Monday, July 11, 2016

Ombre Cake for Beginners

I'm not a professional baker and I would say that I'm more like a hobbyist baker. Yeah... I have been baking a lot for fun, my friends, family and not for money! Having said that, I wish to have a future career relating to my blog in the next 5? Or 10 years? Or never? Well, we'll see.

I have been a self taught baking and cooking mum because being a mum has made me started loving baking and cooking. Although I have not been trained professionally and wouldn't dare say that I'm an expert in baking, I'm confident enough to say that I'm pretty good in what I'm doing. Just like I can bake an Ombre cake with least amount of worries...

If I want to bake an Ombre cake, I know exactly what to do. After browsing through many Ombre cake recipes at here, here, here, here and more, I know that I would bake my Ombre cake with moist and spongy butter cake base with Swiss meringue buttercream and can bake one well confidently. However, I can't use any of these recipes today because I have to use an Ombre cake recipe from this book, Cake Decorating, Step by Step by Giovanna Torrico. It is a newly published book by Murdoch Books and was sent to me for a review.

Is this a good Ombre cake recipe? Well, we''ll see.

easy moist ombre cake
Ombre Cake Recipe from the book, Cake Decorating, Step by Step by Giovanna Torrico
Cake Decorating, Step by Step by Giovanna Torrico

Inside this book, there are simple instructions and recipes accompanied with many well illustrated photos for many amateur or aspiring bakers like me to learn how to bake and decorate gorgeous looking cakes, cupcakes and cookies.

And, this is a picture of its Ombre Cake and also the recipe...

Can I bake this gorgeous looking cake?
... by using this recipe?

What I like about this book is its clear instructions and well illustrated photos telling and showing me many basic baking tasks like these...

How to make a piping bag.
How to layer, fill and cover cake with buttercream.
How to pipe with buttercream or other icings and many more...

What I don't like about this book is its disjointed recipes. For example, the cake recipe is at page 126, its cake base recipe of this Ombre cake is at page 22, its buttercream recipe is at page 40, its cake assembly steps are at page 58 and the recipe at page 126 ended quite abruptly with just a piping step from outside to inwards? Hmmm... What does this means?

In order to bake with this recipe more effectively, I have to re-write this recipe with my style of instructions and now I think it is pretty simple and friendly too for beginner bakers to execute and bake!

Makes one 16 cm round cake with five thick layers
Note: The original recipe makes one 18 cm cake and mine is 4/5 of the original amount.

For the cake base:
260g self raising flour*
260g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
260g caster sugar (can be reduced to 200g and the sweetness is still ok)
1 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 colouring gel of your choice to create 5 shades
*I used self raising cake flour with 8% flour but be careful if you use this low protein flour. Be careful if you choose to use self raising cake flour like me because it will make the cake very fluffy and yummy but the cake can be pretty crumbly and fragile to handle.

For the icing:
The recipe at page 126 didn't mentioned the quantity of the icing required and so I made the exact quantity that is mentioned at page 40 which says that it is sufficient to cover one 18 cm round cake and it is definitely not enough and resulting my cake looking pretty stingy with the amount of icing on it. Thus, for yours, I would strongly suggest making this amount:

250g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
500g icing sugar, sifted
4 tbsp warm milk
colouring gel of your choice
Note: Mine is half of this amount and it is the amount that is mentioned in this book.

To bake this cake:

1. Preheat oven at 170°C / 325°F.

2. Line the bottom and the sides of five 16 cm round cake tins with baking paper. If you don't have 5 baking tins, you can line as many baking tins that you have, use them for baking and line them again after baking and use them again for your subsequent bakes.

I have only two 16 cm round baking tins and used them to bake five cake base with 3 rounds of baking.

3. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla for about 5 mins or until light and fluffy.

4. While beating, add beaten eggs, a little at a time with occasional scraping of the batter at the sides of the mixing bowl. If mixture looks separate, add a teaspoonful of flour and continue to beat until mixture looks combined.

5. Use a spatula to fold in the sifted flour.

6. Use a weighing balance to divide batter into 5 equal portions.

7. Add the colour a little at a time until four of the divided batter reach their desired shade and mix the colour into the batter thoroughly.

8. Pour batter into the prepared tins and bake for 15-20 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for about 10 mins. Transfer the cakes into a wire rack. Peel off the baking paper and allow the cakes to cool completely.

These cakes can be made ahead and stored in plastic wrap at room temperature up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month and defrost overnight.

To make the icing:

Using an electric mixer, beat butter for 5 mins until it is light and creamy. Gradually add the sifted icing sugar and milk and beat until the icing is white, light and fluffy.

To colour the icing, add colouring gel and beat until the colouring is well incorporated. Note: I have coloured my icing into 3 shades of colours.

This icing can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Bring icing to room temperature first and beat until fluffy before use.

Beat the icing until white and fluffy.

To assemble:

1. Place a dollop of buttercream in the center of the bottom cake and spread evenly to the edge with a palette knife.

2. Place the second bottom cake on the bottom cake and repeat the process of buttercream spreading and layering for all the cakes. Note that I didn't do this buttercream and layering steps? I have not made enough buttercream to fill the cake with buttercream and so I had to skip these steps!

3. Use a serrated knife to trim the sides of the cake until all layers are straightly aligned.

4. Transfer the cake layers onto a serving plate which is lined with 4 strips of baking paper and brush off any crumbs.

5. To avoid the crumbs from sticking on the final coat of icing, apply a thin layer of buttercream on the top and side of the cake first amd leave it to set for 15 mins in the fridge before apply the next ombre layer.

6. Pipe coloured cream on the side of the cake and place a large dollop of butter on the top of the cake.

7. Use a long spatula to remove excess buttercream and spread the buttercream into a smooth surface. Slice and serve. Store any uneaten cake in an airtight container and in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring the cake to room temperature for about 3-4 hours before consumption and I promise you that it is still moist even on its 3rd day of bake!

Ta dah!
Wish that I have more buttercream to make a smoother surface! Hmmm...
Unfortunately, I can't create a scalloped effect like the ombre cake shown in this book.
... because the amount of icing suggested in this book is no way enough to create this design.
easy moist ombre cake
No buttercream filling. No scalloped effect... Nevermind!!!
... because this cake is very moist, fluffy and delicious!

Is this a good Ombre cake recipe?

Yes because the cake is very moist, fluffy and delicious as I have used self raising cake flour to bake it but beware that this fluffy cake made with self raising cake flour can be pretty fragile and crumbly to handle. If you are not confident enough to handle fragile cakes, I would recommend using self raising (not cake) flour instead. Despite all especially the "shortage" of buttercream, I'm happy with this cake as it eventually turned out looking ok and tasted pretty good.

No because I prefer to use Swiss meringue buttercream 
to ice my ombre cakes as it is much more silky in texture. Having said that, I must say that Swiss meringue buttercream can be a little technical to make for most beginner bakers and would say that this easy and straight forward buttercream is still acceptable to make, use and enjoy if you want to bake with the least amount of worries.

To conclude, I would say this is a great reference book for all beginner bakers who love baking and cake decorating. It is useful for its clear and concise cake decoration instructions but I reckon that it need more details in most of its baking recipes.

If you like this book and want to buy it, you may wish to know that it is available in most retail or online book shops selling at the retail price of AUD$39.

As this post is specially written to review this book, I'm sorry that I have agreed to the publisher that I can't publish the recipe in its exact words in this post. However, I have managed to re-write the recipe with my style of instructions and I'm pretty sure that you should be able to bake this cake if you want to :)

Before ending this post, I like to thank Murdoch Books for giving me this opportunity to do this review. I like to make a disclaimer here that I'm not paid to do this and like to share my most honest opinions with everyone who read this review.

Happy Baking
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  1. Hi Zoe,
    What do you think of the sweetness of the icing? In many of these "angmo" recipes, icing sugars and butter are usually used for the frosting and they looked like the decorations can "stay" compared to meringue buttercreams. I also like SMBC like you. Will you recommend making this frosting for dense cakes? Does this frosting taste light and nice? I would like your personal opinion on this. Thank you. And I love your blog too. :)

    1. Hi PAB,

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment.

      With the ratio of 2:1 icing sugar to butter, definitely YES that this icing is more on the sweeter side and you are absolutely right that it is more stable to spread and handle than the silky soft SMBC. Brought slices of this cake for my Aussie colleagues to try and they said it is very yummy but they said the cake need more icing!!! And of course, I am not surprised at all hearing this... LOL! For me, this amount of sweetness is just right for me but still think I need more icing to make cake prettier! Honestly speaking, I don't mind using this icing to decorate kiddy cake because it is real sturdy and easy to make and handle but I still prefer to use SMBC to decorate the adult-kind of cake like wedding, engagement or anniversary cakes if transportation is not a problem :)

      Sorry that I can't give a sure yes or no answer... It is all depending on situations :p

      Have a great day!


    2. Thank you Zoe. That was a good enough reference for me. Maybe in future, for a quick cupcake frosting, i will use this icing. :)

  2. Appreciate the issues raised about the flow of the book. An honest review and I learned something today. Lovely!

  3. The cake looks superb....beautiful colour...and the cake looks so moist and yumm

  4. Zoe, what a pretty cake and what a lot of work LOL! From following your blog, I can tell you have a deep interest in baking. Your talent is noticed hence the TV appearance and book reviewing, yah? Good for you! I hope that your dream of making a career from your blog will eventually come true.

  5. using French unsalted butter, it's melting point is higher than regular unsalted butter, so that u dont need si much of icing sugar to make a stiff buttercream. In this case, icing sugar can reduce to 1/3.

    1. Thanks Thea for your tip. It is ok to use less icing sugar to make less sugary buttercream but structurally, there will be still differences. Regardless, I had to use this recipe for this book review and it is pretty good to use for easy cake decoration. Cheers!

  6. Zoe!!! These colors are stunning!!!

  7. Looks beautiful! I am afraid I haven't reached even that level yet :))

  8. This is gorgeous, Zoe. I feel more confident about cake-frosting after reading your points. All the best on your plans for your blog. Fingers crossed for your success. xx

  9. Beautiful cake Zoe! Looks moist and colours are gorgeous!

  10. Beautiful ombre cake... This is there in my wish list from a long time.... your post is motivating me to do it.... :)

  11. Can i use this on a 18cm tin?

    1. Hi, Yes you can but you need to re-calculate this amount of ingredients by multiple all by 1.25. Cheer!


  12. Hi if i dont use self raising flour i should replace with cake flour?

    1. Hi, you can use either self raising cake flour or self raising flour or cake / plain flour with 1 1/2 tsp added baking powder in every 150g cake / plain flour. I would say that it is best to use SR flour or SR cake flour to bake this cake.