Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pretty Pink Ombre Surprise Cake

I've been a bit MIA for the past couple of days, and haven't posted a new recipe since the last cookie I posted before Christmas...which was like a week and a half ago...oops.  I guess I was getting a bit carried away with the fact that I'm on winter vacation!  It sure has been nice to rest up and sleep late for a couple of days, but it's time to get back to work!  I actually woke up early yesterday, and decided to make something big, and something special.  I wanted it to be something relevant to New Year's (which is tomorrow!!!), but I wasn't sure what to make.  I made champagne cupcakes last year, which were delicious, but I wasn't sure what to do for this year. Champagne seems to be the obvious solution to all New Year's baking dilemmas, but I wanted to go with something a little bit different...but what?

I was thinking of doing something along the lines of a boozy trifle, or some yummy mini desserts, but I just wasn't sure.  They didn't have the "wow" factor that I was going for.  I decided to ask my sister for help, because she almost always has some crazy idea up her sleeve for me to try out, and this time was no exception. She suggested making a special layer cake.  

Layer cakes are something that have always intimidated me a little, yet completely fascinated me at the same time.  There's something about layers of cake sandwiched with frosting that just seems to be so special. They're eye-catching, and certainly make a statement, and are something that I don't get to make often enough (this needs to change!).    I suppose this will have to be one of my many New Year's resolutions!  In any case, special layer cakes are something that I love, and am excited to learn how to do.  But anyway.  Back to this particular cake.  My sister suggested making a completely white cake on the outside (in case you haven't noticed), but then make it special on the inside, make it a "surprise" if you will.  She mentioned making the cake have ombre layers, and I couldn't have agreed more.  I had been wanting to make an ombre cake for the longest time, and I finally had an excuse to make one.  Sure, her theme of "waiting to see the surprises that the New Year will bring" might be a bit of a stretch with this cake, but it didn't matter. 

I was finally going to make my pretty pink ombre cake. 

It would be an understatement to say that I was beyond thrilled with the way this cake turned out.  I truly loved this cake, in every way possible.  The cake itself was simply perfect.  It was simple enough to prepare, although it had its own curious moments.  The cake is made with a mixture of shortening and butter, and instead of using milk as its wet ingredient, used, of all things, ice water.  I had never before seen a cake recipe made that called for ice water, but I definitely think that was one of the things that intrigued me the most about the recipe.  Other than that, the cake came together just as easily as any other cake would.  I was tempted to add some champagne extract to the cake batter, but upon tasting just a tiny bit, I realized that this was perhaps one of the best vanilla cake batters I had ever tried, let alone made.  Adding the champagne extract would have been completely unnecessary, as this cake was too perfect on its own!  The cakes baked very nicely, and I was very pleased with the way they took to food coloring.  The colored layers looked perfect!

I wanted to try my hand at making a Swiss meringue buttercream, only because I had never tried to make one before.  I had always heard these horror stories about the buttercream curdling and completely breaking apart as it is being prepared, but I wanted to try it out for myself.  I'm sure it's obvious by now that I have my own personal issues with American-style buttercream frosting, so I was curious to see if perhaps I would like Swiss meringue buttercream better.  Making this buttercream was actually much simpler than I thought, and though the recipe I've provided below makes about 10 cups or so of buttercream, you will definitely NOT need to use all that buttercream to frost the cake.  I thought the Swiss meringue buttercream I made was good in that it was not too sweet, which is normally my problem with buttercream, but I did find it to be a little too rich for my taste. Next time that I try to make Swiss meringue buttercream I will add less butter, and I think that should fix it!  

This pretty pink ombre surprise cake was perfect perfect perfect!  It has become without a doubt one of my favorite cake recipes.  The cake had a lovely vanilla flavor, and was perfectly fluffy and had just the right amount of sweetness.  The meringue frosting, while a bit rich for my taste, was nevertheless delicious when eaten with the cake itself, as the more mild, vanilla flavor of the cake helped cut through its richness.  I loved the surprise of the pink ombre inside the cake, and I think frosting it in white was the perfect way to go about finishing off the cake.  I've seen lots of ombre cakes frosted with tinted frosting to match the interior of the cake, but I think that white frosting really helps make the cake layers stand out, and helps to keep them a surprise! Enjoy!

Pretty Pink Ombre Surprise Cake
cake and buttercream recipes from Sweetapolita


For the White Cake Layers

2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups ice water
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
several drops of food coloring (I used Americolor in Electric Pink)

For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream

10 egg whites
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, and cut into cubes ***
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt


Begin by preparing the cake.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and position an oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Spray 3 round 8-inch baking pans (I had to work in batches to get 5 cake layers) with nonstick baking spray.  Line the bottoms with wax paper, spray the wax paper with more baking spray, then flour the pans, tapping out the excess flour.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  

In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and vegetable shortening until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed until fluffy.  With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, and add the egg, beating until just combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, alternating with the ice water, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix until just incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (I cheated and used a hand mixer- feel free to do the same).  Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter. 

Divide the batter evenly among five bowls (I used a kitchen scale to ensure accuracy).  With the food coloring, begin to tint the cake batter into different shades of pink (or the color of your choice).  I left one bowl without any food coloring, and then added 1 drop to one bowl, 2 drops to another, 3 drops to another, and 4 drops to the last bowl, to make sure that there was an even progression of color.  Mix the food coloring evenly into the cake batter. 

Add the cake batter from the first three bowls into the three prepared pans, with one color per cake pan.  Smooth the tops of the cake batter.  Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack in the pans for about ten minutes, before inverting the cakes onto the racks to cool completely.  Once the cakes have been inverted, clean up the baking pans and prepare them as before to bake the remaining cake layers.  Bake as before.  Allow the cakes to cool completely before removing the wax paper circles. 

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the Swiss meringue buttercream.  Begin by wiping the bowl of an electric mixer with a paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any traces of grease.  Add the ten egg whites and sugar, and place over a pot of simmering water (the water should not be touching the bottom of the bowl, and should not be boiling).  Whisk the egg whites and sugar together constantly, but gently, until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 160 degrees F.  Remove the bowl from the stove, and return to the mixer.  

With the whisk attachment, begin to whip the egg whites until the meringue is thick and glossy, and the bottom of the bowl no longer feels warm, about 12 minutes or so.  Switch to the paddle attachment, and with the mixer on low speed, begin to add the cubes of butter (do not add any butter if the bottom of the bowl is still warm), one at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth.  The mixture will, at some point, begin to appear curdled and broken, but keep mixing and the buttercream will smooth again.  Add the vanilla and salt, and continue to beat together on low speed until combined.    

To assemble the cake, begin by trimming the domed tops of the cake layers with a serrated knife so that they are all level.  Place the deepest pink cake layer, cut side down, on a cake stand that has been lined with waxed paper.  Evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups of buttercream on top.  Add the second deepest pink cake layer on top, cut side down, and evenly spread more butter cream on top.  Repeat this until all the cake layers have been used, with the white cake layer at the very top of the cake.  Crumb coat the cake, and place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, so that the crumb coat has a chance to firm up.  

Frost the top and sides of the cake with buttercream (you will NOT be using all of the buttercream).  Garnish the cake with white sprinkles and sparkling sugar, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm up the finished cake. All that's left is slicing, and enjoying! 

Makes 1 8-inch layer cake, and 10 cups Swiss meringue buttercream


  1. I've always wanted to try an ombre cake, but have always been a little scared - yours turned out perfect, in my opinion! Well done =)

    1. Aw, thank you so much! I was very pleased with how it came out, I'm glad you liked it! Definitely don't be scared to make your own ombre cake, cutting into the finished cake is incredibly satisfying, so give it a shot! =)

  2. Such a delilghtful cake you have created! I am always so smitten with ombre cakes and this one is no exception. It doesn't hurt that it's my favorite color ;).

  3. Gorgeous cake! I love the pure white icing with the hidden pink inside! So pretty.

  4. Love it! My wedding cake was pink ombre inside! :)

  5. This is a beautiful cake- I saw it on foodgawker!
    Adding less butter to a SMB will compromise the structure and may lead to weeping meringue. If you feel the buttercream is too rich, you can sub up to half of the butter with cream cheese, which cuts the richness without affecting texture. Also, SMB freezes beautifully and can be defrosted in a microwave!
    This is just some advice from my experiences.
    Lovely cake, once again!

    1. Hi Rachel, thanks so much for your advice! I hadn't thought of how adding less butter could affect the SMB overall, so thank you for the warning, and for the tip on the cream cheese! Adding a little cream cheese seems like it would work great! I'll try this out next time I make SMB :)

  6. I am in the midst of making this gorgeous cake and am hoping you may be able to help... I have just pulled my first batch of layers (3) out of the oven. And despite using 8" rounds, and evenly measuring out the batter into 5 parts, the finished layers are very very thin -- less than 1/2" (closer to 1/4"). Are they supposed to be this thin? Looking at your beautiful photos, it appears as though each layer is closer to approx 1" high. Can you share your experience and any advice? Thanks in advance!

    1. So sorry I did not have a chance to respond until now, things have been pretty hectic! When I baked the cake layers they weren't as thin as you describe them, but they were definitely thinner than regular 8-inch cake layers. Maybe your egg whites weren't whipped enough? I whipped mine until they reached the soft/medium peak stage. In any case, how did the cake turn out? I hope you still enjoyed it!


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