Chocolate Ombre Cake

The first cake of! Yay. πŸ™‚

Two weeks ago, my grandfather turned 84 years old.Β Eighty-four!Β He deserved a very special cake, and I wish I could say I came up with this cake 100% on my own, but I didn’t. The idea for this frosting technique was actually my mom’s.


My grandfather’s birthday was on a Friday, but we celebrated it on Saturday, which was also my parents’ 28th wedding anniversary! Twenty-eight! And I finished my first week at my new internship atΒ! Sitting in a cubicle for a week doesn’t seem like an accomplishment next to all these big numbers, but basically what I’m getting at is, there was a lot to celebrate!


My grandfather always requests a chocolate cake, and so does my dad. So for my dad’s birthday, fathers’ day, and my grandfather’s birthday, I’m always making chocolate cakes. How do you make a chocolate cake better or different from all the previous chocolate cakes? Sometimes I run out of ideas. But I love how this cake turned out, and it’s definitely different from the others I’ve made. At least decoration-wise.

My mom suggested frosting this cake with chocolate frosting that gets lighter as it goes up the cake, and I thought, ombre! I am obsessed with ombre things. Hair, cakes, clothes, blah blah blah. I got my hair dyed ombre style a few months back, but I’m such a wimp when it comes to hair colors. I was so afraid it wouldn’t turn out right that I asked for an extremely subtle ombre. So of course, it’s hardly noticeable. But that is not the case with this cake. I wanted really dark frosting at the bottom, so I used some Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. For the other two shades, I used different amounts of regular cocoa powder. I can never get the frosting on my cakes to look perfectly smooth, so I went with the messy look.



Chocolate Ombre Cake


    for the cake:
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup strongly brewed coffee
  • for the frosting:
  • 1 1/4 cups butter (2 1/2 sticks), room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 2 - 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar


  1. Make a pot of strong coffee. Line three 8" cake pans with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Carefully whisk together.
  3. In another medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients: sugar, eggs, milk, oil, vanilla, and peanut butter. Mix on medium speed until incorporated and smooth.
  4. Measure out one cup of coffee. Add half of the coffee and half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until combined.
  5. Repeat with the second half of the coffee and dry ingredients, and mix until combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the can pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the center of each cake and it comes out clean.
  7. frosting:
  8. In a medium sized bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter on medium-high speed until smoothy and creamy.
  9. Add vanilla and two tablespoons of milk. Mix well.
  10. Add two powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing on low speed until just combined, and then on medium-high speed until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl as needed.
  11. If the frosting is too thick, add milk 1-2 tablespoons of milk. If the frosting is too thin, add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and mix well.
  12. Next, divide the frosting into three bowls with less frosting in one bowl than the other two. (You'll need three shades of chocolate - a light shade for the top and the upper edges, a medium shade to go around the middle of the outside, and a dark shade to spread between the layers and around the bottom of the outside. So you'll need more of the light and dark shades, and less of the middle shade.)
  13. To make the lightest shade, add two tablespoons of cocoa powder to one of the bowls with more frosting, and mix well.
  14. To make the middle shade, add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the bowl with the least amount of frosting, and mix well.
  15. To make the darkest shade, add 1/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder to the last bowl (one of the bowls with more frosting), and mix well.
  16. If the darker shade and the middle shade look too similar, you may need to add more cocoa powder to one of them. This also applies if the two lighter colors are too similar. Add one tablespoon of cocoa powder (or Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder if you're working with the darkest shade) one tablespoon at a time until the colors are distinguishable. You don't want them to be too different, though.
  17. When cake layers are cool, transfer the bottom layer to a cake stand or plate. Spread some of the darkest shade of frosting onto the cake layer. Place the second layer on top of the first and repeat. Place the third layer on the top, but don't frost it yet. Spread more of the dark shade around the bottom, outside edges. This ring of frosting should be around 1 1/2 inches tall.
  18. Next, spread the middle shade above the dark shade, also about 1 1/2 inches tall. It's okay if the two shades of frosting are slightly mixed where the two colors meet.
  19. Spread the lightest color around the top edges and over the top of the cake. Top with sprinkles if you wish!
  20. Now eat some cake; you deserve it!


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  • I love ombre cakes (and clothes! And hair!) but I’ve always been terrified of actually making an ombre cake. Only three different colors doesn’t seem to bad though! (I will never do a 7-shade ombre cake though. Those people are crazy.)

    • Yes, I know what you mean! Some have 4 or 5+ layers and colors, and while they’re very pretty, in my head it seems like a lot of work. haha πŸ™‚ I felt like this one was a lot of work when I was writing out the directions, but in reality I don’t think it’s too bad.

  • This cake makes a great first impression, but what I likes best about it was the perfect blend of chocolate and peanut butter. Neither was over powering and there is nothing better than home made frosting. So, an excellent bethcake.

  • This cake was a huge hit! Your Uncle also requests chocolate cake too & he actually called later to say this one was REALLY extra good! Your photography looks great too, very pretty!

  • Totally loving this! I have the same problem with decorating chocolate cakes, especially when using chocolate frosting because it usually looks so blah! Definitely trying out this decorating method πŸ™‚ looks delicious!

  • So I just made this cake for a chocolate lover’s birthday. It was probably the best, most moist and rich cake I’ve had. However, my cake looked NOTHING like yours — I’m no decorator, but I think that I didn’t have enough icing and also my 8 inch cakes were super thin, so each layer was like..1/2 inch high. Anyway – nobody cared how it looked because the taste blew our minds! (Any idea why your cake looks so much thicker?)