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).
White Vanilla Cake
Note: This was my first time baking the cake, so I’m assuming it’s white.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups ice water (I used buttermilk)
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 4 egg whites, beaten until they hold stiff peaks (set aside while you make the batter)
- Gel color
Special equipment: 3 8-inch round cake pans, parchment paper cut into 8-inch rounds
Note: I wanted a smaller cake, so I used 2 6-inch pans, and made cupcakes with left over batter.
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare round cake pans by spraying with non-stick spray or greasing the pans; then place parchment round in the bottom of the pan and spray or grease that as well.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. To make the cake batter, add the flour mixture and the ice water (buttermilk) to the creamed butter, alternating between wet and dry ingredients and beating after each addition After everything is well mixed, add the vanilla and almond extracts, mix again to incorporate, and then fold in the beaten egg whites until the batter is smooth. Divide evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the top of the batter. Hold the cake pans a couple of inches off the counter and drop the pans. It sounds a little nutsy-coo-coo, but it helps to release larger air bubbles that sometimes appear while baking. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely on cooling racks, then remove from the baking pans and discard the parchment. Cakes can be prepared ahead of time – kept well-wrapped they can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 1 week.
Notes for 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.
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.
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 1/2 a brick of cream cheese
- Few tablespoons – 1/4 cup marshmallow cream
- At least 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Milk or Half and Half
- Gel Color
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.
Repeat the same process on the top of the cake, starting on the edge and work your way in.