My sister makes THE BEST frosting. You don’t know good frosting until you’ve tried it, and lucky for me, she gave it to me to make a cake for my coworker’s going away celebration. With it, I made chocolate cake with pink ombre vanilla buttercream. I thought this technique seemed intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite easy to do if you take your time.
First off, here’s the recipe I used (keep in mind that this makes a TON of frosting – you might want to half it):
- 4 sticks of butter (2 cups)
- Approx 2 pounds of powdered sugar (6-7 cups)
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon water
- Gel coloring
Leave the butter out until it is soft at room temperature – don’t microwave it. Beat together with vanilla and water. Then slowly add powdered sugar until you reach desired sweetness, and add another tablespoon of water if you feel it is too thick. It should be really smooth because that will make it easier to frosting, as opposed to if you are piping cupcakes, you would want it to be stiffer.
This made more than enough frosting for the cake. Because it uses butter, you’ll want to keep it in the fridge once the cake is frosted. When using the Crisco version of this recipe, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
For an ombre cake, you’ll need to make a taller cake that is several tiers high in order to show off the design. Use the frosting to stack your tiers – three in my case. Then frost a thin crumb layer all over your cake and put it into the fridge for 10-20 minutes. A crumb layer like this will set your cake, allowing you to add frosting without picking up crumbs.
Separate the remaining frosting into three bowls. Add a small drop of gel food coloring to the first so that it remains very light colored. You should use gel coloring for frosting to keep it from thinning like it would with regular coloring. Mix well with a spoon until you reach your desired shade. In the second bowl, try two drops or coloring, and in the third, try three drops. You should see a clear difference in color between each bowl of frosting.
Using a spatula, spread the darkest color on the bottom. It doesn’t need to look pretty because you are going to clean it up later, but you’ll want it a little thick because some of it will come off during the clean up. Add the medium shade to the middle and the lightest color to the top, spreading evenly.
When frosting is applied everywhere, clean off your spatula and grab a small bowl. You’re going to use this to wipe off excess frosting. Use your spatula, starting at the very bottom with light pressure, to smooth the frosting, turning your base as you go and move the spatula up as you go around. This is much easier if you have a spinning cake stand, but you can certainly do without it (I did). As you build up frosting on the spatula, scrape it off on the side of the bowl. By smoothing it out as the cake turns, you are blending the colors into a gradual ombre look.
When you reach the top, you can use your spatula to make somewhat of a spiral pattern on the top of the cake, leaving the frosting smoothed out and matching the look of the frosting. You will probably want to make one more round to smooth out the frosting, but you shouldn’t scrape off much in this round.
At this point, you’re done and should see a gradual lightening of color in your frosting from bottom to top! I promise it’s the most delicious frosting you’ve ever had. Just ask my coworkers – they devoured it. For an extra pop, sprinkle some colored sugar sprinkles all over the cake. Have fun with it!