The Ommmmmbre Cake

Sometimes… I get a little crazy. I feel flustered, and unmotivated, and sometimes my day’s not going that great. Those are the days I need to bake. Putting positive energy into making something that’s pure fun is my cure for crazy. It’s meditative. Ommmmmmm.

I had this idea (stolen) for a cake in my head for a few days, so I decided to bake it up. I decided I didn’t need an occasion.


The outside…

Ombre everything is really big now (hair, nails, desserts, etc.) and I find that strange because I didn’t know about the word “ombre” until very recently (I guess it means “shadow” in French). I know French words are fancy and all, but a better word might be “gradient” or “multi-hue” or something like that.

I’ll go ahead and be hip, though, because I like the combination of the meditative “om” as it is for me when I bake and the “ombre” color change.


… and the inside

This is one of the first cakes I’ve made in which I didn’t use a box mix. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve made cake without a box. (Brownies are a different story, but that’s another post.)

I did some vanilla-on-vanilla action using this recipe from Sweetapolita, which popped up on my Facebook feed from I Am Baker, who inspired the ombre cake. I’m on a Surprise Inside cake kick, guys.

The recipe was amazing. The cake came out fluffy, moist and tasty. And the frosting was awesome, too, but how could it not be with that much butter?! (More than three sticks!)

I’m a big fan of Nielsen Massey Vanilla Bean Paste (it’s really more of a liquid) which has those satisfying little black vanilla flecks in it. I highly recommend this vanilla. It’s so delicious I could almost drink it.

(A tangent: you can make fabulous coffee creamer by combining some of the vanilla bean paste with a can of sweetened condensed milk. Cheaper and totally awesome. I put mine in a honey bear squeeze bottle.)

I threw in a little extra vanilla bean paste in both the frosting and the cake, replacing the extract in the frosting. I didn’t sift anything in either recipe, the cake or frosting. I don’t have a sifter or the patience, if I’m being honest.

If you look close, the top layer isn’t white– I made my own Funfetti layer of cake. I’ve been wanting to experiment with this for a long time, and my theory was correct: it’s just cake mix with sprinkles. I threw some nonpareils and colored sugar into one layer of the cake and mixed them in (but not too much or they bleed) and I was pretty pleased with the result.


See the funfetti? A little tricky to get a good pic.

Ombre is easy- you just add progressively more food color to each layer, and bake. The layers will be thinner, so check them early, but not too early- I’m pretty sure the cake will fall if you open the oven too soon. I checked after 15 minutes.

I assembled the cake like a normal cake, with less frosting in between layers. You’ve got to conserve a little, as the frosting recipe is for a two-layer cake, not four.


My friends all loved the cake, and said it was one of the best they’ve eaten. Maybe they were being extra nice (each stuck their finger in the cake before it was cut and had to make it up to me somehow) but have to agree. The cake was light, flavorful and moist. The frosting was buttery (obviously) but didn’t have that weird roof-of-your-mouth feeling you get from some buttercreams. It wasn’t horribly overwhelming. The vanilla bean flecks offer a nice textured look to the frosting, and I put some simple rainbow sprinkles around to make it festive (for no holiday in particular).

Cake.Have fun baking. May peace and harmony find you in a bowl of batter and a jar of sprinkles. 


Neapolitan Hi-Hat Cake

Not too long ago I made an attempt at a hi-hat cake. I’d seen a few in Martha Stewart: they’re beautiful, towering cakes that have a certain grandeur that makes you feel like royalty when you’re fork dives in.

I decided to try the Neapolitan Hi-Hat Cake from I Am Baker, a.k.a. Amanda Rettke. Her blog is amazing and her book looks even more amazing. She’s shared a few recipes online and they all look fabulous, including this one.

The Neapolitan Hi-Hat is a layered cake with a brownie base, strawberry cake middle and whip cream top. You bake extra-tall layers of the cake and brownie (fill up those 9-inch rounds)! and stack them up. The outside of those two layers gets a coating of chocolate buttercream frosting (yum) and then a mountain of whip cream goes on top.

The cake, pre-chocolate coating

It’s like a snow capped mountain


The recipe says to pipe the whip cream, but I honestly didn’t want to take the time so i just mounded it up. It still looked pretty awesome, though perhaps not as nice as it does in the cookbook.

After you mound the whip cream on top, you get the cake nice and chilled and pour on a layer of chocolate (just melted chocolate chips and a little veggie oil) over the top of the cake. It makes a sort of candy shell over the entire thing.

When you cut it open, it looks something like this:

Forgive the lighting.

Look at those layers!

Everyone loved the cake, including our friends’ son, Nolan:


Could he be any cuter?

There is one thing I’d like to pass on: I used Betty Crocker strawberry cake mix. Don’t do this. It’s just not that good. It’s not that it’s awful or anything, but it’s not very good. The recipe provided by Rettke (link below) includes a homemade strawberry cake. I didn’t have the time to make it that night, but were I to do it again, I’d budget in the time. I’m sure it’s much better than box mix.

The recipe for the cake is here. Try this out, and check out some of Rettke’s surprise inside cakes. They’re on my list of recipes to try. They don’t all look too easy, but they look like so much fun!

Flashback: The narwhal fight cake

Several years ago I made a cake for my brother Jamie’s birthday, and it was perhaps the most visually spectacular cake I have ever made.

Sitting atop two layers of funfetti cake were two narwhals, their tusks dripping with blood, fighting to the death.

Swimming amongst seagulls made of marshmallows, the narwhals were actually twinkies dipped in warm frosting. I also used some swedish fish, which swam around the bottom, and sprinkle bubbles rose up around the sides as starfish sunned themselves in frosting.

This was a proud moment in my baking career.


Narwhals are truly gorgeous creatures

The narwhal fight cake