Get a visual guide on how to make an ombré cake from best-selling cookbook author Courtney Whitmore. Using your favorite cake recipe and our best buttercream for ombré frosting, you'll be set to create treats for any special occasion.

By Courtney Whitmore
Updated June 10, 2021
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Birthdays, baby showers, wedding parties, holidays—all kinds of celebrations will instantly be happier with the addition of a beautiful ombré cake. This trendy cake decorating technique uses slightly different shades of the same color frosting and blends them into a brilliant light-to-dark effect. Your guests won't guess that this stunning cake came from your kitchen and not a professional pastry chef. The best part? We created this ombré-frosted cake without using fondant. We'll show you how to make an ombré cake using rich buttercream frosting, so you don't have to sacrifice flavor for looks. In just a few easy steps, you'll be presenting a gorgeous cake that's (almost) too pretty to eat.

Credit: Courtney Whitmore

Step 1: Prepare the Cake

A frosting masterpiece needs a showstopper cake beneath to match. Though the frosting for this work-of-art cake is blended into three layers, you only need a two-layer cake to create it. But feel free to be creative and use as many layers as you want. We used two, but you could cut the two layers in half to make four or use a one-layer cake for a skinny ombré effect. To help avoid getting crumbs mixed into the frosting, start with chilled or frozen cake layers. Use your favorite recipe (pick any flavor you want), or give one of our classic cake recipes a try.

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Credit: Kritsada Panichgul

Step 2: Make the Ombré Frosting

Before you can start decorating your ombré cake, you need a frosting recipe. Homemade buttercream is our favorite for ombré frosting because it has a great consistency and tastes amazing. But if you're not a buttercream-lover or you're looking to step outside the box a little, experiment with your favorite frosting recipe. And if you're looking for a shortcut so you can get decorating faster, try using purchased white frosting. Remember, you need a thicker frosting to create the ombré layers, so steer clear of icings and glazes.

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Credit: Courtney Whitmore

Step 3: Make the Crumb Coat

Start by placing one chilled or frozen cake layer on a cake stand ($9, Walmart). Slide a few pieces of waxed paper beneath the cake to help keep the ombré frosting off the cake stand. Frost the top of the cake layer, then place the second cake layer on top of the first. Repeat with additional layers, if necessary. Thinly frost the top and sides of the cake with white frosting. (Learn how to make a crumb coat your final layer of frosting with our easy naked cake recipe.)

Credit: Courtney Whitmore

Step 4: Color the Ombré Frosting

Divide the remaining frosting into three bowls ($6, Walmart). Leave one bowl of frosting white for the top layer of the cake. Place a few drops of food coloring (we made a blue ombré cake for this example) into the second bowl and mix to create your desired shade. For the third bowl of frosting, use a few more drops of the same color to create a darker shade. If you want to make more than three shades of frosting, divide the frosting into different bowls for each shade (using five bowls for five different shades, for example), and then add color until you reach your desired shades.

Learn to Make Natural Food Coloring for Frosting

Step 5: Create Ombré Layers

Using an offset spatula ($16, Target), frost the bottom third of the cake with the darkest shade of frosting. Then, using the lighter shade of frosting, frost the middle third of the cake in the same way. Be sure to thoroughly wipe or rinse and dry your offset spatula between layers so the two colors of frosting don't mix.

Step 6: Finish and Smooth the Ombré Cake

Using your offset spatula, frost the remaining third and the top of the cake with white frosting. Clean your spatula, then dip it in warm water and dry. Use the spatula to smooth the between the different shades of frosting. This will blend the layers together slightly, giving your cake the desired ombré look. You can also use a bench scraper ($20, Williams Sonoma) to achieve a clean and smooth finished edge. Feel free to get creative and use other cake decorating tools to make lines or swirls in the frosting. Gently pull out the waxed paper from beneath the bottom layer, and enjoy!

Why stop at ombré frosting when you can serve ombré cake that's just as pretty on the inside? From there, keep your pastry skills going by trying new cake decorating ideas on your next special occasion cake.

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