Colored Cake Layers: (First note – you have options here!
You can use your favorite white/vanilla cake recipe, you can use my Favorite Vanilla Cake recipe, OR – you can ‘bakery-level-up’ a couple of boxed cake mixes! (replace oil with unsalted butter, use 8 egg yolks, replace water with buttermilk, and add 2 tablespoons of 2 tablespoons of clear vanilla extract! My favorite recipe is below!
Vanilla Cake Layers:
Note - this is a slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
(Save and add later! 3-4 drops each teal, orange, and pink gel food coloring – I used Americolor Teal, Americolor Electric Pink, and Americolor Orange. I chose my colors based on my sprinkles, so if you use a different sprinkle mix feel free to change up the colors!)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray.
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments on low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Divide batter evenly between 3 bowls and add your gel colors (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height. Transfer batter to prepared cake pans.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.
Black Chocolate Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
5 ½ -6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup black cocoa powder (Black Onyx on Amazon has been one of my favorite brands!)
4-6 Tablespoons milk
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
5-6 large drops black gel food color (I use black pretty frequently, especially around Halloween, so I bought this large bottle from Americolor!)
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with cocoa powder and milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla, black gel color, and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) or an 8” acrylic cake disc (I started using these so I wouldn’t waste so many cake circles!)
- squeeze bottle or piping bag for the cake drip
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)
- 6-inch (ish)/250mL Erlenmeyer flask – here’s a link to the least expensive one I found online! It doesn’t need to be able to withstand any substantial heat/cold; you’re just going to use it to top the cake.
- about 1 teaspoon of vegetable shortening (I used Crisco) to coat the inside of the flask
- Sprinkle mix of your choice – I used ‘Freak Show’ by FancySprinkles but there are tons of other mixes like this one available online!
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler.
Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting.
Add your next cake layer on top, and repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
This is a great time to make and color your ganache drip!
Candy Melt Drip:
- 6 oz white candy melts (I use the Wilton brand Bright White)
- 3 ¾ Tablespoons heavy whipping cream (the brand I usually use comes from Costco and is incredibly thick; you may need a bit less depending on the thickness of your heavy cream!)
- 2-3 drops gel food coloring of your choice – I used the same Americolor Teal gel color I used in my cake layers.
(This recipe is very similar to my favorite white chocolate ganache recipe – you’re basically using candy melts instead of white chocolate to make a very similar drip ganache. I prefer this drip when I want bright vibrant colors that aren’t tinted yellow from the white chocolate!)
Place heavy cream and candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between.
When your candy melt mix has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to a squeeze bottle or piping or small piping bag. A spoon will work if you don’t have either of those; I’ve just found spoons to be a little bit more difficult to work with.
Slowly drizzle candy melt ganache around the upper edge of your cake, pausing every inch or so to let more fall in a drip down the side of the cake. Add the remaining ganache to the center, smoothing any bumps or gaps with a small offset spatula.
This part is optional, but it added some fun flair to the cake top! With a bit of paper towel and a skewer or chopstick (anything long/narrow enough to fit) spread crisco around to cover the inside of the flask. I added a Crisco layer, set the flask in the cooling oven for one minute to melt down a little bit, and then spread it again with the paper towel so it wouldn’t look white and hazy. Shake a few sprinkles into the flask, and then shake the flask until the inside is covered.
Again – optional – but you can also use a shortening-covered finger to add some sprinkles to your drips! Place the cake into the refrigerator to set the drips when you’re done.