Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hannah's Birthday Cake

Every month some of my girlfriends and I get together for Baking club and we tackle a recipe we've been dying to try.  One month, when it was my turn to choose the recipe and host the evening, I selected Martha Stewart's rainbow cake as a nod to the fact that it was St. Patrick's Day.

March 2011 Baking Club

I loved the cake.  It was a beautiful batter, a tasty cake, and the bright colors looked amazing and SUPER impressive.

I knew I wanted to use this recipe for Hannah's birthday cake.

Link to the recipe!

It is a milk and egg white cake batter, and the only substitution I make is that I use Cake Flour (available at your grocery store in the baking aisle or in bulk bins) instead of All Purpose.  I think it makes the cake lighter.

I didn't want to confuse Hannah's color scheme with being a rainbow theme, so I mixed up the order in which I stacked the layers.

Beautiful batter.  Try to get each layer to have a similar level of intensity by starting with a small amount of food coloring and keep adding till you get to the desired color.  You can always add more color, but you can't really take it out.

The downside to the cake is that you make the batter and then have to divide it into 6 equal parts (a food scale helps tremendously.  Making sure each pan is filled with an equal weigh of batter helps to ensure that the layers are similar in height.), which means you dirty 6 bowls, 6 utensils to mix in the food coloring and 6 cake pans.  Intense.

A dirty kitchen is a small price to pay for this gorgeous cake.

Now that I have the INSIDE of the cake covered, I had to frost it.

I stumbled across a picture of a ruffle cake MONTHS ago and have been excited to use this technique on Hannah's birthday cake.  As the months passed it became more and more popular online, so I'm not the first to steal this idea and hopefully I'll inspire some of you to try it so that I won't be the last either.

Martha Stewart

Because I don't feel the need to recreate the wheel, and since I was far too busy on the day of Hannah's party to actually FILM the decorating of her cake, I'll embed the movie where *I* learned the technique.  All you need is a pastry bag, a coupler to hold the tip in place, a 104 petal tip, and patience. 
All these things, except the patience, are available at JoAnns and Michaels, but if you have a local bake shop - you could definitely buy these items there too.

Since the ruffles have to defy gravity, you need a nice thick frosting that will really hold its shape.  
Everyone I found suggested a Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting.

A WHAT!?  you might be asking.   I know I was.  
After lots of Googling, this is what I've learned - Let's break it down:


You know what meringue is, right?  Lemon Meringue pie?  
The fluffy white topping on cakes or the crunchy air filled treat.  

It's fluffy because it's whipped egg whites.  
It's sweet because they add sugar.
That's literally all meringue is - egg whites and sugar.  
That's nothing to be afraid of!

But this is SWISS Meringue which is slightly different.

Swiss Meringue
This is a method by which you combine the egg whites and sugar {in your mixing bowl} over a simmering water bath.  
Think of a double boiler - you're heating the mixing bowl with the steam of the water bath, not actually submerging the bowl in the simmering water.  
Stirring constantly over heat makes sure the sugar melts and that the mixture is completely combined.  
Once the mixture reach 140*, you turn off the stove and put the mixing bowl on your mixer and beat the egg whites until they become a huge fluffy bowl or meringue.  

It's not hard - I PROMISE.

If you chose to make a homemade buttercream frosting, you first need to go to the grocery store a put a box of butter in your shopping cart.  Then add three more boxes.  

I've never unwrapped so many sticks of butter for one recipe in all my life.

Get over your shock and continue with the recipe.

Cut the butter into cubes and pile it high on a plate, then make your meringue.  
Letting it sit after you cut it into cubes will allow it to further come to room temperature, and yet let it cool back down after you man handled it.

It's a whole lotta butter....

See my meringue in the mixer?  Once it's almost overflowing and is forming stiff peaks, (and the bowl has cooled - remember that we heated it to 140* and we don't want it to still be ht and to melt our butter) slowly add the butter.

If you tripled the batch (like you'll need to in order to have enough frosting for a ruffle cake) then the bowl will be full of meringue and you'll just KNOW that all that butter won't fit, but let me remind you:

(1) Don't question me.  I had the same doubts as you, and yet I it all worked out just fine, and
(2) The fat in the butter will slightly break down the air bubbles in the meringue.  As it deflates, it creates room in the mixing bowl for the butter.
(3) Again, I know what I'm doing.  Just trust me.  :)

Add the butter a little bit at a time and then stand back to watch the most beautiful meringue you've ever seen turn into the yummiest frosting you've ever made.  Truly - it's delicious.

I used 15 egg whites and 3 pounds of butter.
I know.  It's ridiculous.  I know.

Here is a step by step photo tutorial that walked me through my first Swiss Meringue Buttercream experience.  You'll probably find it helpful as well:

(Hers turns out a little chunky because her butter was too cold, so make sure you let the butter sit out on the counter for a few hours before you make your frosting and yours will be smother than hers.)

Other Ruffle Cake Tips:
  • Do not frost your cake in a hot kitchen.  If the oven is on, if the sun is beating through your kitchen window and the A/C is broken, or if you're kitchen is humid  - your ruffles will droop and melt.  


You didn't work that hard to make a beautiful frosting only to have it pool into a buttery mess all over your rainbow cake.

  • Apply a 'crumb coat' to your cake using some of your frosting.  Scoop a few cups of the frosting into a separate mixing bowl and apply a thin layer to the cake.  This will lock in all the crumbs and give you a smooth surface on which to pipe your ruffles onto.  You use a separate bowl so that your RUFFLE frosting doesn't have crumbs all in it.  This is especially important if you're doing a rainbow cake and don't want to spoil the surprise of that first cut by having red and green crumbs in your white frosting.

  • Make sure your crumb coat is VERY thin.  The ruffles add about a 1/2 inch of frosting to the cake, so the thicker your crumb cake, the thicker the overall layer of frosting will be.  It's okay to still see a little cake peaking through the crumb coat, just make sure you coat all the surfaces.
Finally, here's how Hannah's birthday cake turned out:
The main cake was made of SIX 8" layers.

Hannah's smash cake was made of FOUR 6" layers.


If I had it to do again, I would have frosted Hannah's cake with cool whip.  The frosting was SO messy that she looked like an oiled up body builder after she was done.

I hope this gives you the push you might have needed to try to make your own rainbow ruffle cake!
If you have any other questions, feel free to leave them in a comment.


  1. What a beautiful cake Carla! I might just have to try and make this for my roommates birthday!

  2. This is so pretty, I have done the rainbow cupcakes for my godson's 2nd birthday and it was great so I am sire a homemade cake would be even better.
    This is 0625 harmony I donot know how to get it to post my name when I comment but I wanted you to know who it is :)

  3. Where is the after pic of Hannah?

  4. i think swiss meringue buttercream will have to wait until the day i own a stand mixer... then again, i just might be crazy enough to go for it with a hand mixer!

    lovely cake (even though i'm a bit ocd about having colors in rainbow order...)

  5. I'm in total awe of your dedication. That cake is too cute for words! Hannah seemed to really enjoy it too.

    Thanks for sharing your tips. =)

  6. I've been looking at that rainbow cake idea for months! Hannah's cake turned out great! I can't wait to try this cake idea.

  7. You've given me a brilliant idea. My son wants a 3D R2D2 cake for his 7th Birthday and the rainbow cake looks fab.
    Loved the pic of Hannah trying her cake too.

  8. What a beautiful cake and thanks for posting the tips.

  9. Great job I think I'll do the different colors in a cupcake to keep it simple! :)

  10. Love the frosting idea!!

    BTW not to nitpick but I wanted to be sure credit goes where it is due and Martha did not 'invent' that cake.. Kaitlin Flannery did ;)

  11. Cool whip! Ah! Genius.

  12. I love the cake! I may just try that. We have some new vegetable food coloring, all natural. I hope mine will come out just as good!

  13. Im have my kids birthday together. My son is turning 1 and my daughter is turning 4 so I thought I would do a neutral theme and now I know exactly how I want to their cake!!!! THANK YOU!!!

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  19. شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالمدينة المنورة
    لكل عملائنا الكرام إذا لاحظتم يوماً وجود تسربات في منازلكم فلا يجب أن تهملوا تلك لأنها تشكل خطر كبير على كل المتواجدين بالمنزل فهي تكون من أهم أسباب انهيار المباني وتساقطها وأنت في غنى عن حدوث ذلك، ولهذا يجب أن تقوم بالإتصال على الفور بشركتنا شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالمدينة المنوررة لأنها من كبرى الشركمات التي تمتلك فريق عمل متميز لديه الخبرة في تخطي الصعاب.




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