How to Decorate a Cake with Fresh Flowers
Happy Thursday! Today over on YouTube, I’m sharing the simplest, easiest tutorial for a pink ombre cake decorated with real flowers. You can use this technique for any size of cake, any base recipe (vanilla, white, or yellow cake works, though white or vanilla work best), and any vanilla or white frosting, too.
I’ve shared the recipes I used below, along with a few pointers for decorating with flowers — and the rest is covered in the video, above. Have fun and get creative with it!
Mini Pink Ombre Vanilla Cakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Fresh Flowers
Adapted from Elisabeth & Butter’s Perfect Vanilla Cake recipe
Yields a 3-layered, 8” cake or a 4-layered, 6” cake
What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 cups salted butter (3 sticks), softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 egg whites, room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature
Red food coloring
1 batch of Elisabeth & Butter’s buttercream frosting recipe!
4-5 fresh flower buds from a bouquet of roses — it’s nice to get different shades of the same color scheme — plus a few sprigs of baby’s-breath
What You’ll Do:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour four, 6″ by 2” cake pans using shortening and flour (tips on this process up top).
In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together for 2 minutes. The butter will be light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add egg whites, vanilla and almond extract, beating for 1 minute, no more or your egg whites will change the consistency of the batter.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.
Add about one third of the flour to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated, then scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add about half of the milk to the batter and beat until incorporated, then scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Continue alternating the flour and milk, ending with the flour mixture. Do not over-mix.
Fill the first of the four greased pans with 1/4 of the batter. Then, add a few drops of food coloring to the batter left in the bowl, mix, and pour 1/3 of the remaining batter into the next greased pan. Repeat this process two more times, incrementally adding food coloring to create a deeper pink color in each pan (remember — subtlety is key here! You don’t want to end up with a red cake, and a little color goes a long way.) Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then continue cooling on a baking rack. Be sure not to ice the cakes until they are completely cooled — it’s best to wait at least an hour (I leave mine overnight). Then, ice the cake and add the flower buds after reading through the tips below.
Tips for Icing Your Cake
After the cakes come out of the oven, use a serrated bread knife to slowly and carefully trim the top. You want a nice flat surface on which to spread your frosting.
I know we’re making cakes here, and there really isn’t a need for too much drama, but, with all the drama in the world, let me state the following: Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, should you frost a cake while it’s warm — no matter what your time constraints are! You’ll end up with a mess on your hands. If you have extra time, you might even want to wrap the baked layers in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to ice them.
An offset spatula and a cake turntable are both really good investments. Neither is necessary, but both will improve the quality and look of your final cake — and they’re fun to use! You’ll feel like a pro.
Employ a “crumb coat”! This is one way to ensure that your outermost layers of frosting are as pretty as possible. First, stack your layers with a thin, even layer of frosting in between them, and then give the cake a once-over with a first layer of frosting. You’ll end up with something that looks like you tried to make one of those Pinterest-famous “naked cakes” and failed. That’s GREAT. You’re on the right track. Place your unsightly, crumb-coated cake in the refrigerator or freezer until the frosting is totally hardened. Then and only then, apply your actually-nice-to-look-at layer of frosting! Magic.
Tips for Decorating with Flowers
Purchase your flowers at a farmer’s market (or better yet, cut them out of your own garden — if you’re feeling particularly motivated!). You don’t want any pesticides or other spray chemicals making their way into your cake. Edible flowers are an option, but likely won’t look quite the same as the flowers pictured in this post.
Use buds of varying sizes and hues — all within the same general color scheme. I love the romantic look of light pink roses, and the drama and flair of larger buds, especially when used sparingly (say, 3-4 buds to decorate an entire cake).
Snip the flowers so that you’re only decorating with the buds, but leave about a half-inch of stem space. You’ll use this to poke through the top layer of your cake and give the flowers a sturdy “base.”
Decorate asymmetrically for a more organic, “rustic” look. I like the half-moon shape featured in the images above because it appears almost half-finished and lends itself to the natural, earthy quality of the fresh flowers.
Add a few sprigs of leaves or baby’s-breath in between the flowers to complement the decorative vignette you’re creating. You’re essentially creating a '“scene” atop the cake, and you don’t want it to appear sparse.
If you mess up or don’t love the look you’ve created, don’t worry! You can easily move things around and start over. I like to keep a little extra frosting nearby to smooth out any areas that I’ve totally mutilated in the decorating process. You’ll be surprised, though — it’s really easy to make a cake look beautiful using this technique; flowers are so gorgeous all on their own, and it’s pretty hard to mess this up. Even a one-layered box-mix cake would look awesome with one coat of vanilla frosting and a few stunning flower buds tucked into its surface.
Don’t forget that this is just cake and meant to be a fun, creative, artistic experiment! Have a good time and don’t take it too seriously.