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Start by baking a three layer cake. We think 6" or 8" rounds work best in this case. Ombre tends to look best on a narrow tall cake.
Start by tinting the icing 3 different colors, making sure that each color looks distinct from the others. In this case, we left one color white for contrast. Place each color in a piping bag. Trim the bag so that the opening is about 1/2" wide. You can also fit the bag with large open piping tips.
Next, layer you cake with buttercream in between.
Crumbcoat your cake in a very thin layer of buttercream. This will trap in any crumbs.
Use your icing bags to pipe rings around the cake starting with the darkest color on the bottom. Because your cake is three layers, you can fill in each layer with a different color. Then fill the top of your cake in with the lightest color (in this case, white).
The piped rings don't have to be perfect. The point is to coat your cake in buttercream.
Use a spatula to swipe around the cake, making the sides flat as you go. You will be removing excess buttercream which is the purpose of this step, along with making the sides smooth. Be sure to wipe off any excess that your spatula is picking after every swipe so that your spatula stays clean. This will keep the colors from running together.
If there are any air pockets or gaps in the icing, you can add a touch of buttercream and smooth out the side again.
Once your cake is sufficiently smooth and in a reasonable "drum" shape, you can smooth it a bit further. Heat your metal spatula under very, very hot water and then dry it completely. Lightly smooth the sides of your cake, like you did previously, but this time try not remove any excess buttercream. This step is just to smooth the cake a little more. Keep your spatula clean in between swipes and keep reheating/drying it off as necessary. Smooth the top using the same technique.
Voila! Remember, this doesn't have to be perfect. You can make it more dramatic with more contrasting colors or more romantic with lighter colors. You can even add a few extra colors for more variation.