Ombré is the gradual blending of one shade to another, and in this impressive layer cake, we chose pink-berry hues to construct a showstopping dessert. (Of course, you can choose any color combo you like, from pretty pastels to bright rainbow stripes.) You’ll need four cake pans for this tall cake, as each layer must be baked separately to create the multicolored effect.
Vanilla Ombré Layer Cake
For the cake:
- 3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
- 2 3/4 cups (14 oz./440 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 egg whites plus 1 egg
- 2 cups (1 lb./500 g) sugar
- 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) buttermilk
- Pink, red, or other food coloring of choice
For the buttercream:
- 5 cups (2 1/2 lb./1.25 kg) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 cups (2 lb./1 kg) confectioners’ sugar
- 5 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1. To make the cake, place 1 rack in the upper third and 1 rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Grease four 8-inch (20-cm) round cake pans, line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Dust with flour, then tap out any excess.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the egg whites and 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) of the sugar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
3. In the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the remaining 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour, and beat until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Raise the speed to high and beat for 20 seconds.
4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the butter mixture until completely incorporated, taking care not to deflate the peaks.
5. Divide the cake batter evenly among 4 bowls. Add food coloring to 3 of the bowls, making light, medium and dark shades of the same color. Stir the batter until the food coloring is completely blended. Leave 1 bowl of batter plain.
6. Pour each batter into a prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake, rotating the pans between the racks halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the racks and let cool completely.
7. To make the buttercream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar in 3 additions, beating well after each one. Add the vanilla and salt, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until combined, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
8. Reserve half of the plain buttercream for the filling, crumb coat, and bottom layer of frosting. Spoon half of the remaining buttercream into a bowl, then add food coloring to make it the darkest shade. Divide the remaining buttercream among 2 bowls and add food coloring to make light and medium shades. Stir the buttercream until the food coloring is completely blended.
9. To assemble the cake, place the plain cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread about 1/4 cup (20 oz./60 g) of the plain buttercream evenly over the cake, then top with the lightest dyed cake layer. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, ending with the darkest one. Spread a very thin layer of plain buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until you are ready to pipe the rosettes.
10. Transfer the remaining plain buttercream to a large pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip. Starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe a single row of rosettes. Repeat with the lightest-colored buttercream (using a clean pastry bag and tip), followed by the medium buttercream, then pipe the darkest shade in a single row of rosettes on the side of the cake and all over the top of the cake and serve. Serves 12.
Discover a swoon-worthy collection of cakes in the stunning cookbook
Favorite Cakes, by the cooks of the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen.