Ombre Cakes and Cupcakes: shortcut to a hot trend

ombre cake

So, when did you first hear about ombre? Was it the fashion world, baking world or at the hairdresser?

Ombre is everywhere these days, and we’re here to show you how to make beautiful ombre cakes, plus a quick shortcut to personal-sized ombre cakes using one of our favorite pans. Hop aboard the ombre train!

First, let’s clarify what ombre is, and how you say it. Pronounced OM-bray, it refers to colors that blend into each other, often from dark to light. You’ll see it on the Red Carpet with dresses that fade from shade to shade. You’ll see it on animated superheroes and princesses, especially in their fantastic flowing locks. Even candy corn is somewhat ombre (although not very well blended).

In the baking world, ombre has found a niche with cakes and cupcakes. They’re easy to make, and pack a big punch for presentation. Let’s check out some ways you can embrace the ombre trend in your own kitchen.

You’ll need to start with your favorite white cake recipe or mix. Yellow or golden cakes make good bases for yellow, orange or red ombre, but don’t work well for blues and purples. You’ll see later how a little yellow can wreak havoc on your blue cake.

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Place about 2 tablespoons plain white cake batter in each well of your paper-lined cupcake/muffin pan. Our tablespoon scoop makes this a breeze.

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To the remaining batter, add 2 to 3 drops of gel food coloring and stir gently. You want to avoid beating too much air into the batter, but you also want the color evenly distributed.

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Dollop 2 tablespoons of your new color over the white batter, creating your second color.

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Repeat by stirring another few drops of coloring into the batter, then layering it atop the cupcakes. Bake the cupcakes as directed in the recipe. You’ll have used the same amount of batter, but in three colors/layers.

What’s up with the white spots? It’s just batter from the bottom that worked its way up the layers and baked near the top of the cake instead of the bottom. No worries, though; icing will cover it all. And I did kind of like it on some cupcakes; it reminded me of the mushrooms from Alice in Wonderland.

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So pretty! Who wouldn’t love to open that cupcake wrapper in their lunchbox?

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Looking for a full-sized cake instead? Divide your batter into four equal portions. Leave one plain and vary the amount of coloring in the other three bowls. Voilà! Four large colored layers, ready for stacking.

So, are you ready for that quick and easy shortcut that will yield two mini cakes, perfect for sharing with a friend?

Think hamburgers and you’re well on your way. Well, hamburger buns, anyway’ and our hamburger bun pan!

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Start with the same white cake batter, enough for a single layer 8″ or 9″ cake.  Spray the pan, and add 1/2 cup of the plain batter to one well. Just as we described for the cupcakes, stir in a touch of color, fill a well. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The real beauty of using this particular pan is that you’ll get 6 different colors of cake, and they all bake at the same time! I baked these cakes in a preheated 350°F for about 15 to 18 minutes.

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Can you see what I was talking about with using a yellow cake mix and blue food coloring? My second little cake on the bottom right  is looking a little green around the gills. Just be aware of your base color when you begin, and you should be just fine.

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Cool the cakes, then use a sharp serrated knife to carefully slice each one in half, yielding two layers for each color. I know you can count, and you’re probably wondering why there are only 5 colors now instead of 6. Chalk it up to my own clumsiness, as I dropped one layer off the table and broke it. It was fun to nibble on the pieces, though!

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Stack each cake layer with a layer of your favorite icing. I used good old vanilla buttercream here and I love how the white sets off the color of each layer.

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You can finish the outside of the cake with plain icing, too, so that the inside will be a surprise. Or you can divide your batch of icing into several bowls, and color those just as you colored your cake batter. Disposable piping bags will make decorating a breeze; you won’t even need a decorating tip. Look for disposable bags in the cake decorating section of your favorite craft store.

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Try starting with a band of dark icing on the outside, then a lighter band, lighter, lighter, lighter, until you have just white in the center.

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Wowza!

ombre cake stuff

For the mini cakes, you can start with dark icing at the bottom and work your way up to white at the top. Just be sure to check that your cake layers are lined up the same way – dark to light – before you start piping!

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Well, I must say that’s pretty impressive. Wouldn’t it be fun to share this for a birthday or anniversary? Pink for Valentine’s Day, or to celebrate a cancer-free checkup? How about re-creating candy corn with orange, yellow, and white? That would be one great Halloween dessert!

Tell us about your ombre cakes, cupcakes, icings, and treats. Share the world of color!

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Bridgid

    I love this! Especially the hamburger pan idea. You know what is being baked in my kitchen this weekend…. (I think that I would want to dye to frosting to match the cake, though. Matching the bottom color cake to the icing, and graudally going up. But that is just me.)

    Reply
  2. Risicat

    PLEASE HELP I ACCIDENTLY PUT A SOFTENED STICK OF BUTTER INTO CUPCAKE BATTER , the buttter was intended for the icing. Any suggestions on saving its cream cheese stuffed red velvet cuupcakes

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      If it’s still there, take it out, rinse it off, and continue. If you beat it in, and the recipe called for butter that was already in the batter (so you added more), you might be able to increase all of the remaining ingredients as much as you increased the butter – in other words, if you mistakenly added double the butter, then double the remaining ingredients, too. Hope this helps – PJH

  3. karen

    Thanks for sharing. I never realized how simple these are to make. I’ve glimpsed thru other recipes and love the photos. It makes a difference (as in encouragement) to try different things.

    Reply
  4. "Lynette Bakes"

    Although I’m late to the party, I have just made my FIRST ombré cake! I love baking, and have ever since I was little. However, I will have to admit that one thing I have HATED to bake is my own birthday cake!!! Since we’ve lived far, far away from family for many years, and now it’s been a very long time since our children were at home to bake me a birthday cake, AND my husband is a great guy but not a baker, I’ve not had ANY fun baking my own birthday cake for a bunch of years. However, THIS year I decided I would do an ombré cake, and voila…FUN, FUN, FUN!

    I used the KAF Tender White Cake recipe, and made a purple ombré cake to die for…or, at least I thought it was! And after my husband cut it, he said, “That’s the prettiest cake I’ve ever seen!” Since I’ve made a ton of cakes through the years, I accepted his compliment with joy.

    Thanks, KAF, for the ideas you keep giving us that make our baking lives so much fun!

    Reply

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