My second born just turned 3 years old and her only request was a pink cake. I quite enjoy cake, but typically “pink” cakes are something I wouldn’t bother eating. Usually they are flavorless and uninspired next to their chocolate, carrot, or spiced contemporaries. I made two goals 1.) to create a pink cake I would actually want to eat, and 2.) to make it not only pink but beautifully gradient in 3 tiers all different shades of pink. I totally achieved my first goal! But as you can see, I failed on my second goal 😦 I poured my first layer too heavy and opted for a two-tone second layer instead of having them all be different sizes. Next time I will weigh out my layers to make sure I get 3, but I’m posting this cake anyway because I’m so pleased with how it tastes, it’s the first time I’ve ever been tempted by a pink cake! The frosting is a mix of a cream cheese and buttercream that is not too crazy sweet, but just perfectly accents the raspberry flavor in the other layers. I seriously love it – and so did my birthday girl, not that 3 year olds are the most viable critics, but watching her eat this cake with joyous wild abandon was the highlight of my year….so far. Also, I used cake mix as my base because it makes life easier and unlike cookie or brownie boxes a cake box can be manipulated into something truly delicious.
I will give you instructions for a two tone gradient layer cake, as shown (minus my “medium” pink that was poured into my light pink layer) but feel free to make this into a 3 tone as I originally intended, all you will need to do is use a food scale and dirty some extra bowls as you mix the dark and light layer into a separate bowl creating a medium layer and make sure they are all about the same volume.
1 box Pillsbury golden butter cake mix (The brands are not important, but these were the ones I used)
2 cups raspberries yielding 1 cup raspberry juice (you can use frozen, I used some frozen, some fresh, either can give you pretty pink flavorful juice)
2/3 cups butter melted
3 egg whites (reserve yolks for your next cream pie!)
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup water
red or pink food coloring
3/4 cup butter at room temperature of just softened
6 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 + 3 tablespoons milk
8 cups powdered sugar (more if needed for proper thickness)
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
Make the dark layer:
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line with parchment two 9 inch cake pans (I used 9 inch this time, but you can use smaller if you’re doing 3 tiers).
- If your raspberries are frozen, defrost them in the microwave or on the stove. Mash up raspberries and strain them through a fine sieve reserving all the juice you can. Discard the smashed up leftovers.
- Mix 1/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup raspberry juice, 1/3 cup melted butter and 3 eggs until well combined then add golden butter cake mix scraping down the bowl.
- Add drops of food coloring just a few at a time until you reach the color of pink you want for the first layer.
- If making two layers pour into prepared pan, but not too full, only about 3/4 of the way full, use the rest for some extra side cupcakes. If making 3 layers set aside until your light layer is finished.
Make the light layer:
- Mix remaining 1/4 cup raspberry juice and 3/4 cup water with 3 egg whites and 1/3 cup butter (you can also use 1/4 cup oil, but butter tastes better).
- Add your classic white cake mix scraping down the sides and mix well.
- Add food coloring just a little bit a time until you get desired color. I put 1/8 teaspoon of coconut extract in this layer, I loved it, but you can easily omit that and still have a great tasting cake.
- If making two layers pour into prepared pan being careful you don’t fill your pan too much or it will spill over. Only about 3/4 the way and use extra for cupcakes on the side.
- If making a 3 tier cake, take out your food scale and start mixing your light and dark in a separate bowl until you have one dark, one medium and one light, all about the same volume.
Bake your cakes together if you can get them all on the same rack and if not be sure you rotate them regularly. Mine took about 29-31 minutes, but I used a large cake pan quite full. Check at 25 minutes and bake until they are nicely risen and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
Make the Frosting:
- Mix your butter and cream cheese until nicely incorporated. Add milk, and start to add powdered sugar scraping down bowl at regular intervals.
- Add pinch of salt and vanilla. If your frosting is too runny add more powdered sugar, if it’s too dry, add more milk. I think it’s easier to work with if you can refrigerate it for 10 minutes or so before frosting your cake.
- Add a few drops of food coloring until you get desired color of pink.
Put your bottom layer on a plate or cake stand and plop a good 1/4 or so of your frosting on top spreading a nice thick layer on top of your bottom layer. Put your second layer on that and use the rest of your frosting by putting all of it on top of your cake and pressing it out and around the sides with a frosting spatula or a knife being sure to never touch the cake, only the frosting, so you don’t pull up crumbs. Decorate as you please (not my strongpoint).