Light-Up Reindeer Cake
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Recipe courtesy of Sarah Holden for Food Network Kitchen

Light-Up Reindeer Cake

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 20 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 1 hr 20 min
  • Yield: 10 servings
This showstopper dessert gives Rudolph his proper due. The moist yellow cake with cocoa frosting and chocolate antlers has an extra magical touch: a red nose that lights up! Rolling a small LED light into the fondant nose gives it a brightness – you would even say it glows.






Special equipment:
three 6-inch cake pans (or bake in batches), toothpicks, red flashing battery-operated LED balloon light, 2 piping bags, a fluted piping tip
  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 6-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, dust each with flour and line with parchment paper (if you don’t have 3 pans, you can bake in batches).
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined. Alternate adding the dry mixture and buttermilk, mixing on low speed, until smooth.
  3. Divide the batter between the 3 prepared baking pans. Bake until the cakes spring back slightly when touched, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in the pans, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. For the frosting: Meanwhile, combine the butter, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined, then start adding the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with additions of the milk. Increase the speed to medium high and mix until smooth.
  5. Use a serrated knife to trim off the top from two of the cake layers (if the layers domed differently, trim the smaller domes), using the edge of the cake pan as a guide.
  6. Place 1 trimmed cake on a cake board or platter and spread 1/4 cup of the chocolate frosting over the top. Place the second trimmed cake on top, spread the top with frosting, then top with the third cake so that the top is domed. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  7. For the decorations: Meanwhile, line a baking sheet and plate with parchment paper. Combine the semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 teaspoon of the coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave, stirring every 10 seconds, until melted and smooth, about 40 seconds. Transfer to a piping bag and snip the tip.
  8. Onto the prepared baking sheet, use the semisweet chocolate to pipe 2 antlers (each 4 inches tall and 3/4 inch wide at the base), making sure the antlers are sturdy and thick enough to stand up on top of the cake later. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, onto the prepared plate, use the semisweet chocolate to pipe 2 arches for the pupils of the eyes (each 2/3 inch tall and 2/3 inch wide at the base), spacing them at least 2 inches apart; fill in the arches with the chocolate. Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes.
  10. Combine the white chocolate chips and remaining 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave, stirring every 10 seconds, until melted and smooth, 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to a piping bag and snip the tip.
  11. Remove the plate with the pupils from the refrigerator. Use the white chocolate to pipe 2 bigger arches for the whites of the eyes (each 1 inch tall and 1 inch wide at the base), aligning the bases for each set of pupil and white; fill in the space around each pupil with white chocolate. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.
  12. Pull off a tennis ball-size mound of fondant, knead in enough brown food coloring until dark brown, then roll into a ball. Repeat the process with 3 golf ball-size mounds of fondant and tint one light brown (1 drop of brown food coloring), one black (3 drops of black food coloring) and one red (3 drops of red food coloring). Keep each piece of fondant wrapped in plastic wrap while not in use.
  13. Roll out a quarter of the dark brown fondant on a cornstarch-dusted cutting board until very thin. Use a sharp paring knife to cut out two 2 1/2- inch-tall oval ears with a pointed tip. Roll out half of the light brown fondant and cut into slightly smaller pointed ovals. Dab the light brown fondant with a small amount of water to adhere each piece to a dark brown ear, creating a lighter interior. Set aside to dry.
  14. Use the remaining dark fondant to form the legs: Divide the dough into thirds. Use two-thirds of the dough to shape the hind legs by rolling two logs, each 2 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter; taper one end of each. Shape the front legs the same way with the remaining dough, each 1 1/2 inches long. Roll 4 tiny balls of black fondant, then flatten them slightly between two fingers. Dab with a little water to adhere the black discs to the wide end of each brown leg, to form hooves.
  15. Form the nose by rolling the red fondant into a ball. Set aside the eyes and nose.
  16. Cover the chilled cake with frosting, reserving 1/3 cup for decorations. Place the hind legs on either side of the cake, so that the hooves face forward, shaping the legs around the cake. Place the two front legs in front, near the hooves of the back legs, upright but at a slight angle towards the back.
  17. Remove the antlers from the refrigerator. Place them on top of the cake, towards the center. Set the ears just to the back and sides of the antlers, using toothpicks behind the ears to prop them up, if needed.
  18. Transfer the reserved frosting to a piping bag fitted with a fluted tip. Pipe a few swirls in front of the antlers. Top the swirls with holiday sprinkles. Press a red flashing battery-operated LED balloon light into the red fondant ball, pushing it towards the front of the nose; reform the ball around the light, leaving the power tab exposed to turn the light on. Insert a toothpick halfway in the front middle of the cake. Press the nose on it until flush against the cake but held up by the toothpick. Remove the eyes from the refrigerator and carefully peel them off the parchment to reveal pupils set in the whites of the eyes. Pipe a small dollop of frosting on the back of each eye then arrange the eyes over the nose.
  19. Remove the light from the cake before serving.

Cook’s Note

If your serving area is warm or humid, the antlers may wilt over time. In that case, keep the antlers refrigerated and add them to the cake just before serving.