Ombre cakes are not only beautiful, but so very simple to make if you want to glam up a cake for a birthday, baby shower or any occasion. And this kool aid ombre cake takes us back to our childhood, reminding us of of giggles, games and carefree times!
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I make a lot of cakes for my friends and family. I enjoy baking and getting creative with the cakes, but I am not the most patient cake decorator. My daughter knows this, as she has giggled and snickered while watching me swear and yell at my piping bags while I attempt some magical feat with the cake before me.
I found myself way over my head when I prepared my daughter’s rainbow unicorn cake for her birthday last year. But I survived and I’m mighty proud of how the cake turned out. But I won’t lie. I prefer less stress and have shared with you many easy birthday cake ideas. And this Kool-Aid ombre cake is another relatively simple way to prepare a glamorous cake.
What is an ombre cake?
The term ombré is French meaning shaded. It refers to colors graduating from light to dark or vice versa. It became popular with the color effect being used in hair and has been featured many other ways in the fashion industry. And now it has reached viral status with food and cakes. Go figure?!!
An ombre cake is frosted from light to dark color, blending together using any color. The inside of the cake usually has layers showing three different shades of the same color featured as well. It is another way to make a simple cake a bit more glamorous with very little effort.
Each cake layer is a different shade of your featured color, typically using food dye for the desired effect. For this ombre cake, I used Kool-Aid and a box of white cake mix. I divided the batter up evenly into three bowls and baked the cakes in 6-inch cake pans.
What is a kool aid cake?
Did you grow up drinking Kool-Aid? I did. Kool-Aid and Tang were common powdered drinks I enjoyed over the summer. Did you know you can add your favorite flavor of Kool-Aid to your cake mix to make a kool aid cake? Well, now you know.
A kool aid cake in this case is white cake mix with Kool-Aid drops mixed into the batter in different amounts to give the cake a beautiful ombre effect. The blue ombre cake featured in this post was made with blue raspberry Kool-Aid drops. I also used the drops in the frosting to create the same 3-tiered ombre effect.
Can I use powdered kool aid to make a kool aid cake?
The blue raspberry ombre cake was made with the concentrated blue raspberry drops. I have also made Kool-Aid cake with powdered mix. Either options work fine, but you do have to adjust how much Kool-Aid you add to each cake batter depending on how vibrant the color is in that particular flavor of Kool-Aid.
The blue raspberry color is pretty vibrant so no additional food coloring was needed. But the powdered grape Kool-Aid turned out more gray than purple when baked into the cake, so it needs the addition of red and blue food coloring to get a brighter purple color.
How to assemble your ombre cake
Whether you use Kool-Aid or food coloring, you will need at a minimum 3-layers of color gradient. As I mentioned earlier, I used a box of white cake mix for my base cake batter which I divided evenly into three bowls and added different amounts of Kool-Aid to get me a light, medium and dark color.
Once baked, I let the cakes cool on a cooling rack completely. I share in the recipe my favorite buttercream recipe. I use less sugar than most other recipes because I find too much sugar takes away the delicious butter flavor. Plus, we are adding Kool-Aid to the frosting, which means more sugar and flavor.
I first frosted the cake using the plain basic buttercream. I added thick layers of buttercream between each layer and gave the entire cake a white crumb coat. The remaining frosting I divided into 3 bowls and created 3 gradient colors, adding Kool-Aid to get the same effect.
I then added rings of colored frosting over the white frosting, starting with the dark frosting on the bottom and the light frosting on the top of the side of the cake. I kept the very top of the cake white. You can pipe the ombre frosting on the sides using piping bags or ziploc bags with a corner cut off, or you can use an offset spatula and smear on the colored frosting.
Once the 3 different colors of frosting is on the side of the cake, use your offset spatula to smear it smooth, blending the layers together. You can also use this very handy frosting scraper which creates the ultra smooth finish bakery made cakes have. I have one. I forgot to use it, which is why mine isn’t so ultra smooth ha ha ha!
This ombre frosting effect is also similar to a watercolor frosting effect. And what I like most about frosting a cake this way is that you can hide your mistakes really well!
Another method of frosting an ombre cake is to mix one big bowl of the darkest frosting then pipe or smear it onto the bottom part of the cake. Then add more white frosting to lighten it up and then smear or pipe that lighter color above the darker. Then finally add some more white frosting to lighten it up even more and then pipe or smear it on last. Then use the offset spatula to smooth it all together.
Whichever frosting technique you use just know that your final ombre cake will look fabulous!
What does kool aid cake taste like?
Since I used white box mix cake for my base cake batter, the flavor is basically plain, mild vanilla. The real flavor comes from the Kool-Aid you add to the cake. Now if you are not a fan of Kool-Aid, you may not like the taste of this kool aid cake.
Blue raspberry Kool-Aid, for example has a sweet and sour taste to it. And guess what, so does the blue raspberry kool aid ombre cake! The darker cake layers have more flavor than the lighter layers. I personally prefer the flavor of the grape Kool-Aid cake.
So what does Kool-Aid cake taste like? Well, it tastes like the Kool-Aid flavor you choose to use. Simple as that!
Can I make kool aid cupcakes?
The very first time I added Kool-Aid to cake mix, I was actually making Kool-Aid cupcakes. They were for my kids’ elementary bake sale and they were HUGELY popular with the kiddos. For these Kool-Aid cupcakes, I used the liquid grape Kool-Aid drops to the entire white cake mix batter, plus the addition of food coloring to get the bright purple effect.
We added enough Kool-Aid to the batter until we were happy with the flavor, then just added a small amount of red and blue food coloring. For the frosting, I still wanted an ombre effect, so I mixed up 3 colors of frosting using Kool-Aid and food coloring: plain buttercream, light purple and dark purple.
I used this spatula technique for the frosting. In one large piping bag I used my long metal spatula to spread out each of the frostings along the side of the pastry bag, creating three stripes of colors. Then I pressed the pastry bag flat, gently smoothing the colors down and start piping the cupcakes.
My boxed cake mix instructions said that I could make 24 cupcakes with this batter. I always poor more than I should in the cupcake liners, so I made 21 cupcakes. If you want to generously top the cupcakes with grape Kool-Aid frosting, then mix up the entire batch of frosting listed in the recipe below.
If you just want a little bit of frosting over the top of the cupcakes, then halve the frosting recipe. You can use any cupcake frosting tips to create the effect you like. I personally like frosting tip #1M, which is what I used for the pictured Kool-Aid cupcakes. Remember to use large piping bags, along with the larger tip couplers.
Do I have to use kool aid to make an ombre cake?
You definitely do NOT have to use Kool-Aid to make an ombre cake. Simply use your favorite food colorings to create the same desired effect. The baking and assembly process would be the same with food coloring as it was with Kool-Aid.
Some food colorings do have a nasty after taste, especially when you are using larger quantities. I like to use these Wilton food colors because they are super vibrant and very little goes a long way. Plus, Wilton has a great color formulas for you to follow, so no expensive experimenting needs to be done.
Remember, ombre cakes are great for any occasion, like birthdays, baby showers, bridal showers and even the holidays. My friend Jenni frosted her chocolate Halloween cake with a beautiful orange ombre effect.
- 1 box of white cake mix*
- 1 ¼ cup water*
- ⅓ cup olive or vegetable oil*
- 3 egg whites*
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cup powdered sugar
- 3 TBS heavy cream
- Kool-aid drink powder or liquid concentrate
- Food coloring, as needed
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Coat 3 6-inch cake pans with oil and line the bottom of each pan with with parchment paper.
- In a medium size bowl, combine cake mix with water, oil and egg whites. Mix until batter is smooth.
- Divide batter evenly into 3 bowls.
- Using your Kool-Aid, add enough drops or powder until you have three distinct shades of colored cake batter. Some Kool-Aid mixes, like grape, need the addition of food coloring to make the colors brighter. Add food coloring, if needed.
- Transfer batter into prepared cake pans and bake cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
- Once baked, allow cakes to cool completely on a cooling rack.
- Do not begin frosting the cake until the cakes are completely cooled.
- To make the frosting, whip together butter, powdered sugar and heavy cream until smooth.
- Stack cakes on a cake stand, starting with the darkest cake layer on the bottom. Add buttercream frosting generously between each layer.
- Frost and smooth out entire cake in buttercream frosting, making sure that the top is generously covered in frosting. The sides of the cake do not have to be completely covered, just a crumb coat.
- Divide frosting evenly into three bowls.
- Using your Kool-Aid, add enough drops or powder until you have three distinct shades of colored frosting. Just like with the cake batter, you might need to add food coloring to make the colors brighter.
- You can add the colored frosting onto your cake using a piping bag with large round tip, a Ziploc bag with the corner clipped off, or with an offset spatula. Starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe rings of your darkest frosting completely around the cake about a third of the way up the sides of the cake.
- Pipe rings of your second color above the dark. Do not worry about piping completely straight or even rings.
- Finish off with the lightest color, piping the rings until you get to the top of the cake.
- Once all fo the colors are on the sides of the cake, it is time to smooth it all together, creating the ombre effect.
- Use an off-set spatula held perpendicular to the table start smoothing the layers of color together. Remove any excess frosting. Clean your spatula between use.
- Continue smoothing the layers together until desired effect is reached.
- Each box of white cake mix makes approximately 24 cupcakes. To create the ombre effect for the cupcakes, spread stripes of each frosting into a large piping bag, as described in the blog post. Gently press the bag flat and smooth out frosting. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes using desired frosting tip.
* The amounts of oil, water and egg whites might vary depending on which white cake mix you use. Adjust accordingly.
You can use powdered or liquid kool-aid concentrate. The amounts you use for the cake batter and frosting will vary depending on personal taste and how big the drops you squeeze out. Some kool-aid colors are not super vibrant and you will need to add a little food coloring to brighten up the colors.
For cupcakes, if you want generous amounts of frosting like pictured here, prepare the full recipe of frosting. If you do not want a lot of frosting, then only half the amount will do.
Serving Size:1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 406Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 80mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 0gSugar: 48gProtein: 2g