Originally featured in Cake Central Magazine (Volume 4, Issue 4), Jennifer Bratko’s (Cake Central user FromScratchSF) rainbow ombre cake has been a favorite of cakemakers (and cake eaters!) ever since. Pictured below, Jennifer chose to accent her rainbow ombre cake with matching blossoms in various shades.
We asked Jennifer to create a tutorial on how she created this rainbow wonder, and she shares her step-by-step guide and tips for making a delicious ombre cake below:
A steady hand to tort your cakes or an Agbay
Buttercream (I use Swiss meringue)
10” cake drum and a 5” cake board
Center dowel (optional)
Drinking or bubble tea straws
Gel colors (for this finished cake I used Americolor Super Red, Violet and Royal Blue)
Wilton #2D tip
White cake batter (I make a scratch white cake using shortening, egg whites and almond extract because almond is naturally clear. You want to avoid using ingredients with any color as it will change the color of your cake when cooked. You also need to use a recipe that has a tight crumb and can hold soaking syrup like a pound cake or a sturdy “more dense” scratch cake. For this tutorial I made enough batter for a 5” and 7” cake with batter to spare)
When I make ombre cake layers, I bake 4 individual pans of batter. So the 1st thing I do is separate my batter into bowls in as many colors as I want to make. For this 2 tiered cake, I did 8 colors so I separated out my batter by weight in 8 bowls. Every cake batter has a different density so you will have to use your best judgment when using your batter of choice. But keep in mind, if you normally use 1 lb of batter in a single 8” pan, you will need to use 10 oz. of batter for a single layer because you need it to rise higher then you will tort in order to make this type of cake look good. When in doubt, just make extra batter and keep it on hand.
I make this cake different then I would a normal tiered cake. I actually start with the largest tier layer and build my way all the way up the cake instead of making 2 separate cakes then stacking them together.
1. First, I prep my cake pans with a commercial griddle spray and generously coat them.
2. Starting with the uncolored white batter, I fill the 1st pan. There is no point in putting this color in a bowl since I’m not coloring it with anything.
3. Next, I dab out the gel colors I want to use onto a paper plate. This way, I can control how much color I add much easier. Never just squirt color into anything!
4. I use plastic baby spoons to dab and mix the color in. The design called for ombre red, so for the 5” cake I needed one light pink layer, one light red and one bright red in addition to the white layer I’ve already done. What generally happens is the first color I make is the middle color.
5. In this case, the 1st color I got was my light red and it was a perfect shade for me. From here, I took a small spoonful of this batter and added it to an uncolored bowl.
6. Once I mixed it together, it was the perfect light pink. Make sure if you do this method you watch the weights of your bowls. If you take a spoonful of batter out of one bowl, you need to replace it with an equal portion of more batter otherwise your layers won’t bake up the same height.
7. Dark colors are tricky because at a certain point the batter (or icing) stops looking dark. This means you’ve reached the saturation point. Stop adding color! The more color you add you will run the risk of dying people’s mouths and colons. My “dark red” batter may not look dark in the bowl, but it will be extremely dark once it’s baked.
For this cake, I wanted a transition from white > pink > red > purple > blue. So for the purple layer, I added a touch of red to the purple to give a more appropriate transitional shade, and added a bit of purple to one of my blue bowls.
8. These shades are really tricky because they darken a lot in the oven so I don’t add a ton of color. Chemistry-wise, there are a few things that can happen here. The cake can turn out really dense by adding too much color, and mixing mixing mixing in these little bowls can over-mix the batter. So I am gentle and add color gradually. And I stop when I get a color that is “close enough”.
Fill the pans and bake. I always bake-even strips. Always.
9. The darker colored layers generally don’t have much crust when done, but the lighter shades do. It’s ugly, and we need pretty colored naked cakes! So once I de-pan my cakes and let them cool, I take my finger and gently rub the sides of the cake.
10. Once the crust is cleaned up, I tort to 1” layers. I highly recommend using a cake leveler like an Agbay because again, you need to make sure these are perfectly level and are undamaged after torting them. Keep in mind there is no way to cover a flaw other than a full do-over so making these layers as perfect as possible is essential.
11. A lot of people ask, how to you keep naked cakes from drying out since there is no icing covering the sides? You can’t, but you can slow the process. Use simple syrup to soak your layers as you are building your cake. But I have an additional trick: I take my pan spray and re-spray directly on the sides of the cake. The oil in the spray will help to hold in moisture.
12. I stack them together and spray away. I do not spray the tops or exposed cuts between the layers, only the sides.
13. Now I assemble! After adding simple syrup to my layer, I pipe rosettes using a 2D tip carefully around the rim of the cake. This is the part people see so it needs to look good. If you mess one up, pop the whole cake in the freezer so the buttercream firms up, then you can pull your botched rosette right off the cake and keep going. It’s also important to make sure you pipe them all the exact same height. It’s the only buttercream people get so be generous with it.
14. Once the rim is piped, I fill the center of the cake.
15. Drop your next layer on top, add syrup and repeat.
16. Once I get all 4 layers down, I check to make sure the cake is level. I don’t push too hard when trying to level it out because I don’t want to break or crack my cake and I don’t want to ruin all those perfect rosettes I’ve piped. After all 4 layers of the 7” cake is assembled, I move on to doweling. I use large drinking straws. Because I’m only supporting a 5” cake, I use 4 straws cut to height.
17. When I looked at other photos of naked cakes done by other cake artists, I could see the cardboard cake circle the tiers were sitting on, and I felt it make the cake look terrible. So this next step is something I came up with to hide the cardboard but still have the cake “naked”.
18. Pipe a small dab of buttercream in the center of your lower cake.
20. Next, pipe your rosettes around the lip of your cardboard, making sure they fall over the edges and cover it.
21. Thinly fill the center with buttercream. Then I drop my next layer.
22. I make sure to smoosh it down really well so that the cake attaches to the cardboard that is covered by buttercream. I don’t worry about damaging the cake under it, the dowels protect it. If I am making a larger cake, I stop at this point and chill the cake I’ve built so far to make sure it’s more stable. Once it’s chilled, I continue adding my remaining layers.
I did not add a center dowel to this cake because I was not transporting it anywhere, but if you are add it at this point and finish the top with a small rosette to cover the hole. Once done, add sugar flowers.
Voila! I hope you all enjoyed this tutorial!
Thanks! I think I will be making a cake like this soon! :)
That is quite a colorful display of cake. It's attractive how you piped the buttercream in between the layers.
Thanks for sharing. I just shared with another member on CakeCentral.
Would you mind sharing what white cake recipe you used for this? I am having trouble finding one that doesn't leave a significant crust -- although I am going to try your suggestion about running off the crumbs. Thank you!
Very detailed instructions, however, there are no pictures just the broken pic icon. :(
Does anyone know why this is happening? I'm using chrome and I'd really like to see the pics attached!