When I posted pictures of our first ombre (graduated colors) cake on Facebook, a dear friend said she would love step-by-step directions. So, since I was going to attempt the cake again for Sarah's birthday, I took many pictures for this little lesson.
I am a big fan of the Cake Mix Doctor, and almost always start with one of her recipes. One of my favorites is the Bride's White Cake (which I usually make for Sarah's birthday, topped with fresh raspberries). I've made it so many times, I know the recipe by heart.
(but I'll show you the page from my cookbook, anyway-- what a mess!)
Here's what you will need:
(Wow, I feel like The Pioneer Woman!)First, preheat your oven to 350. Adjust your oven racks so that your oven is divided in thirds. Grease and flour 4-9" round cake pans. Or, if you are lazy like me, use Baker's Joy, one of the best baking inventions ever.
Bride's White Cake, a la The Cake Mix Doctor
(This is the recipe for 1 2-layer cake; for this ombre version, I did this twice.)
1 box white cake mix (I always use Duncan Hines. Always.)
1 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla (Jackson County's Marion-Kay, of course!)
Put all ingredients in mixing bowl. Don't use a big powerful mixer (like a pink Kitchenaid) as they incorporate too much air into the cake -- instead, use a hand mixer (when I read this hint in her book, I thought the Cake Mix Doctor was just being cautious, but she was so right.) On a low speed, mix for about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl, and on medium speed, beat for 2 minutes. Be sure to beat for the entire 2 minutes. (Believe me, I have proven that hint correct, as well.) Now you could stop here, divide your batter between two pans and have a beautiful white cake.
BUT, if you want to make a fancy, ombre cake, get out your food dyes! Make the two recipes of white cake, then divide each batch in two -- into 4 bowls. This is going to make a nice, tall cake! (However, it would be easy to make just one cake batter recipe and divide that into 4 bowls -- you would just reduce the baking time, since the layers would be thin.)
The tinting is just a little tricky, but you can do it! For the purple cake, we started with the lightest layer, using just a bit of violet Wilton gel color. Then, a little more for the second layer, etc., etc. Just take your time, and add a little bit of color at a time.
I decided to call this cake "The Sunrise Cake"; I started with a soft yellow for the 1st layer. For the second, I started with the yellow again, but then added orange, little by little, until it was a nice yellow-orange. The third layer was orange, then for the 4th, I started with the orange and added red. Just like the color wheel! (The colors you see in the bowls are very close to the colors you will see in the finished cake -- just a little more vibrant after baked!)
( I must interject a sad Sunrise Cake story. My dear Clay, kitchen cleaner and helper extrordinare, offered to switch the pans half way through the baking time so I could go upstairs and write a bit. Unfortunately, the pot holder he used was damp, his fingers were scorched and he dropped one of the pans while saying something sweet, I'm sure. So, we lost a layer -- which will become apparent in some of the following photos):
Let your cake layers cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the outside, invert the cakes, then invert again so that the crown of the cake is pointing up (yet another appreciated CMD hint). Let the layers cool completely. When they are cool, trim each layer to the same height, using a serated knife. There are all sorts of fancy ways to do this, but here's my way:
Meanwhile, make the white chocolate/cream cheese frosting. (I doubled this recipe, too.)
6 ounces of white chocolate, chopped and melted over a double boiler then allowed to cool (I use Ghirardelli bars)
1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat the cream cheese and butter for about a minute, or until they are nice and smooth. Mix in the white chocolate and beat for 30 seconds or so. And then, mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla (I always make a mess at this point) and beat for a minute or so. When it is just right, stop.
Now you're going to divide the frosting into four bowls, but a little differently than you did for the cake batter -- one bowl should have about 1/2 of the frosting, and the remainder split evenly between the other 3 bowls. This is so that you can: A) ice a thin layer of frosting on each cake layer, B) pipe a dam around each layer, C) put a crumb layer over the entire cake and D) still have plenty of frosting for decorating the top of the cake in the swirly roses. Tint the icing just as you did for the batter.
Choose the 3 (or 2, in my case) deepest-color layers; ice each layer with a thin layer of the frosting. Pipe a dam of icing all the way around and fill that dam with the lemon curd. Something like this:
I thought I would be extra fancy, and fill the piping bag with all 4 colors, hoping for a gradual color change (you can see the bag in the messy picture with the four bowls of frosting). It did work nicely, but there wasn't enough room in the bag for all the frosting it took to get around the cake, so I had to improvise a bit and use a second bag, refilled with the color I was working on. Actually, I don't think you can tell. Next time, I would fill 2 or 3 bags that same way -- I think that would work.
To pipe the swirly roses, fit your piping bag with a star tip, and starting at the center of each rose, just make a concentric circle.
Peace. And swirly roses.