I’m not one for perfectly decorated cakes. While a cleverly-designed fondant-covered creation may look very tempting, the taste and texture often disappoint. I much rather prefer dense (or light, I’m not picky), moist layer cakes with big, fluffy uneven swirls of frosting—that’s perfection to me. I find them so inviting I have to keep myself from taking a fork and digging right in. My goal is always to bake the tastiest cake possible—decoration becomes an afterthought.
My daughter posed a challenge when she asked if we could make “a totally cool cake with marshmallow frosting” for her tie-dye party. I’m sure many of you have seen those rainbow layer cakes all over the Web. Martha featured one on her show. The Better Homes & Gardens May cover featured a sweet lemonade cake with variegated pink layers. I’ve been looking for an excuse to make one of these and thought this was my chance.
Camilla found an image that was even more interesting though. Instead of uniform, stacked layers, the cake she wanted combined colors in one layer like real tie-dye. “So totally cool,” she said. And it was.
For more on Tie-dye parties, click over to my post at Babycenter.com.
Totally Cool Tie-Dye Cake
This recipe makes a dense, moist golden cake. I did use a standard seven-minute frosting because Camilla wanted something marshmallow-like. However, for ease of decorating, I would recommend a heavier butter cream, for which I have given the recipe.
2-1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch pans.
2. Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream for 3 minutes on high until light and fluffy, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vinegar and mix until full incorporated. Next add the milk and flour mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat well after each addition, for about 20 seconds, making sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined, again stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the vanilla extract.
5. Divide the batter into 6 different bowls using the following amounts: 2 cups batter (purple), 1-1/2 cups batter (blue,) 1 cup batter (green), 3/4 cup batter (yellow), 1/2 cup batter (orange), 1/2 cup batter (red). Add food coloring to each bowl, stirring and adding until desired color is reached.
NOTE: You may substitute any colors. If using the amounts/colors above, the 2-cup purple batter becomes the outermost layer, with the other colors working their way in to the center of the cake, which will be red.
I did not give number of drops of food coloring as the amount depends on if you use gels, liquid, etc.
Begin by dividing the 2 cups of batter (purple in this case) between the two prepared pans.
Continue to divide the individual batters between the two pans leaving a one- to two-inch circle of each color showing (see below). This is actually easier than it may seem. The batter is very agreeable to this method, it doesn’t run or spread.
Continue spreading the batter in this manner until all the batters/colors are used.
6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Don’t be alarmed if the color of your cake looks brown or deep, deep purple. I promise it’ll be gorgeous when you cut it. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.
7. Frost when fully cool with Buttercream frosting and decorate with gel colors for a tie-dye effect.
Culinary Institute of America Buttercream Frosting
This standard buttercream recipe comes from the CIA in Hyde Park, NY.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
8 large egg whites
4 cups unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the sugar with the water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking without stirring to the soft ball stage (240°F).
2. Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment.
3. When the sugar syrup has reached approximately 230°F, whip the egg whites on medium speed to soft peak consistency. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites hold to medium peaks.
4. When the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, immediately pour it into a heatproof glass measuring cup with a pouring spout. This will allow better control of the flow of the hot syrup into the egg whites. You can also stream the hot syrup into the egg whites directly from the pot, if desired. Pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites with the mixer running on medium speed. As soon as all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and continue to whip until the meringue has cooled to room temperature.
5. Add the cubed butter gradually, mixing after each addition until fully incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Blend in the vanilla. The buttercream is ready for use or may be tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE;
1. Place 1 layer, flat side up, in the middle of a plate or cake stand. Using a knife or offset spatula, spread enough frosting to make a 1/4 to 1/2-inch layer. Carefully set the other layer on top, flat side up, and repeat. Cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting.
2. Using small tubes of gel decorating colors, make 6 concentric circles, as shown below.
3. Using a pastry brush (or a flat, unused paint brush), start at the center gently pull the brush outward through each colored ring until you reach the outer edge.
Clean the brush, make sure it’s fully dry, and repeat the process next to the area you just pulled. Continue until the entire cake has been “tie-dyed.”
It’s just like opening a present when you cut into this cake…oohs and ahhs will abound. Even better if you can keep a secret until the cake is cut (not so easy in my case unfortunately!). Have fun.