I’m a little behind. My baby girl’s first birthday was over a month ago, and I still haven’t written a thing about it here! I’m blaming the snow that threw off our party schedule for 3 weeks. I did post some photos, though, and I got more than a few questions about her pink ombre cake, so I thought I’d share how I made it. So many parents are avoiding artificial food dyes these days, and it’s so important for us all to know that giving up those chemicals doesn’t mean we have to give up the fun of a brightly colored birthday cake!
For my wee one’s first, I settled on a pretty pink cake in graduated ombre tones, colored entirely with the juice of a beet. Here’s how to do it (it’s easy!) along with some of my favorite cake decorating tips that I picked up throughout my years as a cake decorator. I hope you find them helpful!
First, decide on your cake flavor and bake (2) 8″ or 9″ round layers. Make sure they’re nice and cool before you begin decorating.
Cake Decorating Tip: I always bake my cake the night before, then cool and wrap it tightly. It’s sturdier and less likely to crumble after sitting overnight. It’s also a great idea to juice your beet the night before, too. I promise you’ll thank yourself later.
When you’re ready to get started, you’ll need a medium-sized beet. A beautiful red one, like this:
Now, juice that baby. I got about 1/3 of a cup out of my beet, which is great because it left me with extra juice to use later. This cake takes about 4 tablespoons.
But before you go any further, take a moment and marvel at that color. Ma Nature knows what she’s doing, and those yucky chemical dyes can only wish they were this authentically and vibrantly PINK.
I prefer to cut the edges off my cakes right before I ice them. I think it makes each slice, and those bites on the edge, better. This was an 8-inch round and I cut a good inch off all the way around. (Use those pieces for “taste testing” 😉 or making crumbs for other recipes.)
Once your cake is ready and waiting and your beet is juiced, start making your icing.
Basic Fluffy Buttercream Icing:
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 2 lb powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- 1/4 cup light cream or milk
Place butter in bowl of a stand mixer. Mix 1 minute on low speed, then 2 minutes on medium speed. Add extract and beat for one minute. Start adding powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time, until all is incorporated, alternating with dashes of light cream to maintain a creamy texture. (The amount of cream you use overall will depend on how thick you want your icing.)
*Tip: End by whipping your icing on a high speed for about 5 minutes. Then, once it’s nice and fluffy, add in about 2 more tablespoons of cream and beat on a low speed for about 2 minutes. Whipping it way up then bringing it back down will help eliminate air bubbles and achieve a nice silky texture.
Add one tablespoon of juice to make a light shade of pink. Ice between layers, stack, and ice entire cake with a thin coat.
Cake Decorating Tip: Always start with more icing on top, not less. If you add it little by little, you’ll pull crumbs. If you pile it up in the middle, then push your icing over the sides of the cake (see center photo) your spatula will almost never touch cake. Then, once covered, you can pull some of that icing back off and there won’t be any crumbs in it! I promise, it works every time.
See those bubbles in the side of the cake? Yeah, they usually bother me. I could have thinned it out a little more to avoid them, but I know I’ll be adding more beet juice to achieve my dark pink and that will thin my icing, too – maybe too much. (And this is getting covered up anyway, so whatevs.)
When you’re doing 3 similar colors like this, you can start with one bag and just refill it with the next darker shade (a great way to save bags) or fill 3 bags all at once (but then you’ll need 3 tips.) Either way, you’ll need 3 shades of pink, like these:
For shades of pink:
- light = 1 tablespoon of beet juice (the same shade you made to ice the cake)
- medium = add another tablespoon of beet juice to the remaining light pink icing in the bowl
- dark = add 2 more tablespoons of beet juice to the remaining medium pink icing in the bowl
Cake Decorating Tip: Want to save BIG on piping bags? Hit up your local grocery store bakery. Be real friendly-like and ask them if they’ll order you a roll of the ones their cake decorators use. They’re great quality bags and WAY cheaper than those super pricey ones you find at the craft or kitchen stores. You’ll probably get 50 or 100 on a roll, and they are awesome to have around for so many kitchen uses. I never let myself run out!
Using light pink, pipe on 2 adjoining rows of rosettes – one on the top of the side, and one on the outer edge of the top.
Follow with the middle rows of medium pink rosettes, and finally, dark pink rosettes on the bottom row and center.