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Well gang, the summer seems as though it’s finally over. Although I’ll definitely miss the long, lazy evenings in beer gardens, I’m very glad of the relief from sweltering kitchens, melting pastry and buttercream disasters. I’ve recently been enjoying some great feedback on a chocolate Nutella cake (with secret cheesecake inside). It’s been an immediate hit, with one friend instantly requesting one for her birthday in a few months time.

This month it’s all about ombré and I’m going to talk you through exactly how to get that perfect gradient finish. It can be any flavour you like really, although it’s best to use a white buttercream rather than chocolate. The more layers you put in, the greater the effect will be, so I would suggest at least a three or four layer cake to start off with. I generally use the white buttercream to sandwich the layers and add a crumb coat before adding colour, as I find it gives a cleaner finish, but you can use the coloured buttercream if preferred.

  • Start out with a basic buttercream that’s going to hold up to a layer cake (250g butter, 250g icing sugar, 50g milk). You may need to double or triple up depending on the size of the cake.
  • When dividing your buttercream into thirds (or more if you want a more gradual blend), add a few extra spoonfuls to one of the bowls. Use this as the top colour and you will have enough to cover the top of the cake as well as the side.
  • Start small and build the colour up gradually drop by drop, to avoid over-saturation. I find it best to add the same amount to each bowl at the same time and put one aside when it reaches the desired colour before continuing with the rest.
  • A thin layer of white buttercream as a base or “crumbcoat” will help give a smoother finish to your cake.

  • Separate each colour into bags and pipe directly onto the cake, starting at the base. It’s best to use far more than you think you’ll need at this point, as it should be done in one smooth layer.
  • The right equipment is key for this cake. If you don’t already have one, get yourself a cake turntable and a set of icing smoothers.
  • Smooth out the top of the cake first to get rid of any excess. Then, using an icing smoother at an angle, carefully drag it around the cake. You may need to stop to wipe off excess as you go.
  • It’s best to turn the cake itself, holding the scraper still, rather than trying to run your hand around the cake. This will give a smoother, more even finish.
  • Clean your scraper off and go round the cake again if necessary to smooth off.

I often find myself re-discovering old favourites; favourite recipes, favourite writers, favourite songs. Recently I’ve re-discovered one of my favourite food bloggers, Sally’s Baking Addiction. She’s always a great go-to for tips and new recipe ideas. With hundreds of posts and recipes available, there’s sure to be something to suit your baking needs. She covers all seasons and her peaches and cream bars are one of my favourite summer recipes. They’re refreshingly different and make good use of the seasonal fruit.

From old favourites to new, I’ve recently had the pleasure of sampling what Short + Stout has to offer. One of Chester’s newest arrivals, it has recently opened on Ermine Road in Hoole. I ordered the carrot cake and a cold brew, which set me back £5.60. It’s a little on the hipster side (but I’m not ashamed to say I like that) with Instagram-worthy cakes and drinks. The carrot cake was decorated with a pretty drip icing, rose petals and pistachios and the flavour didn’t disappoint

It’s easy to overpower a carrot cake with spices, but this had a fine balance, assisted by chunks of carrot throughout. A little lime zest in the cream cheese icing lifted the flavour and complimented everything nicely. The cold brew was light and refreshing, just what I needed on a hot summer day. They definitely have both style and substance, which is, unfortunately, becoming uncommon these days.

I’ve lately been discussing sugarless cakes and the prospect of a peppermint mocha frappuccino mash-up, so watch this space. Until then, happy baking Amblers!