Skip to Content

Ombre Cake

This pink ombre cake recipe is so tender and delicious and is decorated with beautiful ombre buttercream.

As an added bonus, this recipe is designed to make as few dishes as possible.

All four shades of cake batter are made in one bowl, and the same goes for the ombre buttercream.

image of a slice of pink ombre cake on a white plate

How to Make This Ombre Layer Cake

To make sure this cake turns out as amazing as possible, let’s walk through each step together! I’ve also included a video tutorial of the process below.

I figured it might be helpful to know what tools I use too, so I’ve shared a list below.

Not all of these are mandatory, but they make the process a lot easier.

If you don’t have all these things on hand, feel free to improvise and work with what you have.

Step 1: Bake the Ombre Cake Layers

Make the ombre cake layers first following the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Add a small squirt of gel food coloring in the bowl and stir just until evenly colored.

If you’re making 4 cake layers, scoop 450 grams (about 2.5 cups) of batter into one of the pans. Repeat 3 more times, creating increasingly deeper colored cake batter as you add in more gel food coloring. I chose to make a pink ombre cake, but any color would look great.

If you’re making 3 cake layers, scoop 600 grams (about 3.25 cups) of batter into one of the pans. Repeat 2 more times, creating increasingly deeper colored cake batter as you add in more gel food coloring.

image of ombre pink cake batter in cake pans ready to be baked

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 33-36 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Remove the cake layers from the oven and let them cool in the pans for about 30 minutes.

Gently run an offset spatula around the rim of the cake pans to loosen them, then flip them onto wire racks to finish cooling.

These layers bake up pretty flat, so leveling them is optional! If you want to level them, use a serrated knife to level the top of each cake layer.

I also like to trim away the caramelization around the sides of the layers.

baked pink ombre cake layers that have been trimmed and leveled with a serrated

If you’re making these in advance, you can wrap and freeze them at this point.

Step 2: Make the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream.

I like to use an American buttercream base to make this frosting because I think it’s the easiest to make and I love eating it. However, it is quite sweet!

image of vanilla American buttercream in a glass bowl

If you want to use a less sweet frosting base, I’d recommend making a batch of my Swiss meringue buttercream or 1.5 batches of my hybrid buttercream.

This frosting can also be made in advance if needed and kept in the fridge for up to a month.

Wait to color the buttercream until the cake has been filled and crumb coated. Cover the buttercream flush with plastic wrap to prevent crusting, then set aside.

Step 3: Stack and Frost the Cake Layers

Then it’s time to assemble this cake! Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board or flat plate. Use a dab of buttercream to help stick the first cake layer to the board.

Start with the darkest cake layer on the bottom and work your way up to the lightest color.

Spread an even layer of buttercream on top of each cake layer with a large offset spatula.

image of pink ombre cake layers that have been filled with buttercream and stacked from the deepest shade to the lightest shade

Repeat with the remaining cake layers and place the top cake layer upside down to make the cake easier to frost.

Step 4: Crumb Coat the Cake

Spread a thin coat of frosting around the cake to fully cover the cake layers.

Smooth the frosting using a large offset spatula or bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.

image of pink cake layers being crumb coated with American buttercream and smoothed with small offset spatula

Step 6: Frost and Decorate this Ombre Cake

Add a small squirt of the same gel food coloring that was used to make the cake layers into the bowl and stir just until evenly colored.

Cover the top of the cake and 1/4 of the side of the cake with the lightly colored buttercream.

Add another small squirt of gel food coloring. Using this darker shade, spread a ring of buttercream underneath the lightest color of buttercream with a small offset spatula.

image of pink buttercream being spread around a pink cake with a small offset spatula

Gently blend the different shades of frosting together where they meet.

Repeat this 2 more times, until there are 4 deepening shades of frosting covering the cake.

image of pink ombre buttercream frosting being spread on an ombre cake with a small offset spatula

Use a bench scraper to smooth the frosting, then decorate as desired!

pink ombre frosting being smoothed on a cake with a metal bench scraper

I used the leftover frosting to pipe some swirls on top of the cake with a Wilton 1M tip and added on a partial ganache drip and some mini macarons.

image of a pretty pink cake decorated with ombre pink buttercream, a pink ganache drip, and pink macarons

If you’re making this cake in advance, it can sit at room temperature for up to a day or be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Substitutions and Swaps – Ombre Layers

This recipe uses quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have them all on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this cake recipe.

  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend changing the type or reducing the amount of sugar because it will change the texture of the cake layers.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter in this recipe. Just be sure to omit the salt that this cake recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place (and also omit the salt)!
  • Egg whites – I like to use the pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton, but you can also use fresh egg whites or 5 whole, large eggs. If you have an egg allergy you can use flaxseed eggs or an egg replacer.
  • Sour Cream – You can also use full fat yogurt, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Vegetable Oil – Any flavorless oil will work in this recipe. Canola or even sunflower oil would work great!
  • Gel Food Coloring – I highly recommend using gel food coloring to color the cake layers. It only takes a few drops to create vibrant colors and makes it easier to create ombre layers.
image of slice of pink ombre cake that's been cut into to show how tender and moist the cake layers

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place (and omit the salt)!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Gel Food Coloring – Use gel food coloring if possible! It has a thicker consistency than liquid food coloring and won’t throw off the consistency of the frosting.
image of a cake that's been frosted with smooth pink ombre buttercream

Making This Ombre Cake in Different Sizes

I used 4, 7″ cake pans to make this cake, but this recipe can be used to make different sized cakes.

You can make three, 8- or four, 6-inch cake layers with one batch of batter. Bake 8-inch cake layers at 350 F / 175 C for 33-36 minutes, and 6-inch cake layers for 35-39 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

One batch of batter can also be used to make one 9×13-inch sheet cake. Bake it at 350 F / 175 C for 40-50 minutes and use flower nails or heating cores to help the cake bake evenly. It should end up being about 2 inches tall.

If you want to make cupcakes, I highly recommend using my vanilla cupcake recipe and adding gel food coloring to the batter.

cross section of a pink ombre cake that's been cut into to show it's pretty cake layers

Tips for Making the Best Ombre Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. It will make the cake layers bake up to the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Level the room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Add in small drops of gel food coloring as you color the cake layers and buttercream. You can always add more, but you can’t really take it back once it’s added in.
  • Make sure the buttercream is the right consistency. This will help give the cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • Chill the cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes them so much easier to stack and frost!
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, read my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might’ve gone awry.

Making This Ombre Cake in Advance

I highly recommend making these cake layers in advance and freezing them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.

You can also make the frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store it in the fridge for up to a week.

image of mini pink macarons being added to the top of a pretty pink birthday cake

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make this ombre cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you think of it! Let me know by leaving a rating and comment below.

And don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets if you share on social media so that I can see your amazing creations.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Ombre Cake

image of a slice of pink ombre cake on a white plate

This beautiful pink ombre cake recipe bakes up so tender and delicious and is decorated with beautiful ombre buttercream and cake layers.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

Ombre Cake Layers

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600g)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10g)
  • 1 tsp fine salt (6g)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (226g)
  • 1 cup egg whites from a carton or about 7 egg whites, room temp (235g)
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, room temp (360g)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (30g)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12g)
  • gel food coloring

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temp (452g)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (904g or a 2 lb. bag)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (80g)

Optional Decorations

Recommend Tools and Equipment

Instructions

Ombre Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Line four 7" or three 8" pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick baking spray or homemade cake pan release.
  2. Mix 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3 cups sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until fully combined.
  3. Mix in 1 cup of room temperature, unsalted butter slowly into the dry ingredients on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture looks like moist sand.
  4. Pour in 1 cup of egg whites and mix on low until just incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  5. Then mix in 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil, and 1 Tbsp of vanilla on a low speed until fully incorporated.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula one more time, then beat on a medium speed for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is properly mixed together. This also helps lighten the texture of the cake layers.
  7. Add a small squirt of gel food coloring in the bowl and stir until evenly colored. If you're making 4 cake layers, scoop 450 grams (about 2.5 cups) of batter into one of the pans. Repeat 3 more times, creating increasingly deeper colored cake batter as you add in more gel food coloring. If you're making 3 cake layers, scoop 600 grams (about 3.25 cups) of batter into one of the pans. Repeat 2 more times, creating increasingly deeper colored cake batter as you add in more gel food coloring. I chose to make a pink ombre cake, but any color would look great.
  8. Bake for 33-36 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Rotate the pans halfway through to help them bake evenly.
  9. Let the pans cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  10. Place the cake layers into the freezer for 30 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans, and remove the layers.
  11. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers right before you plan to assemble your cake, or you can wrap and freeze them if you're making them in advance.
  12. If you make these cake layers in advance and freeze them, let them thaw for about 20 minutes before making the cake. The cake layers should still be slightly cold to the touch, which will make it easier to assemble the cake.

Ombre Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, beat 2 cups of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a stand mixer and paddle attachment or hand mixer until smooth.
  3. Mix in 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt on a low speed.
  4. Gradually mix in 7 cups of powdered sugar and 1/3 cup of heavy cream on a low speed.
  5. Continue to mix on a low speed for a few minutes until the desired consistency is reached.  If the frosting seems too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting seems too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  6. Wait to color the buttercream until the cake has been filled and crumb coated. Cover the buttercream flush with plastic wrap to prevent crusting, then set aside.

Assembling This Pink Ombre Cake:

  1. Stack and frost the cake layers on a greaseproof cake board or flat plate using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board. Start with the deepest color on the bottom and work your way up to the lightest color.
  2. Spread an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula. Place the top cake layer upside down to make it easier to frost and create sharp corners.
  3. Add a thin coat of frosting around the cake to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  4. While the cake chills, make the ombre buttercream. Add a small squirt of the same gel food coloring that was used to make the cake layers into the bowl and stir just until evenly colored. Cover the top of the cake and 1/4 of the side of the cake with the lightly colored buttercream.
  5. Add another small squirt of gel food coloring, then spread a ring of buttercream underneath the lightest color of buttercream with a small offset spatula. Gently blend the different shades of frosting together where they meet. Repeat 2 more times, until there are 4 deepening shades of frosting covering the cake.
  6. Use a bench scraper to smooth the frosting, then decorate as desired! I used the leftover frosting to pipe some swirls on top of the cake and added on a partial drip and some mini macarons.
  7. If you're making this cake in advance, it can sit at room temperature for up to a day or be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Notes

If you need to make any substitutions or swaps in this recipe, please see the section in the post above on ingredient substitutions.

Recipe Variations

One batch of cake batter makes about 1800 grams or 10 cups. If you plan to use four circular cake pans, add 450 grams (about 2.5 cups) of batter into each pan. If you make 3 layers, add 600 grams (about 3.25 cups) to each pan.

This recipe can also be used to make a sheet cake! One batch will make 2, 9 x 13-inch cake layers that are about 1-inch tall.

Bake for 35-40 mins at 350 F / 175 C. I recommend using heating cores if you have them to help large cake layers like this bake more evenly and quickly.

You can also make one 9 x 13-inch cake layer that's about 2 inches tall, but bake time will be 45-55 minutes at 350 F/ 175 C.

Tips for Making the Best Ombre Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. It will make the cake layers bake up to be the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Add in small drops of gel food coloring as you color the cake layers and buttercream. You can always add more, but you can't really take it back once it's added in.
  • Level the room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Make sure the buttercream is the right consistency. This will help give the cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • Chill the cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes them so much easier to stack and frost!
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, read my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might've gone awry.

Making This Ombre Layer Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.

This vanilla frosting can also be made ahead of time too or you can save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store it in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 547Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 74mgSodium 239mgCarbohydrates 70gFiber 0gSugar 57gProtein 4g

Helga izzard

Saturday 6th of July 2024

I’ve just seen this post and I think it’s amazing I’m definitely going to try to make this beautiful cake thankyou for sharing

Chelsweets

Sunday 7th of July 2024

Aw you're too sweet Helga! Thank you, I hope your cake turns out amazing!! Let me know how it goes :)

20 Babies 1st Birthday Smash Cake Ideas - Lady Celebrations

Sunday 12th of May 2024

[…] CHELSWEETS . COM […]

Aimee

Friday 8th of March 2024

Hello. Can I use this cake for a two tier cake? Is it stable enough to hold the weight of another cake. Thank you

Aimee

Wednesday 13th of March 2024

@Chelsweets, thank you so much ??

Chelsweets

Sunday 10th of March 2024

Hi Aimee,

You totally can! This recipe is nice and sturdy, and is great for stacking!! I definitely recommend still supporting the cake with either wooden dowels or plastic support though, as no cake is dense enough on its own to fully support tiers on top of it at room temp. Here's a tutorial of how I like to add supports into my tiered cakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRRQEY_Kl7k

Hope that helps, happy baking!

How To Decorate An Ombre Cake | Cake Karma

Tuesday 27th of February 2024

[…] go ahead and experiment with different colors, flavors, and decorations to create your own show-stopping ombre cake […]

BreniLee

Thursday 15th of February 2024

I love this cake!! The batter is fluffy and it make a nice dense but not heavy cake! My only issue is that I couldn’t get a 4 layer 7” cake out of one recipe. It makes approx 3 7” layer cakes with about 100 g left over. Beautiful cakes and great recipe!

Chelsweets

Saturday 17th of February 2024

Hi BreniLee,

So happy to hear you love this cake recipe!! How much batter did you put in each pan? I usually add 450g per pan when I'm using 7x2-inch pans and it's enough to make layers that are about 1-inch tall. Did you weight out the ingredients or use cup measures? It is so odd that you'd be missing 350g of batter if you only had 100g left for the last pan! Hopefully we'll be able to figure out what happened!

BreniLee

Thursday 15th of February 2024

***I used the Fat Daddio 7” by 2” depth and there was only enough batter for 3 layers.

Skip to Recipe