My parents and my grandparents all came to town for a family get-together. And I wanted to make something super special and delicious and impressive for everyone to enjoy. Hence, say hello to this gorgeous strawberry Ombre heart cake!
Now, I do have to apologize for the lack of quality photos on this post. I didn’t finish it in time to be able to take pretty photos with natural daylight. So the photos look sort of funky, but I promise, if you make this cake, it will fill your mouth with deliciousness and your soul with happiness!!
Creating an Ombre
At first, I was going to use beets to create a natural food dye for the different pinks. However, that turned out to be a total fail. I started by boiling three beets in water and then tried to use that dark brown/red water to color the cake batter. Unfortunately, it didn’t add any color, and just watered my cake batter into a gross yucky mess. I ended up just whipping out my red gel food coloring from the grocery store. But eventually I did learn how to dye food with beets, because I some super cute and delicious pink donuts dyed with beets!
It’s helpful to divide the batter into four separate bowls, so you can adjust the food coloring in each batter to achieve the right gradient of colors that you want. They will change slightly in the oven, so the more different each color of the batter is, the more it will show as different after baking.
Decorating the Cake with Love
I wanted to make this strawberry Ombre heart cake extra special for my family. So I made chocolate ganache to drizzle on top and drip down the sides of the cake. The rich chocolate complimented the sweet strawberry cake really well.
I also melted about 6 ounces of white chocolate chips in the microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring each time. Then I put the melted chocolate in a piping bag and on a flat surface of aluminum foil, I piped cute words and tiny hearts. After about an hour, the chocolate to hardened, and they popped right off the foil. After the cake had been fully frosted and refrigerated for about an hour, I gently pressed the hardened chocolate shapes and words onto the cake. It gave it an extra special touch, since my own doodles and handwriting were on the cake!
The Recipes to Bake this Strawberry Ombre Cake
For the cake itself, I wanted to go off Half Baked Harvest’s Bursting Blueberry Cake. I baked her cake over the summer and it turned out so delicious! I made it during the time I was trying to figure out the science and physics and magic that is layer cakes.
If you’ve never made buttercream before or find it finicky, check out Cupcake Jemma’s tutorial video. She explains all the do’s and don’ts of buttercream really well (and in a brilliant British accent)!
Strawberry Ombre Heart Cake
- scant 1 cup milk or buttermilk
- 2 to 3 lemons
- 1 cup melted coconut oil
- ½ cup plain (not flavored) Greek yogurt
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar (pack it tightly into the ¼ cup as you measure it)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 3¾ cups plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp fine sea salt
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, with the greens trim off and cut into halves or quarters.
- 1 cup strawberry jam
- red food coloring (optional)
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
- 1½ cups unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted into a bowl
- 6 Tbsp milk or dairy-free milk
- 5 Tbsp strawberry jam
- If you have buttermilk already, use that. Otherwise, combine one scant cup of milk with one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Let that sit for 5 to 10 minutes until it thickens and curdles a little bit.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease your 8-inch round cake pans. This recipe can make either a 3 layer or 4 layer cake. Grease as many cake pans as you have/need. I made a four layer cake and I have two pans, so I baked the first two layers, popped them out and let the pans cool for about 10 minutes, then I re-greased the pans and baked the second two layers.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat the melted coconut oil, yogurt, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, buttermilk (either store-bought or homemade), 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Add in 3¾ cups of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the it all together until the batter is just combined.
- In a small bowl, toss the strawberries chunks with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour. This helps coat the strawberries so they don't all sink to the bottom of the cake while it's baking. Fold the flour-coated strawberries and the strawberry jam into the cake batter.
- Pour the batter into four separate bowls. To the first bowl, don't add any food coloring. To the second bowl, add a small squeeze of red gel food color. To the third bowl, add about three squeezes of the red coloring. And to the fourth bowl, add five squeezes to the batter. Stir them all and add more coloring as needed to achieve your desired levels of ombre.
- Pour each bowl of batter into separate greased 8-inch round cake pans. Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (aside from the jam) and the center of the cake isn't jiggly. Let the cakes cool for five minutes in the pans, then remove them and set them on a wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
- Whip the room temperature butter in a stand mixer or with a hand whisk for about 5 minutes, until it is soft and fluffy and pale yellow.
- Add about one third of the sifted powdered sugar and beat it (on a low speed) into the butter until the sugar is fully incorporated. Repeat for two more times with remaining powdered sugar. Make sure your mixer is on a low speed, otherwise you'll have a snowstorm of powdered sugar in your kitchen. After you add the last bit of powdered sugar, beat it for another five minutes to become really smooth and fluffy.
- Add the strawberry jam and whisk it in to help flavor, color and loosen the buttercream. If you feel like your buttercream is still too stiff, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk at a time and whisk that in to help loosen your buttercream more. It should be stiff enough to stick on the sides of your cake without sliding down.
Assemble the Layer Cake
- Trim the caramelized edges of the four cake rounds. Trim the tops off the cakes so they are level.
- Place the darkest pink layer of cake on a plate or cake stand. Spread out a few dollops of the buttercream on the top of the first layer. Place the second-darkest pink cake layer on top of the buttercream, making sure this cake layer lines up with the first one. Spread out a few more dollops of the buttercream on the top of the second layer. Repeat for the third and fourth layers of the cake.
- Spread the remaining buttercream on the sides of the cake. Use a butter knife or a pallet knife to get the buttercream nice and even and smooth on the top and the sides. Refrigerate the cake for about an hour, so the buttercream has time to set.
- Decorate the cake however you like! I made chocolate ganache to cover the top and drip down the sides. I also melted white chocolate and piped it into words and hearts on aluminum foil. Once it hardened after about an hour, I gently pressed them into the finished cake. Enjoy!!