because, with the delicious chocolate-hazelnut flavoring, cutting into this cute little creation is inevitable! 🙂
You can store your cake, covered, for a few days at room temperature, but it probably won’t last that long before being gobbled up! 😉
Have you ever baked any type of character or creature before? I’d love to hear your ideas! Leave me a comment below and let me know!
This chocolate cake recipe is adapted with the inspiration from my moist chocolate mocha cupcake recipe! You can check those out by clicking here. Instead of frosting the cupcakes like normal, try using the grass tip and making MINI hedgehogs!! A cute, simple idea if you’re in a time pinch!
Don’t forget to find me on Instagram so we can keep in touch, and be sure to tag me in any photos you post of your cake-based animal creations! I love to see your works of culinary art.
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Take care guys! Until next time…
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