Last year I saw a ton of “ombre” cakes on Pinterest and I was smitten. I loved the look, but it seemed like a lot of work, and I’m kinda lazy, so it took a while for me to get the motivation to try it myself. After I spent weeks on the boy’s (how I refer to my son) birthday cake (will post that monstrous cake at some point), I was on the prowl for a nice, solid, basic, go-to cake recipe. Here was my chance. I stumbled upon a cake that someone deemed perfect, so I gave it a shot. Actually, it only looked almost perfect, so I made a few changes. I’ll post the original recipe with my notes (for comparison).
I channeled my mother when I made the frosting. She almost never (read never, ever) measures when she cooks, or even bakes, so when you have a dish for the second time, it tastes a bit different. That’s basically what happened with the frosting. I started with a regular buttercream recipe, but found myself throwing in a bit of cream cheese, and then a little marshmallow cream until I got the taste I was looking for. It was pretty good, and I’d love to make it again, but…I didn’t write down what I did. Below will be my guestimation.
Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the vanilla cake
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 egg whites , beaten until they hold stiff peaks (set aside while you make the batter)
- Gel food coloring
- Special equipment: 3 8-inch round cake pans , parchment paper cut into 8-inch rounds
For the cream cheese frosting
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter
- 1/2 a brick (4 ounces) of cream cheese
- 1/4 cup marshmallow cream
- 3 cups powdered sugar , sifted
- Milk (Half & Half is fine too)
- Dash of salt
- Gel Color
Make the cake
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease cake pans; then place parchment round in the bottom of the pan.
Cream together butter and sugar on medium speed of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the creamed butter, alternating between wet and dry ingredients and beating after each addition. Add the vanilla until combined, then fold in the beaten egg whites until smooth. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely on cooling racks.
Make the cream cheese frosting
Cream butter, cream cheese and marshmallow cream in the bowl of a standing mixer until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. On medium to low speed, add powdered sugar one cup at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency. You can always add a tablespoon or two of milk if it gets too stiff. Add a dash of salt and beat. Note: Please don’t underestimate the value of adding salt. When used properly, it really does enhance flavor.
Remove about 1/2 of the frosting and set aside. You will use this for the crumb coat and top layer. Divide the remaining buttercream into separate bowls (I weighed mine to make sure it was evenly divided). Add the gel color to the bowls matching as best you can the colors from your cake.
With the white frosting, frost the layers and crumb coat. Starting at the bottom of the cake, spread on the colored frosting, matching the frosting with the colors of the cake layers (darkest on the bottom). Using a small spatula, (or a spoon, knife of what ever thin, flat item you have), run the flat side against the cake while slowly turning it. We’re not going for perfection, just rustic.
I wanted a smaller cake, so I used 2 6-inch pans, and made cupcakes with left over batter.
For the ombre effect: I weighed the batter evenly between 4 bowls and chose my desired food coloring. I prefer gel colors, but please use what works best for you. I started with the lightest color first, adding one drop at a time, then gradually made the other bowls of batter darker.