April was a great month. The sun has become a little less shy, and bluebells and cherry blossom frame the streets. Easter brought with is a trip home to Somerset and gave a legitimate excuse to eat unreasonable quantities of chocolate. And most importantly, my little sister turned 21.
For me, a birthday is a time to bake something special. And as this was a particularly special birthday for a particularly special person, this was justification enough for an entire tea party of special bakes. Alongside the classic scones and sandwiches, I made some of my favourite French treats – creamy vanilla choux pastries with crunchy craquelin tops, and three flavours of macarons – salted caramel, raspberry-chocolate and pistachio. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the cake. The April Bake – the moment I’ve been waiting for to attempt an ombre cake. Ombre, borrowed from the french word for shadow, is the effect of a colour gradient – and could not have made a more perfect centre piece.
Due to an over-indulgence in French gourmandise, the Ombre Cake was not cut until the evening, giving the strawberry flavour time to infuse into the soft sponge layers of the cake. It tasted, if possible, even better than it looked.
- Victoria sponge cake – divided into 4 thin layer and coloured in three shades of pink and one plain colour
- Cream cheese icing
(See passionfruit cream cheese layer cake recipe) https://rosannajay.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/passion-fruit-and-cream-cheese-layer-cake/
- A (probably more than is healthy) quantity of pink gel or powder food colouring.
- Two punnets of strawberries, chopped into small pieces
Start by assembling the cake. Use a little plain icing to stick the bottom layer of the cake (the darkest colour pink) to the cake stand or plate. Smother a generous coating of icing followed by a two or three spoonfuls of strawberries. Repeat this until all the layers are assembled, ending with the uncoloured cake on the top.
Next cover the cake with a crumb coat. This is particularly important if you have used different sizes of cake tins and then resized the cakes; you don’t want any crumbs finding their way into the beautiful pink icing. It will also mean the icing with go on much more easily and smoothly. Do not worry about it looking messy as it will not be visible on the finished cake!
Finally: the ombre icing!
Take about a quarter of the remaining icing and colour it a very dark pink. Using this to create a pink band around the bottom third of the cake. Don’t use all of the icing, as it will be ‘diluted’ with white icing to create the colour gradient. Next, add some of the white icing to lighten the colour a shade and ice another band, the same width as the last one, but this time starting a quarter of the way up. Repeat this process again, and then cover the top of the cake with a thick layer of white icing or a very pale pink depending on your preference.
Take a palette knife, and starting at the bottom of the cake, drag it around the cake continuously until you reach the top. The pinks should blend into each other creating the beautiful ‘ombre’ effect. Starting in the middle, draw another spiral on the top of the cake using the palette knife. This is MUCH easier if you have an icing turntable, although it is possible to create (if not slightly more rustically) without.
Make a wish!