This pink ombré cake is as delicious as it is pretty. Each slice boasts three layers of light and fluffy pink strawberry sponge, sandwiched and covered with a pale pink vanilla buttercream frosting and decorated with sweet and tart free-dried strawberry pieces.
Grease all three cake tins and line their bases and sides with circles of baking paper.
If you’re using shallow tins, be sure to make the baking paper walls taller so that the cake has room to rise,
Make the batter
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan, 350F).
You're going to put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. I usually start with the sugar as it's least likely to get stuck to the bottom of the bowl.
Add the egg whites, butter, oil, strawberry extract, milk and flour.
Beat until smooth. Your batter should now be very pale - almost white.
Colour the batter
Divide the batter evenly between 3 bowls. If you want really equally sized cakes, you can weigh the whole batter and then divide by 3 to figure out how much batter to put in each bowl. This will vary very slightly according to the exact weight of the eggs.
Colour the first bowl pale pink, the second bowl a deeper pink, and the final bowl a vibrant pink. You will need to experiment with your particular brand of food colouring to decide how much each bowl needs.
Fill the tins and bake
Spoon each bowl of cake batter into the tins.
Place your cakes in the oven. You’ll probably need to use two shelves so aim to get both as close to the centre of the oven as possible, although it’s less of an issue with a fan oven.
Bake for approximately 40 mins until springy on top. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Once cool, if your cakes have domed, trim off the tops to make them level.
You should also trim off the tops if they're a little brown as this will put brown crumbs in your frosting. They tend to catch if you put them too high in the oven.
Make the buttercream
Put the butter in a large bowl. Whip until creamy - this makes it easier to combine it with the icing sugar.
Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract.
Beat together, starting very slowly at first to avoid a sugar cloud, then increase in speed until the frosting has roughly doubled in volume (due to the incorporation of air) and looks pale and fluffy.
Add a little bit of pink food colouring and whisk through - you're only looking to achieve a pale pink.
At this point, I like to transfer the frosting to a piping bag and snip off a wide tip, but you can just spoon the frosting from the bowl onto the cake, if you prefer.
Assemble the cake
Place the pinkest cake on a cake turntable.
Spread with frosting about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick, all the way to the edges.
Carefully place the slightly paler cake on top, checking to make sure the cake is still level all the way round.
Spread with another layer of frosting.
Lay the final, palest cake layer on top. Again, check that it's level.
Now cover the whole cake - top and sides - with the remaining frosting. Use a palette knife or tall cake scraper to smooth your frosting. It doesn't need to be perfect.
Now scatter the freeze dried strawberry pieces all over the cake. Patting gently with handfuls of the strawberry pieces can help them to adhere. Take your time for an even finish.
Allow your cake to rest for an hour, then serve!
Don't be tempted to start working with the cakes before they're totally cool