Layer icing

Right, let’s talk technique. How many of you know what ombre icing is? In case you don’t, it is a technique used with buttercream (or any other kind of frosting) whereby you use your icing in different shades in order to create a gradual effect. You can find plenty of examples on the Internet, here are some. The most widespread form of ombre icing – which I read seems to be quite a big hit these days – involves piping small dots of icing on the cake side and then smearing them with either a palette or the back of a spoon, so as to obtain a drop-like effect. Very cool, I have to say, but extremely long winded and meticulous. In this post I wanted to show you how to use the same principle to obtain a stunning centrepiece and still obtain a well decorated cake.

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  • First of all, start by making your own buttercream. There are different schools of thoughts on the matter, I merely mixed the same amount of softened unsalted butter and sifted icing sugar in a freestanding mixer equipped with the paddle attachment and let it do all of the dirty work (well, I still had to clean afterwards…).
  • Unless you are planning to divide your icing in different bowls and colour them separately, I suggest you use the same container for the icing and build the colour gradually. On top of being extremely easier, it saves you having to wash up thousands (!!) of bowls.
  • Before you start adding food colouring, cover the cake with an even layer of neutral buttercream. This will act as the base for the coloured frosting. It will also allow you to fill any gaps between the layers and to create a smooth, even and crumb-free surface on which to attach the icing.

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  • Here I used a chocolate & caramel layer cake for the base, but a normal Victoria sponge cake will do. I reckon you’ll need approximately 500g buttercream to cover the whole cake.
  • Make some more buttercream and start adding the food colouring drop by drop. carefully check how the icing slowly colours and stop adding food colouring when you have reached the desired tone. For the first layer, I would suggest opting for a fairly pale colour.
  • Using a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle, start piping swirls at the bottom (or on the top, depending on how you want to start) of the cake and cover the whole outside of the cake making sure you keep the icing on the same line so as to make a ring on the outside of the cake.
  • Gradually add more food colouring to your leftover icing and keep on creating rings around the cake slowly building up in height and colour.

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  • As you can see from the picture above, you might have to pipe small dots between the swirls as there obviously tend to be uncovered bits. That is fine and it adds to the overall charm of the cake.
  • The cool thing about this is that you control the colour you get. I went for shades which were clearly different (it adds to the dramatic effect), but you might choose to opt for a more gradual approach. Below is the finished result.

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