Inspired by the colors of an autumn sunset, I created this flirty, flower cake. I combined my favorite watercolor buttercream technique with easy piped buttercream flowers in this How to Make a Buttercream Flower Cake tutorial.Read More
Delicate waves and intricate ruffles simply made from buttercream icing!
Hi All! Thank you so much for all of the kind words regarding last week’s cake. I hope the gluten-free part didn’t scare too many of you away, but also inspired those that are gluten intolerant to bake beautiful things. Also, I am super relieved that you all seemed to like the new blue backdrop. It’s not something I plan to use everyday, but glad to have something fun and a little out of my comfort zone to spice things up every now and then. But what you really seemed to be excited about is the delicate wave/ruffle piping. As promised, I will be sharing how to do it yourself!
I love experimenting with buttercream every change I get. When I first started my career working with cake back in 2007, it was all about fondant and novelty cakes. I found the most joy either spending hours on delicate sugar flowers or making a cake that looked like other food – a hamburger cake or a donut, perhaps. Trends come and go, and I am so glad to see that buttercream has made a definite comeback and seems to be here to stay.
I personally made the transition from fondant back to buttercream after I closed my bakery and moved to Vancouver. I was no longer making wedding cakes and didn’t have room in our city apartment to keep all the tools and supplies needed for those types of cakes. Plus, I had nobody to eat or order them. I started gravitating towards interesting flavour pairings and buttercream textures because those were the types of layer cakes that I wanted to eat myself and ones that you home bakers would appreciate the most.
I feel pretty nerdy and so pretentious saying that cake decorating is an art form and buttercream is my medium of choice, but it’s true! As a child and into my twenties, I used dance as my creative outlet. Now I use sugar and butter. Using just an offset spatula and various piping tips, it’s fun and challenging to come up with new textures. This delicate wave/ruffle pattern just happens to be one of my new favourite designs.
About 5 years ago I made a very similar design, except it was made purely from fondant. Each wave was ruffled by hand and then gilded with a bit of edible gold paint on the delicate edges. It took forever. By the time all the ruffles were added, the fondant had dried and hardened. It was gorgeous, but you’d have to pick off all of that hard work just to get to the yummy cake inside – essential making it a time-consuming decoration and not necessarily an edible garnish.
Today’s version is so much tastier and takes only about 10 to 15 minutes. No, seriously! Once your cake is crumb coated and your buttercream already whipped, the piping is quite simple and fast. Plus, the organic-ness of it all means that your waves don’t have to be perfect. In fact, embrace the imperfection!
How to Make a Ruffle Cake
1. Place the cake on a cake board of the same size. Fill, stack, and crumb coat your cake in buttercream icing. You do not have to fully ice the cake, but the crumb coat should be thick enough that the cake layers do not show through. Finish off the top of the cake as normal.
2. Fit a piping bag with a petal tip (I used #103 on this 6-inch round cake) and fill with buttercream.
3. (optional) Place the cake board (and cake) on top of an upside-down bowl so that it elevates the bottom of the cake.
4. Hold the piping bag parallel to the side of the cake, keeping the wide end of the piping tip towards the cake – slightly touching the crumb coat.
5. Keeping consistent pressure, start piping ruffles from the bottom of the cake to the top. Create long, curvy waves as well as short ruffles for more interest. Stop pressure before pulling the piping bag away at the top. Repeat.
6. Continue around the cake – sometimes following the curves of the previous wave and sometimes mixing it up. I prefer the ruffles to be fairly close together for a delicate look.
7. I find that the waves look more natural if the begin slightly bellow the cake – hence why I elevate it. Once you pipe waves all the way around the cake, take an offset spatula or paring knife to gently “cut off” the bottom excess without disturbing the rest of the wave.
8. Use an offset spatula to carefully lift the cake and place on a serving dish or cake stand. Enjoy!
A watercolor cake tutorial complete with step-by-step photos and an animated GIF! Happy 3rd Blog Birthday!
Excess cake and leftover buttercream in my freezer, more dirty dishes than anyone wants to record, and a few to many sugar highs later, Style Sweet CA turned 3!
When I started writing this post, I thought I should share my thoughts on blogging and what year 3 meant to me. I talk a lot about my personal life as it is, so this time I decided to skip straight to the goods (if you want the sappy stuff, head to the bottom). You asked so you shall receive (or rather I asked with this Reader Survey, lol) – a NEW cake tutorial! The results from the reader survey were pretty clear: you all LOVE cake! There was a lot of love for more recipes and stylish photography, but there was a heavy push towards cake decorating and tutorials. Year 4 won’t entirely consist of how-to posts, but I will certainly try my best to listen YOUR wants and add more when I can.
In honor of Style Sweet CA turning 3, I put together an updated version of my watercolor cake tutorial. The first version is still a hit, but this new way if even easier. Most importantly, I’ve added new photos and even an animated GIF!
How to Make a Watercolor Cake
1. Frost the Cake – Using your favorite buttercream of choice (I used Swiss meringue buttercream, but American buttercream is fine, as well), smoothly frost the cake about 90% of the way. It does not need to be absolutely perfect yet since we will be adding more buttercream in Step 3.
2. Color the Buttercream – Divide any remaining buttercream into two or three bowls. Using gel food coloring, tint the buttercream the color of your choice. I used pink, peach, and yellow – all colors that when mixed together are still pretty ( see NOTES).
3. “Paint” the Cake – Using an offset spatula, smudge the frosted bake with swipes of the colored buttercream. The step can be as random or as calculated as you’d like. There really is no right or wrong way. However, I recommend stacking the colors more vertically instead of right next to each other horizontally – since we will be smoothing the frosting around the sides of the cake horizontally and you’ll want to leave a bit of room to allow the colors the “blend.”
4. Smooth and Smear – As you would when smoothly frosting any cake, take an icing smoother and begin smoothing out the bits of colored frosting. Stop after each time around the cake to add more frosting when needed. Please note that this process should be quick yet deliberate. You will only be able to smooth over the frosting a few times around before the colors begin to blend together too much.
5. Finish the Top – Similar to the sides, add a few swipes of color to the top of the cake. Use the long, flat side of an icing smoother held parallel to the top of the cake and gently press and spin to smooth and blend the color.
6. Clean – Like finishing any smooth cake, go back and clean up the sides and edges. A few, gentle passes should suffice, but again, don’t over-blend or the “watercolor” effect may get lost.
7. Embelish - Use any remaining buttercream to add decorative borders around the cake. I prefer a spiral pattern using a star tip to match the whimsical, watercolor design. A handful of sprinkles is never a bad idea either.
– Be mindful of your color choices and think about how the might blend together. To be honest, the first time I tried this design I used pink, orange, and green/teal. The greenish orange sections blended together to create an ugly brown.
– As mentioned in the tutorial, smooth only as much as necessary. The watercolor effect is certainly up to intertation, but keep in mind that the more you fuss with it, then more it tends to all blend together. So instead of a watercolor pink and yellow cake, you might just get an orange one.
– I’ve successfully made this cake design with both Swiss meringue buttercream and American buttercream. Swiss meringue takes a lot more gel food coloring to get the desired colors, FYI.
– Reserve a bit of plain, white buttercream to add as needed after smoothing or if you over-blend.
Okay, cue the sappy stuff. You guys!! Thank you for three years of love, support, and enthusiasm for this little corner of the Internet. Because of you all, I feel equally comfortable sharing my life musings and tidbits about my son as I do decorative cakes and French pastry. I read and appreciate all of your comments ranging from parenting/life advice to sharing my recipes that you’ve made your own (even if I sometimes forget to respond until weeks later). Thank you for allowing me to have this space where I can be myself, find my voice, and express my creativity through sugar and flour.
Lastly, it’s not too late to take the Reader Survey! Let year 4 be about ALL of us!
Equally rich and creamy as it is light and smooth, Swiss Meringue Buttercream is my first pick for frosting. Its silkiness and stability makes it a preferred choice for most pastry chefs and wedding cake makers, but it can be easily made in the home kitchen too. Concerned about whipping egg whites and working with meringue? Well, it’s time to officially kick those worries to the curb and become a fearless Swiss Meringue Buttercream master!
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while or picked up a copy of my book, “Layered,” then you know how much I sing the praises of Swiss meringue buttercream. Not too sweet and flawlessly smooth, I opt for this meringue-based frosting 9 times out of 10. I find it extremely versatile and easy to flavor (think coffee, raspberry, passion fruit, mint, and more!), although plain vanilla (preferably with some fresh vanilla bean seeds) is equally lick-straight-off-the-spoon worthy. Want effortlessly smooth cakes or heavenly swirls of frosting? This is the recipe you need.
So if Swiss meringue buttercream is the preferred choice for professionals and is so superior in texture and flavor, then why don’t more home bakers use it? Okay, I admittedly don’t know if anything in that last statement is at all accurate, nor in the next, but I think it's the mixing process intimidates many meringue-based buttercream novices. Either that or they hate delicious frosting and love extra work and stress when trying to ice a cake, hehe.
Lucky for us all, I put together a little video showing (almost) step-by-step how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream! Check it out:
Yes, using an electric mixer is nearly a must for making this type of buttercream. And while I am sure you can attempt to do so with a hand mixer, and stand mixer makes the process even easier. Don’t have a stand mixer? Kitchen Aid CA is generously giving away an Artisan Stand Mixer to one lucky winner! Along with a signed copy of “Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cake,” one lucky winner will receive a brand-new Kitchen Aid mixer (in the color white). Coveted by home bakers and pastry chefs alike, this mixer is a total game changer. I literally could not do my job without it! Scroll down to see how to enter.
This recipe can be used exactly as is or as the base to a variety of other frostings. I find that it is not as sweet as most other types of frostings, so it is easier to flavor. For example, you can find recipes using this base for Honey Sour Cream Buttercream for the Honey Apple Cake, Graham Frosting for the Pumpkin Pie Cake, and even Coconut Rum Buttercream for the Coconut Mojito Cake in my book! So many options it is hard to pick a favorite!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes about 3 ½ cups - see notes
½ cup (120 ml) egg whites (from about 3 to 4 large eggs)
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks – 340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (optional)
1. Whisk together the sugar and egg whites: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the egg whites and granulated sugar. Whisk them together briefly by hand, just until they are combined so that the egg whites don’t begin cooking by themselves.
2. Create a double-boiler: Fill a sauce pan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the mixer bowl with the egg white mixture on top to create a double-boiler. The water should be kept at a simmer but should not touch the bottom of the bowl. The double-boiler acts as indirect heat for the egg white mixture.
3. Heat the egg white mixture: Occasionally stirring, heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 155 to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer. The mixture should be very hot to the touch and the sugar should have dissolved.
4. Make the meringue: Once the egg white mixture is hot, carefully return the bowl to the stand mixer. Fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed for about 8 minutes. When done, the meringue should hold shiny, medium-stiff peaks and be cooled to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
5. Add the butter: With the mixer on low, begin adding in the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Use the paddle attachment to mix it in. The butter must be room temperature in order to incorporate properly with the meringue.
6. Add the vanilla: Once the butter has been mixed in, add the vanilla bean seeds (if using) and the vanilla extract.
7. Mix until smooth: Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix until silky smooth. This may take a few minutes, but centime to mix until light, creamy, and free from most air bubbles.
Tips and Trouble Shooting:The egg whites should be free from any drips of egg yolks. Likewise, the mixing bowl should be clean and free from grease. Any fat (grease or yolks) may prevent the egg whites from whipping properly.
If you do not have a candy thermometer, it is possible to test the heated egg white mixture by touch but BE CAREFULL! The mixture is hot enough when it stings behind your fingernail just a bit.
When the meringue is done mixing, the outside of the mixing bowl should be room temperature. You should not be able to feel any residual heat escaping out of the top either.
If after you add the butter the buttercream begins to curdle, just keep mixing. The butter was most likely too cold and will require more time to incorporate. This process may take up to about 5 minutes, so be patient. Alternatively, you may remove a small amount of buttercream and melt it in the microwave. Add the small amount of melted buttercream to the mixing bowl and incorporate until smooth.
If the buttercream appears soupy, the butter was most likely too warm. If this happens, place the mixing bowl (and its contents) in the refrigerator for about 15 before trying to mix again.
Storage: The buttercream may use immediately or stored at room temperature for the day. If making in advanced, the buttercream may be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to about 10 days or in the freezer for 2 months. Bring the buttercream to room temperature and mix thoroughly before use.
Serving Size: This recipe makes enough buttercream to fill and frost a three-layer 6-inch round cake. This recipe may be doubled to fill and frost a three-layer 8-inch round cake
A step-by-step tutorial for creating a delicate, two-toned ruffled buttercream finish. Create these perfect petal details for a romantic, whimsical cake for spring!.
In honor of my new cookbook being available for pre-order, I wanted to create and share a brand-new cake decorating tutorial. If you love this, then I think you will really enjoy my book! For those of you who don't already know, the book is called "Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Layer Cakes." The subtitle is a bit long, but it really illustrates all that the book entails. It is 288-pages packed full of color photos, decorating tips, industry tricks, and about 150 delicious recipes.
There are several buttercream textures and piping ideas throughout the book (including a similar ruffle cake), but nothing quite like this two-toned version. Once I got the idea to create this cake and started to see my vision come to life, I fell instantly in love. And really, the only reason it did not make it in the book is simply because I did not think of the concept until after the manuscript was submitted. Instead, treat this post as a preview to the fun and flirty cake designs and tutorials that you can find if you buy the book. Pretty great, right? Are you going to run and pre-order your copy now? I hope so =)
For spring, I wanted to create a ruffle cake that resembled flower petals. Instead of the popular zig-zag ruffle cake, I flipped the piping tip 90-degrees and went with a horizontal ruffle. Using a petal tip, I was able to make delicate rows of ruffles, each one resembling a flower petal. Instead of tinting the buttercream a solid color, I decided to stripe my piping bag – painting a bit of pink and coral buttercream just on the side where the narrow end of the petal tip would be. This way, each piped petal would be two-toned! Of course, I could have stopped there, but why not throw a color gradient into the mix? As I progressed with my piping, I added a bit more orange to my pink each time I filled the piping bag to create a beautiful coral ombre effect. I know the color gradient didn't turn out absolutely perfect (neither are all the ruffles for that matter), but isn't it still so pretty? I just love all the texture and imperfect bits of color. Can you tell I am fairly pleased with myself? Hehehe.
Okay, on to the tutorial section. To start, apply a crumb coat to the entire cake. You do not need to make sure everything is perfectly frosted, but the crumb coat should be just slightly thicker than normal. Unless you plan to create a petal design on the top of the cake (which would be really cool, too), ice the top of the cake before getting started. You won't really get another opportunity to smooth or swirl the top, so be sure to take care of the top and edges now.
"Striping the bag" as I called it (not sure if I made that up or heard it elsewhere) can be a bit fussy, but not impossible. First, fit a piping bag with a medium petal tip. For stability, place the piping bag upright in a tall drinking glass then fold the bag open over the top edges. Tint a small portion of your buttercream the color of your choice. Using a thin metal spatula or butter knife, paint the tinted buttercream on the side of the bag where the narrow end of the petal tip is facing. Did you get that? The petal tip has a fat end and narrow end. The narrow end will create the top of the ruffle. That means, if that is where you want the color to go, then apply the tinted buttercream up the side of that part of the piping bag. As you can see, this doesn't have to be perfect – but my ruffles did not turn out "perfect" either, so do as you wish =)
Filling the remaining portion of the bag is much easier. Simply fill a second piping bag with plain buttercream and squeeze it directly into the other bag. I only kept my piping bag about 1/2-full at all times, allowing my to change colors as I refilled and to keep things from getting too messy.
To create the ruffles themselves, start about a half-inch or so down from the top of the cake. Keep the narrow end of the petal tip pointing up (the coloured portion). As you apply pressure, the buttercream being squeezed through the uneven opening of the tip will begin to curve and curl. Moving with this natural curve, make a slight zig-zag motion with the piping bag (up and down the side of the cake) as you progress around the cake. Slightly flare the narrow tip out (towards you), being sure the fat end of the tip is always touching the cake. Continue around the cake until one row is complete.
To complete the cake, begin the second row under the first, allowing the top of the ruffle to overlap the bottom of the previous row. Again, by slightly flaring out the tip towards you, the ruffles will begin to overlap. As you progress and need to refill the piping bag, change up the colored portion as desired. If your piping bag gets too messy, considering swapping it out for a clean one (I didn't end up having to do so until my very last row, but it was certainly necessary at that point for me).
So there you have it! A Two-Toned Ruffle Cake!
The perfectionist side of me wanted to go in and re-do every single ruffle that wasn't perfect, but the creative, carefree side said "leave it." That side won. Yes, I know each ruffle isn't perfect, but isn't that the beauty of it all? It doesn't have to be perfect and I am still digging the flirty texture. I sure hope that inspires you all to give it a try!
Now on to the awesome part of this post. I've teamed up AHeirloom for a giveaway!! That gorgeous, wood base cake stand that I know you've been swooning over this entire post? Yeah, it's from them. And you could win your own!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATS, AMANDA! Enter your information below for a chance to win a $75 credit to AHeirloom (that's worth one of their stunning cake stands!). US and Canadian residents only. The contest will run until March 8th, so be sure to enter! I'll be announcing the lucky winner next week.
A quick note about flowers on cakes:
As a previous wedding cake maker, I've had to seriously consider the effects of fresh flowers on cakes. Not to sound overly dramatic, but if someone were to become ill after eating a cake, I bet they would blame the baker before ever thinking about the flowers that were on it.
That being said, I advise that you never put the stems of fresh flowers straight into the cake. Instead, wrap the ends in floral tape and gently place them on. If need be, anchor flowers onto a cake by inserting a drinking straw first, then placing the flower stems into the straw.
I got the "Okay" from my florist when selecting the blossoms on this cake, but be cautious of the blooms you handle around food. Typically flowers like roses are perfectly fine, but double check when dealing with other varieties.
PSA over. Happy Baking!