Pansy Cake

cake with pansy icing detail
1 2-layer 9-inch square cake

The familiar combination of flowers and chocolate is even more romantic in buttercream and ganache.


For Decorating

  • Gel-paste food coloring in assorted colors (violet, super red, royal blue, lemon yellow, leaf green)

  • Pastry tips, such as Ateco: #2 round tip, #103 petal tip, and #102 petal tip

For the Cake


  1. Trim the top of the cake with a long serrated knife to make the surface level. Using a ruler as a guide, insert toothpicks or wooden skewers into the sides of the cake at 2-inch intervals to mark two equal layers. Rest the serrated knife on the toothpicks, and halve the cake horizontally using a sawing motion. Carefully slide the top cake layer onto a cardboard round, and set it aside.

  2. Gently brush away loose crumbs from top and sides of cake with a pastry brush. With a small offset spatula, spread top of bottom cake layer with 1 1/4 cups frosting; carefully slide the second cake layer back on top of the first layer. With the offset spatula, spread about 1 1/2 cups frosting over top and sides of cake to form a crumb coat. Refrigerate cake until frosting is firm, about 15 minutes.

  3. With a large offset spatula, spread about 2 more cups frosting over top and sides to form a second coat. Smooth sides with a bench scraper. Return cake to refrigerator, and chill until second coat is firm, about 15 minutes.

  4. Transfer cake to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Starting at center, slowly drizzle ganache in a circular, outward motion, letting it run over sides. Fill in bare spots by continuing to drizzle. If necessary, smooth cake with a small offset spatula to cover completely. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, tint 1 1/2 cups frosting each violet, pale lavender, and lavender (for flowers). Tint 1 cup pale green (for stems and leaves) and 1/2 cup yellow (for dots). Set aside.

  6. Using a toothpick or wooden skewer, mark a pattern on the ganache to serve as a guideline for piping stems.

  7. With green frosting and a #2 round tip, pipe stems. Using violet frosting and a #103 petal tip, pipe two large, basic petals, side by side: Hold the bag at a 45 degree angle to the cake, with the tip's wide end down and narrow end pointed away and slightly to the left. Move the tip forward 1/8 inch and back again while you pivot the narrow end to the right. Then make two smaller petals, one on top of each of the first ones by using the same petal technique; apply less pressure on the bag and make a smaller arc than you did for the larger petals. Turn cake and change to lavender frosting; using a pivoting motion as with petals, pipe a ruffle for the flower's base, turning the cake and connecting the petals. To finish the ruffle neatly, pull bag toward the center of the flower as you release pressure. Pipe a yellow circle in the center of each blossom with the #2 tip; pipe a leaf with the #102 tip, using the petal technique but moving the arc further forward before turning it back, and allowing frosting to ruffle.

  8. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving. Slice into squares: To avoid crumbs on surface, make each cut with one downward motion, pulling knife back toward you (not upward) and wiping knife clean after each cut.

Cook's Notes

Stems can be trickier than they might seem, so practice your pace on paper. Pipe too quickly and the stems break; too slowly, and they wiggle. Breaks, in any case, may be carefully filled in with icing afterward. Cake can be refrigerated for up to two hours.

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