Learn how to decorate an Elmo cake, an adorable Sesame Street-themed birthday cake! I love this method because it’s relatively easy, even if you’re a cake decorating beginner. Watch the video tutorial and review the recommended tools before beginning.
Out of all of my 1,200 recipes, you’re looking at one of the most special. To say my daughter loves Elmo is an understatement, so we made her a special birthday cake and I’m happy to share how I did it.
Update: I also have a Cookie Monster cake tutorial now!
Elmo Cake Video Tutorial
This is Elmo Cake for Beginners
I’m not an advanced cake decorator. While I’ve been practicing over the years, complicated cake decorations just aren’t realistic for me. I knew I wanted to decorate an Elmo cake for my daughter’s birthday, so I opted for an easier method. Team member Stephanie visited and we decorated a practice cake together. The practice was exactly what I needed to film a video tutorial for you.
How to Decorate an Elmo Cake
- Make the Cake: The focus of this cake is the top (as opposed to the sides), so I opted for a 2 layer cake. (Also, the taller the cake, the more piping you need to do!) My 2 layer white cake recipe promises a soft and flavorful cake with the fluffiest texture. It’s always a hit, especially for birthday parties. My #1 tip for any layer cake is to always line your round pans with parchment paper rounds before adding the batter so that your cake doesn’t stick to the pans.
- Make the Frosting: I used my favorite vanilla buttercream and increased the ratio so I had more frosting to work with. I highly recommend following the frosting recipe below. Tint most of the frosting red for Elmo’s fur. Then tint some frosting black for his mouth and pupils and leave the rest white for the cake’s filling and for Elmo’s eyes and nose. I recommend gel food coloring. The frosting’s color will dry darker, so don’t go overboard on the red and black.
- Level the Cakes: The baked cakes will have a slight dome, so carefully level them off with a cake leveler or serrated knife. Save the scraps for Elmo’s eyes and nose.
- Add Crumb Coat: Apply a thin layer of red frosting around the sides and on top of the cake. A bench scraper, icing spatula, and cake turntable are helpful. The crumb coat creates a helpful flat “base” of frosting for Elmo’s piped fur decoration. Chill the cake as you make his eyes and nose.
- Make Elmo’s Eyes & Nose: Remember the cake tops you leveled off? Crumble them up cake pops style. Mix with a little frosting and form into 2 circles for Elmo’s eyes and an oval or egg shape for his nose. Freeze until solid, about 30 minutes. Melt white chocolate (or even candy melts), then coat the eyes. Tint the remaining white chocolate orange (gel food coloring is best), and coat the nose. Chill until the coating has set.
- Add Mouth & Pipe Elmo’s Fur: With a small offset spatula, spread a thin layer of black on top for Elmo’s mouth, then use a toothpick to trace out its exact shape. Now let’s begin piping! You need a grass tip, such as Wilton piping tip 233 or Wilton piping tip 234. In order for the fur to hold its piped shape, the frosting must be relatively thick, so make sure you follow my recipe below.
- Finishing Touches! Once the white chocolate coating has set, pipe the pupils with a round piping tip, then place the eyes and nose on top. 🙂
The written instructions below include my time-saving suggestions for each step. For example, I recommend making Elmo’s eyes and nose while the crumb coat chills and piping Elmo’s fur while the eyes and nose set. I include in-depth make ahead instructions too!
Elmo’s Eyes and Nose
You don’t need anything extra like gum paste or rolled fondant for Elmo’s eyes and nose. Rather, simply use the scraps of cake that you leveled off. Isn’t that convenient?
Shaping Tip: Only add enough frosting to the cake crumbs to yield a semi-moist mixture that you can shape into his eyes and nose. Elmo’s nose is between an oval shape and an egg shape. Make his eyes a 2 inch disc and his nose about 2.5 – 3 inches long.
And here’s my Cookie Monster cake, also perfect for cake decorating beginners:
Recommended Tools for Elmo Cake Decoration
- Grass Tip and Round Tip
- Piping Bags (disposable or reusable)
- Cake Turntable (optional; I didn’t use one in the video)
- Small Offset Spatula
- Large Icing Spatula
- Bench Scraper
- Food Coloring: orange, red, and black
- Cake Carrier for easy storing and transporting
If you’d like to use natural food coloring, I really like the brand Supernatural– they have some powdered food coloring that works well in frosting.Print
- Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes
- Yield: serves 12
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
I love this method for an Elmo cake because it’s relatively easy, even if you’re a cake decorating beginner. Watch the video tutorial below and review the recipe and recommended tools before beginning.
- 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
- 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature*
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, at room temperature*
- 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 6 and 1/4 cups (750g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk or heavy cream, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- red, orange, and black gel food coloring
Elmo’s Eyes and Nose
- two 4-ounce white chocolate bars (113g each), finely chopped*
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil or coconut oil
- Read through the full directions and watch the video tutorial below before beginning. If you wish to make the cake ahead of time, read my Make-Ahead Instructions below before beginning.
- Make the cakes: Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
- Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until creamed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat on high speed until fully combined and mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl. Then with the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the milk. Do not over-mix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
- Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 24-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Cool cakes in the pans set on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove the cakes and cool completely directly on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
- Make the buttercream: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, milk/cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is way too sweet. Frosting will be thick.
- Tint the frosting: Place 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (about 1 heaping cup or 275g) of frosting into a medium bowl. This will remain white and be used for the cake’s filling and to form Elmo’s eyes and nose. Place 1/3 cup (about 85g) of frosting into a small bowl. Stir in 3 drops of black gel food coloring until it’s dark gray. (Keep in mind that frosting dries darker.) Tint the remaining frosting red using about 4-5 big drops of red gel food coloring. Tint until you are satisfied with the color. Remember, frosting dries darker.
- Level the cakes & add the crumb coat: Using a large serrated knife, slice the domes off the cooled cakes (a semi-thin layer) to create a flat surface. Place tops into a bowl to use in step 9. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, serving plate, or cake turntable. Spread 1 cup (about 250g) of white untinted frosting all over the top. (Reserve remaining white frosting for step 9.) Top with 2nd layer. Spread a thin layer of red frosting around the sides and top of the cake. This is your crumb coat and should be a pretty thin layer. An icing spatula and bench scraper are helpful for this. See video tutorial below. Chill uncovered in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes to help set the crumb coat.
- Meanwhile, shape Elmo’s eyes and nose: Crumble the pieces of cake that you leveled off into crumbs. I just use my hands for this. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of white frosting. If the mixture still seems pretty crumby and dry, add a little more of the white frosting until you have a moist mixture that you can form into shapes. Mixture shouldn’t be overly wet. Form into 3 shapes: two 2-inch discs for Elmo’s eyes and one 3-inch oval/egg shape for Elmo’s nose. Smooth them out as best you can. Place on a lined baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes to set. Once they’re set, you can smooth out any bumps on the surface with your hands if needed.
- Meanwhile, pipe Elmo’s fur: First, spread a thin layer of black frosting on the bottom half of the top of the cake. Use a small offset spatula to help ensure it’s perfectly smooth. Reserve remaining black frosting. Using a toothpick, trace/outline Elmo’s mouth shape within the black frosting. Use it as your guide for piping his fur around it. Fit your piping bag with Wilton piping tip #233 (grass tip). Spoon some red frosting inside. It’s difficult to pipe this frosting if the bag is over-filled, so just work with a little bit of frosting in the bag at a time. Place the tip directly on top of the cake’s surface and apply pressure to squeeze the frosting out of the tip. Quickly lift the tip up while squeezing the frosting out. The video tutorial below is helpful for this step. Pipe his fur all over the top and sides of the cake. (The sides are optional, but if you have enough frosting, go for it!) It’s helpful to carefully tilt the cake stand/turntable so you can more easily pipe frosting on the sides. Set cake aside. You can refrigerate uncovered if desired as you finish Elmo’s eyes and nose.
- Melt the chocolate: You can melt the chocolate and oil together in a double boiler or the microwave. If using the microwave: place the chopped chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl. Melt in 20 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each increment until completely melted and smooth. Place one of the discs (eyes) into the white chocolate. Use a fork to help fully coat it. Using a fork, lift the disc (eye) out of the chocolate. Place back onto lined baking sheet. Repeat with 2nd disc (eye). Stir 1 drop of orange gel food coloring into the remaining melted chocolate. Coat Elmo’s nose just how you coated the eyes. Refrigerate or freeze for 20 minutes or until white chocolate has set. I find the orange becomes a little darker as it dries.
- After the white chocolate sets, fit your piping bag with Wilton tip #12 (round tip). Spoon some black frosting inside. Pipe Elmo’s pupils onto the eyes. Carefully press the eyes and nose on top of the cake to form Elmo’s face.
- If you decorated the cake on a cake turntable, use a couple thin spatulas (and a helper!) to carefully lift the cake off the turntable and onto a cake stand, server, or cake carrier base. I actually like to use a cake carrier to cover and store my cakes in the refrigerator.
- Serve cake. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: You can prepare the cake layers ahead of time. Wrap the individual baked and cooled cake layers tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days. You can also assemble the cake with Elmo’s mouth & piped fur 2 days ahead of time, too. You can also make, coat in white chocolate, cover, and refrigerate Elmo’s nose and eyes ahead of time, too. Do not place on cake until the day of serving as the red from Elmo’s fur may smear onto the eyes and nose. Pipe Elmo’s pupils the day of serving because the black can smear down onto his eyes if refrigerated ahead of time. It did this for me, so I just carefully wiped it off.
- Freezing Instructions: Freeze the cake layers for up to 3 months. See How to Freeze Cake for instructions. Bring cake layers to room temperature, then continue with step 6.
- Recommended Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 9-inch Cake Pans | Grass Tip | Round Tip | Piping Bags (disposable or reusable) | Toothpick | Cake Turntable | Small Offset Spatula | Large Icing Spatula | Bench Scraper | Food Coloring: Orange, Red, and Black
- Whole Milk & Sour Cream: Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
- White Chocolate: Use real white chocolate to coat Elmo’s eyes and nose. You can use high quality white chocolate chips if needed (I prefer Ghirardelli brand), but I recommend using pure chocolate baking bars. You can find them right next to the chocolate chips in the baking aisle. They are sold in 4 ounce bars. I like Bakers or Ghirardelli brands. You can also use 8 ounces of candy melts.
- Servings: This cake serves about 12 people, but I served 16-18 people including half adults and half kids. Slice it up small!
Keywords: birthday, cake, Elmo
Reader Comments & Reviews
I feel so accomplished after making this! I have a child turning 3 and one turning 4 so I also made your cookie monster cake and I feel like a real cake artist with these! Thank you for an amazing tutorial!
I’m going to use this recipe to make a bear pull apart cupcake cake instead, along with some bear shaped cupcake heads. Similarities in the texture (fur).
Any advice on how to make bear ears on a cupcake?
Hi Kay, you could try using some fondant to shape small bear ears, or perhaps try a quick search online for a tutorial for piping. Hope the recipe is a big hit!
This is not only an amazing tutorial on how to make an Elmo cake, it is an absolutely delicious cake and icing recipe. I made the Elmo cake for my daughter’s birthday 2 years ago and I used the recipe again to make cupcakes for my husband’s birthday this year. Thanks for sharing!
I made this cake for my two year old’s birthday. It turned out so well and I’ve never decorated a cake like this before. The instructions and videos were simple to follow. Thank you for sharing and for the inspiration.
Hi, wondering if I can 1.5x this recipe to make it a 3-layer cake for a larger group. Will it turn out ok I do that?
Hi Heidi, You can do that! Or use this recipe for our three layer vanilla cake.
Hi Sally! Would like to try to make this cake gluten free. Do you know if it would work with a gluten free flour? Or do you have a GF cake recipe that I could use in place for the Elmo cake? Thank you in advance! So looking forward to trying my hand at Elmo!
Hi Caroline! We haven’t tested a gluten-free version of this cake, so we’re unsure of the results using a gluten-free flour. Many readers have reported success doing so in our recipes, but again, results will be a bit different when making substitutes. Our flourless chocolate cake is gluten-free, but is too fragile for layering. You could use that recipe, though, and simply do one layer. Or you can search for a recipe specifically formulated to be gluten-free and use the decorating instructions from this post. Let us know what you try and happy decorating!
I meant doing * oat milk haha for my previous comment
Hi Yasmine! We haven’t tested this recipe with dairy free substitutes and aren’t expert dairy free bakers. It may be best to search for a dairy free cake recipe , and frosting recipe (look for good reviews!), then following this assembly and decoration tutorial. Let us know if you give it a try!
Hi!! I would love to make this for my daughters 1st bday but she can’t have dairy. I was thinking of young oat milk and nuttelex for substitutes, can you recommend a certain cake batter I can use? Any tips? Thanks heaps! X
I’ve never decorated a cake before and am not artistic, and this recipe still turned out well! I’m in shock. The cake looked just like Elmo and was pretty relaxing to make. My son loved it.
I would love to make this cake for my grand daughter who is obsessed with Elmo, but I would like to use cream instead of buttercream. Could you suggest how I can stabilise the whipped cream? Some ideas I have is mixing either mascarpone or sour cream with the cream. I have also read that adding some powdered milk to the cream will do that too. What are your thoughts? Thank you.
Hi Jan, For a more stable whipped cream frosting try this recipe for whipped frosting instead. You wont be able to use the same piping tip for the “fur” but just covering the cake with red frosting will still look like Elmo!
Hi, Im making this for my baby brother trnw and I dont have the tips you recommand, what could I use instead?? TIA!!
You can use any tip you have for different shape/texture “fur” or even just spreading the icing it with an offset spatula or knife will still look like Elmo if it’s red!
Hi! I found that using a plastic bag and gitting the tip would work well too!
Hello! I would like to swap normal food dye for something more natural. Do you have any suggestions for this (organic food dye brand, organic ingredients etc.) ?
Hi Amanda! Natural food dye is a great alternative and one brand I really like is Supernatural. Their food dye for frosting is in powder form and could absolutely be used here!
Perfect, thank you so much! I will definitely check it out! This is the cake I’m making for my daughter’s 2nd birthday as well
Hi! Trying to make this as a smash cake with baby friendly ingredients. Do you think it would work with your banana cake as a 3 layer 6 inch cake? TIA!
Hi Rupini! Absolutely- you can use the batter from our banana cupcakes which will be the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake. Enjoy!
I need to bring this cake to a birthday camping weekend.
I’m going to decorate the cake the day of the party, but I’m wondering if I can make the icing ahead of time? If so, how many days before and hows best to store it until I can decorate.
Hi Liane, For buttercream frosting you can cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.
Can I make this a single layer cake instead? How would you recommend adjusting it?
Hi Tamar, absolutely. I recommend this one layer sprinkle cake recipe (and you can leave out the sprinkles). Halving the buttercream above and the ingredients for Elmo’s eyes & nose should be enough.
Thanks! Since the icing will dry up in the fridge, will the nose and eyes stay on at that point, or will I have to let the cake sit out for awhile before placing them on?
Hi Carla, we’d recommend letting the cake come back to room temperature before serving and placing the nose and eyes on at that point.
Hi! I plan to make this cake for my daughter’s birthday this week, but I would like to make it a few days ahead of time. My question is, will the red bleed onto Elmo’s eyes as it sits, though? Should I avoid decorating it fully until the day of her party?
Hi Carla! That’s a great question…it’s best if you can wait until closer to the party to decorate it, if possible. If not, how about leaving the eyes off until right before the party, just to make sure the red frosting doesn’t transfer any color?
Hello, I would like to make RVC with Swiss buttercream for 3 layer 8 inch cake. Can send me the measurement??
Hi Marie, you can find our full recipe for red velvet cake here. See recipe notes there for note on making a three layer cake. Instead of the cream cheese frosting included with that recipe, you can use our Swiss meringue buttercream recipe instead. Enjoy!
Made this cake for my son’s 2nd birthday. It looked picture perfect. Such a great addition to his Sesame Street themed party. He loved it, I loved making it! I didn’t have time to do a test run and only started making it the morning before the noon party. I’ve made a few other layer cakes with Sally’s recipes, so I guess that was the bit of practice I needed. Here are my notes:
1. I hadn’t used a small offset spatula before. Bought it per Sally’s link above. Game changer when it comes to making sure the frosting is smooth between cake layers and on the outside before piping.
2. Although I purchased the recommended piping tips, I didn’t used them since I didn’t have any piping bags. I think you need those to properly attach the tips? So I just filled a large ziploc with the red frosting and made messy dots of spiky fur. I think it actually looked a bit more like Elmo, since he doesn’t really have grass-like, stringy fur.
3. I bought vegan, gel food coloring and did have to use a few more drops than expected. Sally is totally right that it will dry darker, so keep this in mind and just trust your instincts! I shot for 1 shade off for the red, dark gray for the black, and for the nose I put enough orange in to make it the actual color because I didn’t know if it would get darker in the drying white chocolate. Came out looking great.
4. Before you frost anything, put the frosting in your bags and then in the fridge for awhile. Then, use your hands to get it to the right temp for application. If the frosting in you bag is too melty or the frosting is running off the side of the cake, toss the frosting bag and cake in the fridge and let it firm up! Helped so much!
5. The crumb shapes covered in white chocolate is totally ingenius. I will for sure use this idea again. I made the shapes and put them on top of the previously used, clean 9 in cake pan bottom and put it in the freezer for 30 mins. Short stints of microwaing then mixing the chocolate was really easy. Heads up, to give a smooth look, I did have to dip the shapes once, let dry on the really cold pan bottom, use the spatula to pick it up, carefully remove excess chocolate, then dip again. I wounldn’t dip each shape more than 3 times because they will get too big and you may not have enough chocolate.
Can’t say enough about how much I learned. This cake gave me confidence for future character themed cakes! Something all moms of little ones need. Thanks, Sally!
Thank you so much for this thoughtful, positive feedback, Kate. We’re thrilled it was the perfect cake to celebrate your son’s birthday!
Hi Sally! I just finished a trial run of this cake. My son is turning 2 in a few weeks. I decided for my trial run that I would do cookie monster. 2 questions. I had trouble piping the fur. It kept getting clogged up. Any tips? Thinking maybe because I put it in the fridge during dinner and bedtime? I did let it warm up, though.
Second, for my son’s birthday cake, I’m think I want to do a 12in round cake with the extended family. Would you be able to give me the ingredient amounts for 12in layer cake?
I’m a beginner in cake decorating. Appreciate the tutorial and ease!
Hi Jennifer! If your frosting is too thick, you can whip an extra Tbs or two of milk into it, or if it’s already in the piping bag you let the heat of your hands warm it a bit before piping. Here’s our helpful guide for cake pan sizes and conversions you can reference for a 12 inch layer cake. Have so much fun with this one!
My son is turning 2 in August and is of course obsessed with Elmo. I plan on making this cake for his birthday, but would like to adjust it so one layer is vanilla and the other is chocolate. Should I split the recipe in half and mix in cocoa powder to make it chocolate? If not, do you have any suggestions? TIA!!!
Hi Sharon, what a fun idea! For a chocolate and vanilla cake, you could use the cake batter from our Zebra Cake, and instead of mixing them, just use the two batters in separate pans. This may make too much batter for two layers so be careful to only fill the pans 2/3 full. You can make a few cupcakes with the extra batter. We would love to hear how it goes!
So excited to make this for my son’s birthday! Would it work to use Swiss meringue buttercream for the red fur, or would it be best to stick with the buttercream suggested in the recipe?
Hi Alicia, Swiss Meringue would work as well. Enjoy!
I am hoping to make your Homemade Strawberry Cake Recipe for my son because he loves strawberries. Do you think the Strawberry cream cheese frosting for that recipe will work to decorate an Elmo cake with Elmo fur if I add red food coloring? I just want to make sure that the cream cheese frosting will hold as the buttercream frosting does.
Hi Kelli, what a cute idea! Cream cheese frosting is not as stable as regular frosting, so we fear it might get a bit messy. How about using our regular strawberry buttercream instead? Equally as delicious, simply without the cream cheese. It’s a little stiffer and should hold with the grass tip better!