Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ombre Dot Cake

One of the things I have sadly gotten away from that I absolutely LOVE to do is cake decorating.  I have posted a few tutorials in the past, like the striped cake where I go over a lot of basics of cake decorating and the simple way to decorate a cheesecake with chocolate.  Being unemployed over the past year, I haven't had the money or reasons to bake and decorate many cakes.  I'm hoping to start again this year and experimenting with different recipes, too.  I'll be sure to share them with you!  

When I was going through my old pictures on my computer recently, I came across a cake that I never shared with you but clearly meant to because of all the tutorial pictures I had available!  I absolutely LOVE this cake design technique and it can be used for just about any occasion.  It's simple, classy, unique, and in my opinion, very impressing even for a new cake designer!  

Here is the photo I took inspiration from:

I think I originally saw this picture on Pinterest back when I first joined.  From what I could tell, the cake above was actually made for a Mexican birthday party.  I think the carnation detail really adds to that theme.  But, when I saw this picture, I fell in love with the ombre dot design.  Now, it would be ambitious to try to tackle the multi-tiered, multi-colored design.  But I thought it would actually be pretty simple to just focus on one color.  

So, when I had the opportunity to try out this new technique, I jumped on it!  During the summers, I work at a summer day camp.  Last year, one of our counselors got engaged and the other found out his wife was pregnant within a week of each other.  So, to celebrate, I brought in a cake!  Here's the steps in case you'd like to give it a try, too...

First of all, I baked two 8-inch round cakes and made a double batch of buttercream icing.  **Side Note:  I almost always make double batches of icing when I know I'm going to be decorating.  It's not that expensive if you have to freeze or throw out extra and it is KILLER when you have to stop in the middle of creative madness decorating to make a new batch**  I completely iced the cake with a crumb coat, let it dry, and did a thick second coat.  I smoothed out the icing as much as possible with a spatula.  You can always use the Viva method to make it smoother, but I wasn't worried about it being completely smooth with the detail I was adding.  

Next, I decided on my colors.  Like I said, it would be super ambitious to try to do a lot of colors.  It's definitely possible, and if you're making a large cake for a large crowd or for an extra special event, it would be worth the time for the outcome you would have.  

For me, and for the simple cake that I was taking to work, I just chose one color and made different shades.  You can do this a couple of ways.  You can either add your food coloring a little at a time, or start with the darkest color and add white icing to lighten it.  This time, I started with white icing and added my food coloring a little at a time.  I started with the light teal color, then added a little green and a little more blue each time until I had four colors.  

However, when I use this design technique again, I will more than likely start with the darkest color and add white icing each time to make it lighter.  This will help to make sure your color is consistent and only the shade changes, not the tone.  (Shade is the same color, lighter or darker - Tone is colors in the same family but different "degrees" might be a little more red, another a little more yellow, etc.)  I think it would also be helpful because you would know that you have enough of each color, instead of running out of one having too much of another.  

Here are my colors once they were mixed:

Once mixed, I put each color in its own bag.  You don't have to do it all at once: you can do one at a time, but you won't want to use the same bags because the colors will mix.  That would be no bueno.  Typically, I would tell you to be sure you that all of your colors are mixed and bagged before starting your decorating so that you can go back and forth with colors.  But since this design is really one order of colors and not needing a lot of "touch ups" you could just bag one color at a time to keep your icing fresh.  Oh, and you'll notice that I didn't put any icing tips in my bags.  I just cut the tips off since I was just doing round, simple circles.  Just make sure you hold up your tip when you cut the other bags so that your dots are all the same size!

Once my colors were ready, I needed to decide where to start my line of dots.  I opted to start towards the top and tier down my design.  Instead of starting right on the edge where the top meets the sides, I wanted my line to start about an inch below the edge.  I don't know about you, but I have a hard time making a straight line on a round surface.  To help me out, I used a piece of regular old string.  (Make sure it's not string you found under the couch or in your junk drawer.  Since it's going on something that will be eaten, you'll want it to be super clean.)  It took some trial and error, but I placed and replaced my string around the cake until I was happy with a nice, straight line.  Pull it a little tight so that you make a small indentation in the icing as a visual starting point.  It doesn't have to be super deep, this is just like using a stamp or stencil to trace.

Using my indented line as a guide, I started icing small, smooth dots around the cake.  I placed them close together, and released pressure before pulling away to prevent the "Hershey Kiss" look. I started with my darkest shade as the longest line and the one that goes all the way around.  You could start with the lightest shade, but I like the effect better when it fades away as it gets smaller.

After my line was completed all the way around the cake, I moved on to my next shade.  If you are a perfectionist, you'll want to count your dots around the first line so that you can equally divide your ombre pyramids.  I'm a perfectionist and didn't think about that, but adjusted my "back side" to make it work (more on how to do that in a minute).  With the next shade (one shade lighter than my darkest), I made three dots using the same icing technique and leaving one dot-sized space between each section.  This is going to start the shape of your ombre pyramids.

Continue in the same pattern, using a lighter shade and decreasing the number of dots each time until you get to one.  Since I only used four shades, that meant I did four lines, including the first all-around line.

I didn't want this small cake to be crowded, so instead of repeating the mirror of the design on the bottom, I added my lightest shade dots between each pyramid.  For the bottom, I just used a larger tip with my darkest shade of icing and did a layered, large bead border.

Since the side of my cake was so detailed and gorgeous, I didn't want the top to take away too much attention.  So, I just did simple lettering (with not very good space planning on my part...oops!) to congratulate our friends, the groom- and hubby- to-be.

I am so happy with how this cake turned out and will most definitely do it again!  I think I learned a few things.  Next time, I will start with my darkest color and add white icing to lighten for each shade.  I think I would also try smaller dots and be a little pickier with the straight-ness of my lines.  And of course, better planning for the top!  

Overall, I'm happy with how it turned out and can't wait to try it again!  How cute would this be for a baby shower?  It's so simple and plain, you could really use this design for any occasion.  And trust's super low on the difficulty scale.  If you can squeeze icing through a bag, you can do it! 

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