Purple Ombre Cake

For obvious reasons, this Purple Ombre Cake was the centerpiece of the entire 1000th Post Party last weekend. It stole the show. I kept it in the fridge while all the savory treats were being consumed so that it wouldn’t distract everyone from the awesome food they were eating. But that didn’t work. Inevitably, someone had to open the fridge to get a new bottle of champagne, and then the exclamations of amazement started.

Purple Ombre Cake

I have to admit, I’m very proud of how this cake turned out. I wasn’t really sure how it would go. I knew I could do it, but I was worried I’d be frustrated with the decorating. As I have mentioned many times before, decorating a cake is not my strongest skill. Hubby even admitted later that when he saw the inspiration behind the cake, he didn’t think I had it in me. He honestly thought I was being over ambitious.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an ambitious cake. Four layers of cake, all a different gradient of purple, covered in roses, again piped in varying shades of purple. But believe me, with a little planning, and some practice, anyone can make this cake. I have a few tips on some things not to do, and some things to do when considering making this cake.

Purple Ombre Cake

1. Don’t forget the sugar in two of the cake layers. This cake method is a bit different than most. Most cakes start with creaming butter and sugar. Not this one. It’s more like mixing biscuits. You add the butter to the dry ingredients before adding the liquid ingredients. So when your brain goes into autopilot and you mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, don’t make the mistake I made and assume that’s all that goes in there! Add the sugar. FYI, I tried stirring in the sugar at the end and baking them because I hate wasting ingredients. The cake looked like cake when it came out of the oven. But it tasted… well, like the sugar was mixed in at the end. It was really sweet. And a little gummy.

So I had to re-bake two of the cake layers. Which means I have 18 egg yolks in my fridge right now. I see a lot of creme brulee in our future.

Purple Ombre Cake

2. Don’t change your mind about the color of your frosting at the end. My original plan was to have the lightest shade of frosting be white. After piping the bottom two rows, I piped the first white rose and decided it was too big of a difference from the previous color. So I scraped that rose off, stirred in some purple food coloring and mixed up the lightest shade that you see in the finished cake. I’m sure you all think it looks fine, but I wish I had done that up front so I could have done the crumb coat in the lightest color. It annoyed the perfectionist in me that you could see specs of white peaking through between the roses.

3. Do mix up the cake batter in two batches. Trust me, you mixer can’t handle a double batch of that batter. To make your life easier, measure everything out for both batches at once. So when you put the flour in the bowl of your mixer, measure the same amount out and put it into another bowl. Then when it’s time to make the second batch, everything is measured and ready to go.

Purple Ombre Cake

4. Do invest in a cake decorating turn table. Hubby is always on my case about the amount of baking gadgets I have. I have been eyeing one of these bad boys for quite some time but I didn’t know where I’d store it. I finally decided to just get one and figure it out later. I’m SO glad I did that. Applying the crumb coat took about 1/3 of the time that it takes without one and it helped when I was piping the roses too. Believe me, it’s worth the $18.

5. Do make this fruit passion curd. I don’t care if you’re intimidated by this cake, if you do nothing else, make the filling. Eat it with a spoon, on a graham cracker, or stuffed into a cupcake. It’s seriously delicious. Goya makes great frozen fruit purees in a variety of flavors. I want to make this curd in every possible flavor available (you can find the purees in the frozen food aisle near the other Hispanic foods). It’s SO simple and delicious.

Purple Ombre Cake

6. Do as much ahead of time as you can. I feel like a broken record here, but the key with layer cakes not becoming too overwhelming is to break things up. I made the curd on Thursday night, baked the cakes on Friday, and made the frosting on Saturday. Then I just had to stack and decorate it before the party.

And last but not least, don’t be intimidated by the roses! They’re very simple to do and with a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time. Just remember that to pipe roses, you start in the center and make one big swirl from the inside to the outside.

UPDATE: Click here for the Video Tutorial on How to Pipe a Rose

Hubby was shocked to watch me decorate the cake because it honestly took about 15 minutes total. The biggest pain was washing the tip between colors of frosting. And, to convince you guys even further, I’ve recorded a video of how to pipe roses! It needs a smidge of editing over the weekend, and I’m hoping to post it first thing Monday. So be sure to come back for that!

One Year Ago: Hot Cross Buns
Two Years Ago: Raspberry Curd
Three Years Ago: Raspberry Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

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Purple Ombre Cake

Such an impressive cake for any special occasion

Yield: Serves 16-20


For the Cake Layers
Double batch of White Cupcakes, baked into four 9-inch layers
Food coloring of your choice

For the Passion Fruit Curd
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup passion fruit nectar or puree - Look in the hispanic aisle in your grocery store - Goya makes all sorts of fruit purees
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean - split, seeds scraped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

For the White Chocolate Buttercream
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar (or more, depending on desired consistency)
Pinch of salt
12 oz. good quality white chocolate, chopped (not white chocolate chips or candy melts!)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
Food coloring of your choice


For the Cake Layers
I recommend making the cake twice instead of doubling the recipe. While you're measuring out the ingredients for the cake, just measure out enough for the second batch at the same time so it's easier the second time around.

The first time through, leave one layer white. Add a few drops food coloring to the second layer prior to baking (I used 5 drops in my lightest layer).

When making the third and fourth layers, add a bit more food coloring to each layer such that you'll have gradually darker layers (I used 9 and 18 drops for my darker layers).

Allow all layers to cool completely.

For the Passion Fruit Curd
In a saucepan, whisk the sugar and cornstarch.

Whisk in the passion fruit nectar, egg yolks and vanilla seeds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thick, 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat; whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated.

Scrape the filling into a glass bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

For the Frosting
Put the chopped white chocolate into a small bowl. Heat the chocolate in 30 second increments in the microwave set to 60% power. Stir after each increment, and continue to heat 30 seconds at a time, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to completely cool.

Once white chocolate has cooled, sift the salt and powdered sugar over the butter, in a large bowl. Cream the butter and sugar mixture together until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Measure the whipping cream into a cup, and stir in the vanilla extract.

With the mixer running on low speed, gradually pour the cream mixture the bowl.

Once the cream mixture has been incorporated into the frosting, fold on the melted (but cooled) white chocolate until incorporated.

Increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat frosting for an additional 3 minutes.

To Assemble the Cake
Once all of the cake layers have cooled, level each of the layers except the white layer.

Place a small amount of frosting on a cake board to stabilize the cake. Center the darkest layer on the cake board. Pipe a small ring around the edge of the cake layer. This will ensure the filling doesn't spill out between the layers.

Spoon a heaping 1/3 cup filling into center of cake and spread to the edges.

Stack the next lighter cake on top and continue the process until all layers are stacked and the white layer is on top.

Frost the cake with a crumb coat and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

To Decorate the Cake
Place ~3/4 cup of frosting into two separate bowls (you'll have three bowls of frosting at this point, two with 3/4 cup, and one with the rest, which will be more than 3/4 cup).

The bowl with the most frosting will be your lightest color. Add food coloring to that bowl first until the desired color is reached. Color the other two bowls of frosting such that you have three shades of frosting.

Alternatively, leave all of the frosting one color.

Place the cake on a rotating cake stand. Starting at the bottom, pipe a row of roses along the cake using the darkest frosting color. You're going to pipe three rows of roses, so make sure they cover about 1/3 the height of the cake.

Continue with a second row of roses in the next lighter shade of frosting. Place the roses directly above the bottom layer.

Finish with one last row of roses in the lightest color. Next, decorate the top of the cake by piping a rose in the center of the top of the cake. Work your way around from there piping three circles of roses on the top of the cake.

If there are any large spaces between roses, you can pipe small stars into them to fill the space.

Filling recipe from Kaitlyn in the Kitchen, Frosting recipe from Country Cleaver

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27 Responses to “Gooey Bars (aka Cream Cheese Bars)”

  1. #
    Sunshine — January 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    These look fantastic!

  2. #
    Jess — January 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    my husbands family calls them butter-gooey cake.

  3. #
    Kelly — January 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Hi! These are actually called Gooey Butter Cakes, and they are a Paula Deen recipe (hence the butter and cream cheese!) I love making them with a red velvet cake mix….so good.

  4. #
    Andrew's Mom — January 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Ooey gooey butter cakes have been around for decades – they started in St. Louis – very close to my hometown. I remember making this recipe years before Paula came on the scene. She just made them more famous! Everyone goes nuts when you make them – I make them with all kinds of flavors – pineapple, lemon etc. Yours look great.

  5. #
    Jen — January 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks for all the information about where the bars originate from. Wherever they came from, they sure are good. I saw some comments on the allrecipes.com link of variations that people have tried like swirling in some berries and using chocolate cake mix. Kind of like a cheesecake brownie

  6. #
    Dyanna — January 21, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Here in Kentucky they’re called Chess bars and have been around for a very long time. I’m not a native to KY and a coworker introduced me to these. I looked at them and thought “What the heck is that?” but once I tried one I was HOOKED! I just love how simple they are to make.

  7. #
    kitchen koala — January 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Whatever you call them, they’re pretty darned good!

  8. #
    Katie — January 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    YUM! Those look really delicious. And I love the colors you always put in the background.; The blue with the orange tint of the abrs is just perfect!

  9. #
    Ingrid — January 21, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Yours looks like how my first and only batch turned out but I think I’d like them better gooey and with a little less sugar.

  10. #
    Julie — January 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Yum…I love these things!

  11. #
    Colleen — January 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    These look delicious! And I love using boxed cake mix!

  12. #
    Kasey — March 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    I made these for a friends birthday this past weekend and they were a big hit!

  13. #
    Tyler — September 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I just made these today and they are delicious! I left mine slightly gooey and it’s so good!

  14. #
    Lisa @ Cents to Save — April 1, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I love these bars!

  15. #
    Lindy S — March 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    ust made these, yum! But I am curious to know where I can find some variations, i.e., with nuts, chocolate, fruit flavored, etc……I love to experiment!

    • beantownbaker — March 16th, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

      I haven’t had a chance to play around myself with this recipe. I’m sure if you searched online, you’d find some other variations. Let me know what you try!

  16. #
    Britanny — May 13, 2013 at 6:31 am

    My mom used to make them for us when I was little. I am 25 now. And I am pretty sure they have been around for quite some time. Paula Deen probably only highlighted the fact that they were around. But yes Yum!

  17. #
    Stephen — July 28, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.

    It’s always interesting to read through articles from other writers and practice something from other sites.

  18. #
    Kathy — September 26, 2013 at 9:43 am

    How can you make these to taste like pumpkin? If you add in pumpkin, do you need to cut back on something else??

    • beantownbaker — September 26th, 2013 @ 10:33 am

      Oh that’s a great thought… What about using a box of pumpkin cake mix? And then throwing some pumpkin spices in the cream cheese mixture? If you try this variation, definitely let me know how it turns out!

  19. #
    jonay — June 2, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Omg these look amazing cannot wait to try! I will experiment though!

    • beantownbaker — September 2nd, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

      If you do, let me know how it goes!

  20. #
    Sheryl — August 21, 2014 at 8:16 am

    This has been around for years and yes it came from a Philly box. Was a family tradition for holidays at our house, but you can make with lemon as well

  21. #
    Judy Seggerman — February 14, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I have been making these for years…but I dust with powdered sugar when cool. I can’t go to a family function without taking them.We call them Butter Cheese Squares.

  22. #
    bida — December 7, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    I have made these for over 20 some years. I mix pecan pieces in the crust. Family just loves them. Making them tomorrow.

  23. #
    Leisa McCannon — July 1, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I make mine with Butter Pecan Cake mix and they are awesome. I am trying lemon this weekend.

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