Pretty Bakes Blog

Cake decorating basics for pretty cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats

Purple ombre birthday cake

Why is it that the simplest cakes in design tend to be the most aggravating when you’re cake decorating?

My eldest niece turned 13 in January (tears!) and because she’s now an official teenager, I didn’t want to make a cake that was too childlike for her liking.

With “purple” as my only guidance, I decided to keep things ultra simple, girly, and pretty. Stripes in varying shades of purple seemed like a good idea. Ombré, it would be.

Even though I thought this cake would be an easy one to decorate, it turned out to be hella tricky.

purple ombre cake

Purple ombre cake, unstacked. Photo by Jennifer Melo

Stripe cake challenges

  • Rolling long pieces of fondant, in varying shades, to a consistent thickness for each stripe is challenging. Thick and thin strips stacked next to each other would make for a lumpy appearance so you want to roll to a consistent thickness.
  • Cutting long, even pieces, without leaving ruler impressions in the fondant proves to be a problem for me.
  • Handling the fondant strips without stretching, misshaping or tearing them was a real challenge. Maybe I should’ve rolled them up loosely while moving them from the counter to the cake. I used a pizza cutter and a ruler to cut individual fondant strips but when I lifted them and tried to place them on the sides of the cake, some of the strips tore. Grr!

The top tier was much easier to manage because the strips didn’t have to be quite so long. The shorter the strip, the easier it is to handle.

To make the varying shades of fondant, I started with a piece of purple fondant and kept adding more white fondant to it for each level or stripe I rolled and cut.

Starting at the base of the cake, I gently applied a strip of fondant to the cake and wrapped each strip so its joints aligned at the back of the cake, hidden from view.

The hard part’s not over yet

Your cake needs to be quite level or you’ll have to cut irregular pieces when you reach the top.

Cakes are imperfect by nature so the straight, exact lines of stripes can be unforgiving, highlighting every imperfection.

Lessons learned

1. Measure
A ruler and a tape measure are your friends. Your cake pans reveal your cake’s circumference but in case of expansion or shrinking while baking and cooling cakes, measure your cake’s circumference before you cut your fondant strips.

Carefully measure each strip’s length and width. When you reach the space of the topmost band of fondant, where it’ll meet the cake’s surface, measure the space left all around. You’ll really see how level your cake is now. Remember, it’s better to have a wider band you can trim to size than not enough height. I opted to leave a bit of overhang on one side to keep the uppermost strip looking even.

purple ombre cake

Top tier of the purple ombre cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo

2. Apply a light crumb coat
Go easy on the buttercream when you apply a crumb coat. Too much icing will ooze out between the layers of strips.

3. Don’t rush
It’s best to approach this project when you’ve got some energy, patience and plenty of time.

4. Don’t dawdle
Don’t take too long either. Your fondant strips will dry out and be more susceptible to rips and cracks once exposed to air, so keep on moving once you’ve started rolling fondant of varying shades.

Purple ombre cake, stacked

Purple ombre cake, stacked. Photo by Suzy Melo

Once I stacked the cakes, I noticed the top tier shifted and leaned to the left. I was able to correct it a bit by pushing it with a fondant smoother. But I didn’t want to shift the strips and risk unsticking them  (see the bulges I made by pushing the cake?) so I left things imperfect rather than fussing too much.

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