You decided you were going to make your preschooler's birthday cake this year instead of buying it -- and then he requested a blue elephant cake instead of something simple, like a nice round ladybug. Don't panic; an elephant isn't as tricky to make as it sounds and you don't even need to shell out for a specialty pan or a cake decorating course.
Make the Cake
Make a simple cake batter by creaming one cup of sugar and one cup of butter together in a mixing bowl. Whisk four eggs in a cup and beat these into your mix a bit at a time. Fold in one cup of sifted all-purpose flour, a tablespoon of milk and half a teaspoon of vanilla flavoring to make a smooth consistency. Add a few drops of blue food coloring for an extra twist. Alternatively, mix up a cake mix according to the pack instructions. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bases with parchment paper and then grease the bases again to prevent sticking. Split your batter evenly between the two pans and cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cake starts to brown.
When your cake starts to cool, remove it carefully from the pans and leave it to cool completely. Once the cake is cool, cut a circle from the middle of one of the cakes, about five inches in diameter, taking care to leave the rest of the cake intact; you may want to draw the circle on paper first and place it lightly on your cake to cut around. Cut this circle in half to make two elephant ears. Cut the piece with the hole in the middle in half to leave you with a C shape -- your trunk. The other half is leftovers for you and your preschooler to nibble on.
Assemble your cake on a large cake board or tray. Place the uncut cake on the tray, putting the two semi-circles toward the top at either side for ears and place your C coming out of the bottom of your cake. The trunk is the perfect shape for cutting into child-sized pieces later.
Mix half a cup of powdered sugar with one tablespoon of water and a few drops of blue food coloring. Add more water or more sugar to get the required consistency; your icing should be spreadable, but not too runny. Spread this over the top and sides of your assembled cake, taking extra care to cover the joins. Have a cup of hot water beside you and dip your spreading knife into this regularly to help spread the icing smoothly. If you prefer, you can make a butter cream frosting using one stick of butter, two cups of powdered sugar and a few drops of coloring; add a splash of milk to this if it is too thick to spread. Use candy or chocolate drops to mark out the elephant's eyes and mouth. Finally, add candles.