celebrating an anniversary, eclipse, and ombre

May 23

This past Sunday was a day of celebration!  In California, we were able to view a rare annular solar eclipse!  Making this day even more special–my husband and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary–with a purple ombre cake.  How fitting was this cake?!  The gradient effect was reminiscent of the gradual shading of the sunlight on the earth during the eclipse.  And the color . . . our wedding color!

I have to admit–ailovebaking, but I only “like” making cakes.  I suppose it is because the decorating can be time-consuming–and time for a working Mom is very precious.  So I very rarely make cakes and reserve it only for very special occasions.  I have to apologize ahead of time since I was too engrossed with making this cake that I failed to take pictures along the way.  However, my ai daughter’s birthday is coming up so I hope to have another opportunity to blog about making a cake complete with photos.

So back to ombre.  What is ombre?  In regards to color it’s a gradient effect of a color from dark to lightest.  I first saw this on a wedding cake that I believe was done with ribbons of fondant.  This was my first idea for the anniversary cake.  However, I very rarely work with fondant and I am not fond of the taste.  So it was back to the drawing cake board.

In the meantime, I had envisioned a single large flower on the top.  Like fondant, I work with gum paste even less.  So I went in search of the perfect flower cake topper, and of course searched on Etsy.  Etsy has it all–from upcycled clothing to gum paste flowers.  I immediately loved the work by one shop called Sweet Bouquet.  I loved the designs that Olga did and she had some gum paste plumerias too!  I of course inquired about these plumerias, but her ranunculus was just stunning!  I placed an order for a few plumerias (looking forward to placing these on my ai daughter’s birthday cake) and one large 3′ ranunculus with a ombre purple center!  I am extremely pleased with the end product and highly recommend Olga’s Sweet Bouquet shop on Etsy.  Take a closer look at this beautiful ranunculus–now that’s pure talent!

Now back to my dilemma of how to “ombre” a purple cake.  I could color some buttercream with different shades of purple and decorate from there–but why?  I wanted something more.  That pièce de résistance!  I knew I wanted to make a coconut cake . . . and then it came to me.  What about coloring fine flakes of unsweetened dried coconut?!  Yes!  That was it.  And easily purchased at my local Whole Foods in bulk.  Done!

So now a coconut cake-wait ombre the actual cake–it just got better and better!  Then what about filling and frosting?  I definitely needed something purple for the filling.  Blueberry?  Why not go for my all time favorite, which I have not ever attempted before, UBE!  Yes, ube it would be.  And what is ube?  Ube can be equated to purple yam.  They have packs of frozen ube in the freezer section of my local Filipino grocery store.  I have always wanted to purchase this for years and finally got a chance too.

I’ve heard rave reviews of a Southern Coconut Cake with a meringue type of cream cheese frosting.  I thought it would be just perfect.  This was until the meringue type of cream cheese frosting did not turn out.  Luckily I had a good amount of the filling leftover and so the entire cake was filled and frosted with ube buttercream.

Here is the Southern Coconut Cake recipe from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes via A Tender Crumb blog.  Check out Linda’s blog it is just amazing!

Purple Ombre Coconut Cake (adapted from A Tender Crumb and Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes)

Cake Ingredients:

5 egg whites
1/2 c milk
3 tbsp coconut powder (can be found in Asian grocery markets)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 c cake flour
2 c sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cubed at room temperature
1 c unsweetened coconut milk
purple gel food coloring


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 8′ round pans with baking spray.  Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment round circle (use the outside of the baking pan as a guide to cut round circles).  Spray the parchment paper with baking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, add egg whites and beat slightly.  Add milk, coconut powder, and vanilla to egg whites and mix until incorporated.  Set aside.
  3. Note: Making a layered cake requires precision.  Therefore, weigh the stand mixer bowl first.  This way you can subtract this from the weight of the cake batter.
  4. In your stand mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Mix on low to break up any lumps.
  5. Add cubed butter a little at a time and ensure that it is incorporated before adding more.
  6. Add coconut milk and mix until just combined.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy.  About 2 minutes.
  7. Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  8. Weigh the batter and subtract the bowl’s weight to get the actual batter weight.  Divide this amount by 3.  Weigh out the batter into three separate bowls.
  9. In one bowl, add about 6-8 drops of the purple gel food coloring.  This batter should be very deep purple.  It will fade when baked.
  10. In the second bowl, add about 3-4 drops of the purple gel food coloring.  This batter should be significantly lighter in color to the first.
  11. Do not add any food coloring to the last bowl–leave it white.
  12. Bake cakes for about 30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  13. Immediately turn cakes out on a wire rack to cool.

Ube Buttercream:

1 16 oz bag of ready to use ube, thawed (can be found in the freezer section of an Asian/Filipino Market)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c buko, young shredded coconut (can be found in the freezer section of an Asian/Filipino Market)
3 tbsp ube powder (can be found in Asian grocery markets)
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature


  1. In a medium pot, combine thawed ube, sweetened condensed milk, buko, and ube powder.
  2. Stir mixture constantly over medium-low heat until it has thickened.  About 7-10 minutes.
  3. Take mixture off heat, cool slightly, and then transfer to a food processor.  Process mixture until smooth.
  4. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool completely.
  5. In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy.
  6. Add cooled ube mixture a little at a time.
  7. Turn mixture to medium-high and mix until incorporated.

Purple Coconut for Dusting Cake:

3 c medium flaked unsweetened coconut
purple gel food coloring


  1. In a food processor, pulse coconut until it becomes more of a fine texture, like snow.  But do not over process.
  2. Place one cup of coconut into a ziplock bag.  Place another cup of coconut into another ziplock bag.
  3. In one bag of coconut, add about 8 drops of the gel purple food coloring to the side of the bag.  Mix color into the coconut.  You may have to massage the color into the coconut to get the color evenly distributed.  This bag of coconut should be very dark purple.
  4. In the second bag of coconut, add about 4 drops of the gel purple food coloring to the side of the bag.  Mix color into the coconut.  You may have to massage the color into the coconut to get the color evenly distributed.  This bag of coconut should be a lighter shade of purple than the first bag.
  5. Do not color the last cup of coconut, leave it white.
To Assemble the Cake:
  1. Level each of the three layers of cake, if cake is uneven.  Place first layer on a cake stand or serving dish.  I usually place some parchment paper around the stand or dish which will keep it clean while you decorate the cake.
  2. Add a layer of ube buttercream to the top of the first layer.  Level it out.
  3. Add the next cake layer and another layer of ube buttercream.
  4. Add the last cake layer.
  5. Frost entire cake with buttercream and smooth it out.  Ensure that the top is smooth, but the sides need not be perfect since it will be covered with coconut.
  6. Cover the bottom 2/3 of the side of the cake with two strips of parchment paper.  You should have two rings of parchment paper around the cake.  After you have covered the sides, you should be seeing only the top third of the cake with buttercream.
  7. Grab a handful of the uncolored white coconut and press firmly to the side of the cake into the buttercream.  Continue until you have gone completely around the cake.
  8. Remove middle layer of parchment paper.  Grab a handful of the lighter shade of purple coconut and press firmly to the side of the cake into the buttercream.  Continue until you have gone completely around the cake.
  9. Remove the bottom last layer of parchment paper.  Grad a handful of the darker shade of purple coconut and press firmly to the side of the cake into the buttercream.  Continue until you have gone completely around the cake.
  10. I had some large coconut chips/flakes on hand and so I sprinkled a few of them over the top of the cake.
  11. Place gum paste flower on top of the cake.  The trend these days is to off-set the flower and not place it directly in the middle.

Like I said I am sooooo not the seasoned cake decorator.  Decorating with these colored coconut flakes is a novice cake decorator’s secret weapon!  This technique compared to fondant or intricate piping is so much easier to execute but can still have that WOW factor.

As I am not a master cake decorator, I am also not a master cake cutter!  I should have used a serrated knife, but the family was waiting and so I was pressured into cutting the cake quickly.

Notice my beautiful cake stand?  This has to be my most cherished piece I own.  It was made recently by my ai kids with help from my sissy and bro-in-law.  They surprised me with this treasure for my birthday.

Speaking of these treasures, words cannot express how much I love these two.

I want to wish my hubby a Happy Anniversary and many more to come.  Here is an ailovebaking stat.  My hubby–my first boyfriend and love turned husband years later : )

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Comments: 19

  1. What a gorgeous cake. Brilliant idea to create the ombre effect with coloring coconut. Happy Anniversary!

  2. HI Cookery May 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm Reply

    Awwww…your beautiful ombre cake was a labor of love! The coconut and ube flavors are a delicious combo. And how special that it was in the colors of your wedding, too. Belated anniversary blessings to you and your hubby! I can’t wait to see how the gum paste plumeria birthday cake for your daughter turns out.

  3. at350degrees June 13, 2012 at 2:25 am Reply


  4. lucky2602 July 4, 2012 at 4:28 am Reply

    Beautiful cake, looks amazing I love the way that you used the coconut
    Looks amazing – ill bet it tasted amazing too

    Hope you had a good anniversary

    • ailovebaking July 4, 2012 at 6:39 am Reply

      Thank you very much for stopping by my blog! The coconut decoration is a great option for novice cake decorators like myself, but yet such a pretty result! Appreciate you leaving such a nice comment : )

  5. cravingthis July 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm Reply

    What texture does the cake have? It looks very moist. Is it light and airy, or a bit dense?


    • ailovebaking July 29, 2012 at 6:06 am Reply

      Thanks Ruby for stopping by my blog! The cake is moist and yes a bit dense. It stands up to any type of buttercream or I would suspect fondant too. I hope this helps.

  6. Jen February 12, 2013 at 1:45 am Reply

    Would the ube buttercream be a good filling for ube macarons?

    • ai love baking February 14, 2013 at 4:23 am Reply

      That sounds delicious! I would definitely try it : )

      • Jen February 26, 2013 at 9:03 pm Reply

        The filling was a bit heavy for the macaron and made the cookies soft but they were still delicious! Thank you for the recipe! I will be using it again!

        • ai love baking February 26, 2013 at 9:53 pm Reply

          Hi Jen–thanks for the feedback. I can see how it made the macarons soft since it contains a lot of moisture and not ideal for macarons. Perhaps an ube ganache (white chocolate with ube)?

          • Jen February 27, 2013 at 12:50 am

            I will have to try that! I have some ube filling left over and will try to combine it with a swiss meringue buttercream, hoping that will lighten it up and still have the ube flavor. I will let you know how it goes 🙂

  7. Francisca July 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm Reply

    I see the buttercream calls for one can of sweet condensed milk. They come is a few sizes. Can you tell me approximately how many ounces of sweet condensed milk is needed? Thanks! Your cake looks lovely!!

    • ai love baking July 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm Reply

      Hi Francisca! Thank you for stopping by my blog. I used the Eagle Brand and I believe it is a 14 oz can. I hope this helps : )

  8. Stacy March 3, 2014 at 1:33 am Reply

    The cake looks beautiful & delish! I wanted to try to use your ube buttercream for the ube macarons but didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand. I ended making an Italian meringue ube buttercream as the filling for my macarons & they were delicious! . Next time I will try this in the macarons. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • ai love baking March 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm Reply

      Hi Stacy! Italian meringue ube buttercream sounds delish!

ai would love to hear from you!