A vanilla cake is anything but boring when decorated with colorful frosting and leaf-shaped tuile cookies.
ombre cake with fall leaves

It's a truth universally acknowledged that one of the only good things about summer ending is the arrival of fall foliage. Why not pay homage to the beauty of the changing leaves by baking an equally stunning cake? Our new favorite fall dessert starts simple, with a classic vanilla layer cake, then goes all out with the embellishments. First, it's frosted in three different warm hues: red, orange, and yellow; then comes the piece de resistance: delicate leaf-shaped tuile cookies that are tinted even more vivid shades of autumn.

The base of this showstopping dessert is super straightforward. A touch of vanilla extract flavors the batter, and the addition of buttermilk yields a tender, moist crumb. Trust us, even unadorned, this cake will make you forget all about store-bought mixes. Four layers are stacked together, then given a crumb coat with silky Swiss meringue buttercream. Pro tip: use a serrated knife to cut the cakes-its teeth help saw through them rather than squish the layers like a chef's knife would.

tuile leaves
Credit: Sang An

While the cake firms up in the fridge, work on the thin, crispy French cookies known as tuiles. Because the batter is heavy on egg whites, the dough is very pliable. Tint with your favorite gel food colors; we went with the red, brown, golden yellow, and egg yellow hues from AmeriColor, but you can also use natural food dyes or go truly au naturale and bake the batter as is for a classic light-brown tuile.

Now comes the really fun part: drop dollops of each tinted batter into food-safe leaf stencils at random. Using a small offset spatula, swirl the colors together, then scrape away any excess batter, leaving a thin layer behind in the stencil. After baking, transfer the "leaves" to the top of a rolling pin-they'll take on a curved shape and look more lifelike. Take note that you have to work quickly, as the tuiles cool down as soon as they're off the baking sheet.

Finally, it's time for the striped frosting effect. Transfer the cake to a turntable-the ability to rotate is key here. Tint the remaining Swiss meringue buttercream red, orange, and yellow, then divide among pastry bags. Snip a hole in the edge of each bag (no pastry tip needed!). Starting at the bottom, pipe two to three stripes of one color along the sides of the cake; repeat with remaining colors. Using a bench scraper, scrape the frosting as you rotate the cake to give it a smooth, blended appearance. Pile the tuile leaves on top, then get ready to be the hit of the party!

Get the Tuile Leaves Recipe

Watch Sweet Talk host Lindsay Strand whip up this fall party-ready cake:


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