Saturday, 16 February 2013

Ombre birthday cake

So I made my own birthday cake this year.

I do realise that sounds a little bit, well, lame. And I'm pretty certain one of my friends would have been happy to whip something up for me - but baking makes me happy. And I'd been looking for an excuse to attempt an ombre layer cake for quite a while, so I set some time aside to bring this monstrosity into existence.

I used the Old Fashioned White Cake recipe from my trusty Magnolia Bakery cookbook, doubled it to make a four layer cake, and added a different amount of food colouring to each layer to achieve the ombre effect.

Old-Fashioned White Cake

Makes 2 two-layer 9-inch cakes
:: 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
:: 3 cups granulated sugar
:: 4 cups self-rising flour

:: 2 cup milk

:: 4 tsp vanilla extract

:: 8 large egg whites

:: Pink food colouring


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).  Grease and lightly flour two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.
Divide all the ingredients into two, to make two individual two-layer cakes. 
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer (I'm mixerless, so I made the cake by hand, it worked just fine although whipping up egg whites by hand is a long and wrist-exhausting process), cream butter until smooth.  Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add flour in three parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition.  In a separate bowl, on the high speed of an electric mixer, beat the soft egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gently fold into batter, making sure no streaks of white are showing.
Divide batter into two separate bowls, and add food colouring - err on the side of caution! You can always add more, but it's worryingly easy to end up with a neon pink cake layer. For the palest layer I only needed to dip the end of a toothpick into the food colouring - for the deepest pink shade it took a couple of drops.
Pour the mix into the cake pans.  Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.
And repeat! Or alternatively, I imagine that with a stand mixer you could make the four layers in one go, although it might mean a rather full mixing bowl...
I cut the top off each layer so they would stack neatly, wrapped all four layers in lots of cling film and tin foil and froze them until the day I was ready to ice the cake, when I took them out and left them to defrost for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, I set to work on the icing:
Traditional Vanilla Buttercream (also adapted from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook
:: 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
:: 16 cups confectioners' sugar (you might not need all of this!)
:: 1 cup milk
:: 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add eight cups of the sugar and then 3/4 of the milk and the vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar, one cup at a time, until the icing is thick and of good spreading consistency - if it's getting too thick, add a little more milk. 
On a cake stand, stack the cake, with the darkest layer at the bottom and the palest shade at the top, adding icing between each layer. Then roughly crumb coat the cake with white icing, so that when it's time for the proper icing, crumbs won't get caught in it. 
Divide the icing into four bowls, and add different amounts of food colouring to each, according to how subtle or strongly coloured you want the cake to look. You'll need double the amount of the palest shade.
Then, with a spatula or a palette knife, ice the bottom of the cake with the darkest shade of icing. Continue to work up to the top of the cake, using each shade, making sure not to overlap the colours of the icing too much. The palest shade (in my case so pale it was almost cream) should cover the highest 1/2 inch of the cake and the top.
Using a palette knife, work around the sides of the cake to smooth the icing, and then smooth the top. Decorate however you like (I used clear sugar sprinkles).
And voila! Pink ombre birthday cake.

Because you only turn 29 once! And what better way to spend the evening than with friends, cake and some hilariously poor attempts at ten pin bowling?


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