Orange is not my favorite color. Not by a long shot. Unfortunately, I now have no choice but to embrace it—as my company’s new branding revolves around a wildly intense shade of it. My vehement protest against the change was to no avail, so I’ve adopted the if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em mentality. A turning point in this acceptance came after baking this little beauty for the agency rebranding celebration:
Not only did it turn out beautifully, but I won the party’s orange food contest (a small consolation for having to stare at the orange, agency-branded coffee mugs, drinking glasses and other tchotchkes that have recently infiltrated my workplace). This post isn’t a recipe, so much as a collection of tips on making ombre cakes. Just use your favorite white cake and frosting recipe (I’m partial to a simple buttercream) and choose a color, then follow these tips.
- Add some flavor. Since my cake was orange, I substituted half of the liquid in the cake batter recipe for triple sec. Depending on the flavor you want, you can add flavored liquor like I did, or extracts, herbs (lavender, for example, would be divine for a purple ombre cake with lemon flavored icing), zests, etc.
- Add some color. For ombre cakes, I highly recommend powdered food coloring. Not only would you need a ton of liquid coloring to get the deeper, more saturated shades, but it could throw off the consistency of the batter because you’d have to add a fair amount of extra liquid.
- Flour and grease the pans like there’s no tomorrow. ‘Nuff said.
- Little by little … Make enough batter for five or six thin layers (I used 8-inch round pans, filled about halfway with batter). Then slowly start to add the food coloring until you get the lightest shade you want. Pour a little of the batter into the first pan. Continue to add food coloring to the big batch of batter until you get the second lightest shade. Pour a little more of the batter into the second pan. Continue this process, gradually darkening the batter with more food coloring for each pan.
- Take a little off the top. If you’ve never made a layer cake before, you might not know that you need to shave off the top of each layer, which rises unevenly in the oven, to create a flat surface upon which to set the next layer. A sharp chef’s knife should do the trick. Wait until the layers have completely cooled to do this—you may even want to chill them if you have time.
- Don’t fret the frosting. In my opinion, frosting a cake without making a total mess of it is the hardest part. I’m no expert by any means, so take my advice on this topic with a grain of salt: I heated the frosting a bit and put it into a piping bag; then I squirted the soft frosting onto each layer and *gently* spread it with a knife. The outside of the cake was much trickier, so I ended up using a fancy tip and piping little flowers to cover up my messy frosting job.
- Dark on the top, light on the bottom. Personal preference I guess, but I just think it looks better.
- Have fun with the embellishments. To go with my orange theme, I sprinkled homemade candied orange peels on the top of the cake. This definitely took it up a notch.
Ombre away! And in the meantime, here’s a little more orange to help this post live up to its title: